For many farm families, September is a time of year they look forward to the Kansas State Fair.

More than 300,000 bodies converge on Hutchinson to partake in exhibits, indulge in fried foods and celebrate (while maybe shedding a tear or two) the completion of 4-H projects.

The state fair aims to promote and showcase Kansas agriculture, industry and culture while providing an educational and entertaining experience. It’s a hubbub of activity and a chance to connect with folks from all walks of life. As we do every year, the state’s largest farm organization has a presence with our Ag Central booth where we provide hands-on ag education for the whole family. Like many other farm organizations, we see it as a great opportunity to connect with consumers and farmer members alike.

And while it’s nice to spend two weeks reaching out and connecting, we’re proud to continue ag education and training future leaders throughout the year.

Kansas FFA

During last year’s school calendar, we hosted our first-ever Kansas FFA Discussion Meet. The event provided FFA youth an opportunity to build confidence and leadership skills. The competition required FFA members to discuss an assigned topic for 15 minutes. Participants were scored and ranked on their ability to introduce the topic, analyze the problem, identify solutions, think critically, engage others effectively and summarize the discussion accurately.

Topics focused on issues around crops, livestock, natural resources, ag education and FFA. We enjoyed watching students compete and develop transferable skills they can use in many real-life situations, and we’re very excited to see how the program grows and improves this school year.

We also support a grant program that encourages county Farm Bureaus and local FFA chapters to partner on local projects and provide funds to new FFA programs and chapters.

Kansas Family, Careeer and Community Leaders of America

Also new this last school year is a partnership with Kansas Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). This collaboration provided us the opportunity to award six mini-grants to chapters across the state who developed projects that were new and innovative, included community support and involvement and promoted collaboration between local FCCLA chapters and county Farm Bureaus. These projects brought value to individual organizations and local communities while also promoting agriculture and building leadership skills.

Kansas 4-H

We can’t forget the organization many of us hold near and dear to our hearts. We’ve been a long-time supporter of 4-H including camp counselor recognition, the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum, Kansas Youth Council Leadership Training and the livestock judging team.

Scholarships

And while we enjoy adding new projects and partnerships, I shouldn’t fail to mention our support of Kansas college students. Each year, the Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture awards scholarships to college students studying in fields that benefit agriculture and rural Kansas. This school year 36 recipients received $21,500 in scholarships and over the past decade, the foundation has awarded more than $275,000 in scholarships. This is on top of scholarships county Farm Bureaus award to area students.

We consider these programs an investment in today’s youth. We know the only way to keep our communities, industry and state moving forward is to ensure future leaders have the skills and experiences in place.

If you’re enjoying the thrills and spills of state fair this month, enjoy. And don’t forget to stop by the Farm Bureau booth. We enjoy talking about the future of our industry and building up the next generation of leaders.

Richard Felts and his family farm in Montgomery County. He was elected as Kansas Farm Bureau president in November.