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Kayla Laubacher

Six Tips for Young, Beginning and Starting Farmers from Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau President

As president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Zippy Duvall has helped shape a new farm bill, defeated misguided regulations, shepherded new trade agreements, and ensured farmers and ranchers are supported through natural disasters and the ongoing impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic. Podcast hosts, Libby Wixtead and Phil Young had the opportunity to interview President Duvall to kick off the first episode of season 2 of AgCredit Said It.

In the episode, President Duvall shared his background in agriculture, from growing up on a dairy farm to his career path leading to American Farm Bureau where he plays an important role in advocating for and promoting American agriculture. Along with sharing some of the top issues facing agriculture right now, President Duvall also gives some of his top advice for young farmers.

Here are the six tips President Duvall shared:

1. Diversify

“My first decade farming was during the eighties,” says Duvall. “Back then, the secret to me staying in business was being able to be diverse.”

Duvall says diversification still holds true for today’s young farmers. Thinking outside of the box can take your business to the next level.

As creatures of habit, Duvall explains that it’s easy for young farmers to want to do what their fathers and grandfathers did. “We can’t do that anymore and survive,” says Duvall.

2. Own a piece of equipment with another farmer

As a first-generation farmer, availability of land is one challenge, and if you’re just starting out, availability of credit is another.

Borrowing money to purchase equipment may not be an option, but partnering with a neighbor to own a piece of equipment together is one of the ways Duvall says young farmers can combat the challenges that face them when beginning to farm.

3. Get involved

President Duvall also stresses the importance of budgeting some time to be involved in a membership organization, such as commodity groups and local farm bureaus.

“We need current policy [in Washington D.C.],” says Duvall.

Without young farmer involvement, Duvall explains that their voice wouldn’t be heard when it comes to important agriculture topics they want to advocate for.

4. Take care of yourself

Young farmers are busy on and off the farm and we’ve seen growing concern for mental health in agriculture across the country.

“Stay focused, take care of your family, take care of yourself,” says Duvall.

5. Find a mentor

“Go find someone that’s already tried that, that’s got a little experience, and pick his brain,” says Duvall.

Building a relationship with an experienced farmer is a valuable asset to have to continue to learn and grow.

6. Bring added value back to the farm

Many young people are coming back to the farm after college and they can bring added value with them.

In order to make a career out of coming back to the farm, Duvall says to “find something in their education that they could bring back to the farm so that farm could afford to have them there.”

Listen to the full interview with President Duvall on the AgCredit Said It podcast.