San Juan, PR
After years of planning and endless challenges, including two major hurricanes, San Juan finally got to say, “Welcome, Mi Familia” to American Farm Bureau’s annual convention. It’s a time to unite and hear the opinions of current agriculture leaders as well as future ag leaders on the current state of the farming industry. It’s also a time to put aside the daily stresses of farm life and enjoy the sights and sounds the host city has to offer, or in this case the host island.
“San Juan right now, so far would be at the top of the list,” says Daniel Johnson, First Vice President for Georgia Farm Bureau. “We’ve been to a lot of conventions, a lot of places, and this compares to anything we have in the United States. I mean, their convention center is wonderful. It’s state of art.”
Tom McCall, GFB President adding, “I was pleasantly surprised. All the facilities and the hotels down here, and there’s a good crowd. They’re expecting around five-thousand people from across the country.”
While many of the attendees used this convention as a destination vacation, for the GFB Young Farmers and Ranchers taking part in the various competitions, vacations aside, this was a business trip.
“I come down here with a job and task at mind, and also, like I said, to meet new people and experience this convention. This is my first time ever attending American Farm Bureau, so I wanna soak it in and learn. That was my main reason for coming down here,” says Hart County Young Farmer, Brian Fleming.
Admitting he was nervous before his presentation in the Excellence in AG competition, Fleming says he stayed up all night rehearsing, which resulted in little to no sleep, but once he got going, Brian was smooth, confident, and spoke with emotion when expressing his passion for agriculture.
“From the time I was a little boy, ag’s been my life. As I got older, Farm Bureau became my life and the two combined together. Like I said in that last slide, I want the future generations to have that same opportunity that have been afforded to me over the years. So, that’s where my passion comes from,” says Fleming.
Brian however, wasn’t the only one with passion on his side. Willie Sizemore of Leesburg had a virtual cakewalk to the sweet-sixteen of the discussion meet. This future lawyer arrived in Puerto Rico with well thought out opinions and ideas for the purpose of problem solving, which of course is the whole premise of these discussions.
“What’s interesting about this competition compared to the state is you get all these nationwide perspectives,” says Sizemore. “You know, we had an individual who was competing with us that raised pigs in Nevada outside of Las Vegas and fed leftovers from the casinos to their operation to reduce input costs. We’ve got to wake up early in the morning, put on a suit at the beach, and that’s not a normal thing you would do, but it’s important to represent Georgia Farm Bureau this way and to represent our County Farm Bureau, Lee County Farm Bureau. For me, it’s important to show up prepared and and do well, and that’s why I’m here is to do well. It might be a business trip, but it’s a fun trip at the same time.”
By: Ray D’Alessio