By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
FARMERSVILLE, Ohio — Hamilton County Farm Bureau developed an interesting way to enhance its presence in the community despite the dwindling number of traditional farmers: It reached out to horse people.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recognized that creativity with an Activities of Excellence Award this year.
“We are embarking on a mission to make our county Farm Bureau more relevant to our urban demographic,” Ann Frederick told Farm Bureau. “We are reaching out, welcoming partnerships and working more closely with a non-traditional agricultural group of our county – the equine community.”
Dr. Mike and Ann Frederick came up with the idea of “Making Farm Bureau Relevant to the Equine Community.” He is an equine veterinarian in the county, and he and his wife, an avid horsewoman, have Quarter Horses. County Farm Bureau President Dennis Heyob liked the idea, too.
“The corn, soy and dairy farmers are disappearing, and we’ve got a lot of horses in Hamilton County,” Mike Frederick said. “We tried to reach out to the horse community so that we would have a growing Farm Bureau membership.
“We did that by engaging the horse community, trying to make people aware. Then we had a recruitment effort, encouraging people to join Farm Bureau, trying to make them aware that they are farmers, they have horses, they have land, they buy hay.”
The county Farm Bureau donated money to support the bridle trails in Hamilton County Parks, he said. They had an advocacy program where they promoted equine issues at legislative events at the local and state level. They placed a Farm Bureau booth at a well-attended local tack exchange.
Members wrote articles for local papers. They spoke at horse clubs meetings on such topics as hay production, equine veterinary care and the role of Farm Bureau. They knew that change was necessary because their county, like other large, urban counties, was running out of traditional farmers.
“We have to make horse people aware that they need a voice, too,” Frederick said. “In Hamilton County we’ve had membership gain in two out of the last three years, in a large part due to horses. That is an accomplishment in an urban county.”
That accomplishment will be recognized at the AFBF annual meeting, said John Torres, AFBF director of leadership development. The county received funds to travel to the annual convention and will have space to set up a display.
“The real idea behind this display is so that they can share ideas with other Farm Bureau members all across the country,” Torres said. “We want to hold these up as models of innovation for other Farm Bureaus in the country to emulate.
“So, we want to provide them an opportunity to talk about what they did to get it off the ground, what made is successful and, if they were to do it again, what would they change about it, and to make sure that those ideas make their way to other parts of the nation. These are things that hopefully can be replicated by other Farm Bureau members.”