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July 14, 2019 I left Florida for adventure in New York

After serving as a member of the Florida Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers ('16-'18) I was looking for the next level. I wanted elite level training and was advised the American Farm Bureau Partners in Advocacy Leadership (PAL) Program had just that.

Interview with the Wall Street Journal press board.

Having been selected to the PAL program in April of 2019 we members of the new group had already begun work on program activities, like creating a short video about ourselves, before we met for the first time. But what we didn't know when we arrived in New York was the program was about to get very tough.

Working out of the basement office spaces of our hotel the training exercises began. You know how when you were a kid and you'd play with Lego blocks, you would finish building something and you thought it was pretty cool, but then you'd take it apart so you could make something even better? That is what the American Farm Bureau staff was doing to us. We were practicing mock radio interviews, reporter Q&As, and giving presentations of our positions on agricultural policies. It was intense, it was stressful, but our messages were being molded to each of our personalities. The training we received that week has been evident in myself, even now as I edit and reword this piece.

From bottom left clockwise: Jenny, Erika, Bryan, James, Kyle, David, Derek, Beth, Sarah

It wasn't all in-classroom training. Part of the learning included breaking into groups of two for a scavenger hunt across New York City (to help us see how people who are different from us live), visiting the Union Square Farmers Market (some of the most beautiful produce I have ever seen), and meeting with members of the press (which turned into a surprise interview with the Wall Street Journal).

In meeting with the Wall Street Journal we were able to see that the training we received just a couple days before was legit and on point. Things we were told to watch for were thrown our way and with our newly added skills we were able to bridge and redirect back to our message rather than traveling down a rabbit hole. It was a very proud moment for me and something that I will carry for a long time.

I have received many interview requests from local reporters since this training, and with the skills given to me I have been successful in making sure my message is heard; down to making sure I have the last word.

Our class should have graduated from this program at the 2021 American Farm Bureau FUSION Conference, but with the events of "2020" and everything shutting down our class missed half of our programming. So to make sure we got the full benefit we were given an extra year to complete our programming. Unfortunately with the program taking on extra time two of our classmates have had to leave the program, but they will always be a part of the fold.

The 10 class members of the 10th PAL Class are:

James Henderson- Colorado

Erika Archie- Texas *early exit

Bryan Jones- Florida *early exit

Jenny Holterman- California

Derek Orth- Wisconsin

Beth Hodge- New Hampshire

Matthew McClanahan- Tennessee

Sarah Ison- Ohio

Kyle Wilson- Utah

David Hafner- Florida

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