Oregon’s Iverson elected chair of national Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee

January 13, 2021: Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) is proud to announce that Jon Iverson, a family farmer from Woodburn, has been elected chair of American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) National Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Committee.

Iverson, a third-generation farmer and member of Clackamas County Farm Bureau, was elected to the yearlong post by his fellow members on the national YF&R committee. YF&R is a program within Farm Bureau providing networking and leadership development opportunities for next-generation leaders of this esteemed grassroots advocacy organization.

“It was an honor gain the respect of the AFBF YF&R Committee and have their vote of confidence. It means a lot coming from the exceptional people I’m serving with,” said Iverson, who officially begins his term on Jan. 13, 2021.

“We are incredibly proud to have Oregon’s own Jon Iverson elected as chair of the AFBF YF&R Committee,” said OFB Executive Vice President Dave Dillon. “Jon has done outstanding work on Oregon’s YF&R Committee and at the County Farm Bureau level, and it has been truly inspirational watching him evolve into the extraordinary leader he is today. We’re sure he will do an excellent job serving as chair of the AFBF YF&R Committee.”

In 2020, Iverson was appointed to the AFBF YF&R Committee by AFBF President Zippy Duvall after being nominated by OFB. As chair of the committee, Iverson will have a seat on the AFBF Board of Directors, will help guide the national committee in its activities for the year, and will serve as a national spokesperson for the YF&R program.

In Oregon, Iverson served on the state YF&R Committee from 2008 through 2020, including two terms as vice chair. He also has served as president of Clackamas County Farm Bureau.

Iverson is the third generation on Iverson Family Farms in Woodburn. The diversified farm grows tulips, grass seed, vetch seed, squash, hazelnuts, hemp for oil, and wine and table grapes. Barb Iverson, Iverson’s aunt, serves as president of Oregon Farm Bureau.

Iverson’s goals as AFBF YF&R Committee Chair

In his one-year term, Iverson has four primary goals: membership engagement, mental health awareness, fostering international connections, and giving a strong voice to YF&R.

“YF&R is an important driver of membership within Farm Bureau, bringing in and developing new volunteer leaders,” said Iverson. “With the pandemic, we’re having to rethink how we engage these new members and get them excited to be involved, without the opportunity to meet in person or attend conferences.”

Last summer, the AFBF YF&R committee launched Ag Connect. Ag Connect is an hourlong Zoom meeting held on the third Monday of every month, and it features a guest speaker focusing on a predetermined topic, such as improving member engagement or a farm tour, followed by discussion and networking time.

“Ag Connect is fantastic, and I hope to get more YF&R members to participate. It’s a great way to not only learn about important ag-related issues, but also to meet other farmers and ranchers from different parts of the country,” said Iverson.

Information about Ag Connect sessions is available on the AFBF YF&R and OFB YF&R Facebook pages.

Part of Iverson’s membership initiative is to encourage more participation by young Farm Bureau members who may not be farming or ranching full time, but who are still passionate about agriculture.

“There are a lot of young farmers who want to get back on the farm, but haven’t had the opportunity to yet, and there are others who work in ag-related industries or who are really passionate about agriculture. I want those people to know they’re welcome in Farm Bureau,” said Iverson. “As population of farmers and ranchers shrinks every year, the more allies we have, the stronger our industry will be.”

Mental health awareness for farmers and ranchers is another priority for Iverson.

“Because of the pandemic and other significant stressors weighing on those who work in agriculture, some farmers and ranchers have really struggled,” said Iverson. “Suicide rates in farming are high, and it’s something we need to address. We need to let farmers and ranchers who’re struggling know that there’s hope and there’s help.”

The American Farm Bureau offers many resources on the Farm State of Mind website, including warning signs, conversation starters, and a training to learn how to help those who may be struggling.

“Mental health awareness will be a topic in an upcoming Ag Connect session, and it’s something I want to keep promoting at the national level,” said Iverson.

Building connections between farmers and ranchers, no matter where they live, is also a goal for Iverson.

Now that so many Farm Bureau members are familiar with using Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms, Iverson hopes to use that tool to build stronger relationships between farmers and ranchers not only in the United States, but abroad.

“One of the things I’m really passionate about is giving farmers an international perspective,” said Iverson. “I’d like to connect with other young farmer organizations from around the world and give American young farmers and ranchers a chance to interact with peers from other countries.”

While many of the challenges working in agriculture are shared across the globe, the way farmers and ranchers tackle those challenges may differ — and there’s much to be learned by sharing information, said Iverson.

“We have a good relationship with the young farmers organization in Canada. They’re going to host our Ag Connect meeting in January,” he said.

Giving a strong voice to YF&R on the AFBF Board of Directors is Iverson’s fourth goal.

“There’s a lot of experience and wisdom on the AFBF Board and the decisions they make will affect younger Farm Bureau members their whole career,” said Iverson. “I want to make sure there’s that young voice on the board and that the beliefs and roles of young farmers and ranchers are heard and acknowledged.”