ARROWSMITH, Ill. — Agricultural organizations continue to cultivate leaders, pandemic or not.
The programs may be adjusted to meet social distancing or travel restrictions, but the leadership development opportunities continue.
Chandler Bane of Arrowsmith, Illinois, said his experience as Soy Ambassador has been different than in non-pandemic years, but he has still gained much from it.
A big part of the Illinois Soybean Association’s leadership program focuses on networking with others. Usually participants attend all ISA board meetings, a United Soybean Board meeting, Commodity Classic, the American Soybean Association annual meeting and the IL Soy Soybean Summit, said Claire Weinzierl, ISA communications manager. But many events have been canceled for much of the last two years.
Usually Soy Ambassadors serve two years, but Bane’s class of 2019 will complete a three-year term this December to get more opportunities to attend such events.
The fifth-generation farmer said he gained a lot from talking to growers who are in their prime and from older farmers who have spent years and years perfecting their own operations.
“I was the youngest in my ambassador group,” said Bane, whose wife, Cara, works for Extension.
He said he enjoyed talking with the others in their 30s and hearing how they manage starting farming operations and raising young families.
The Soy Ambassador program, a leadership initiative of the soybean checkoff, is designed to give young people exposure to the industry and to develop skills to help them progress in agriculture and with soybeans specifically, Weinzierl said.
Proof that it works is in the number of former ambassadors taking leadership roles.
“A few years back, 50% of the sitting Illinois Soybean Board members had participated in the Ambassador program,” she said.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Bane said.
Already, one of the farmers in his term has become an ISA board member.
Because Bane is getting his feet planted firmly in the family corn, soybean, alfalfa and beef business now, he says he will wait a while before taking that leadership leap. The central Illinois farmer plans to stay connected and have further leadership involvement when the time is right.
He farms with his parents, Sam and Pam, on the family farm and with his brother-in-law Josh St. Peters in their cattle and forage operations, Moraine View Land & Cattle, in McLean County.
Bane has been a volunteer firefighter with the Ellsworth Fire Department since he was 16 years old, with the exception of when he was a student at Iowa State University.
In 2017, the timing was right to return to the farm. Two years later his application was selected to join the Illinois Soy Ambassador program.
He cites a trip to a national biodiesel event in southern California as having an impact on him.
“We met folks not rooted in agriculture. They are in the energy industry and they care about us,” he said of the interconnected industries.
Seeing how business is carried out at ISA board meetings, either in person or virtually, also left an impression.
“The soybean association does so much more for producers than I realized,” he said. “Even during the pandemic, they did a fantastic job keeping us in the loop.”