From the Field is a bi-monthly column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.
Last week I and all of the other field staff attended the 2015 Farm Bureau Southern Region Field Staff Conference in Gatlinburg, TN. This conference is held every three years in different locations throughout the southern region which encompasses the states from Virginia and Kentucky to Texas and Oklahoma. One of the best things about these conferences and others like it is the networking. The sharing of ideas and experiences with the same job is always beneficial. I am proud to report that Virginia Farm Bureau is doing a lot of things right and have many programs in place that some states are just now getting around to implementing.
All of the states are dealing with lower membership numbers compared to a couple of years ago. Most states are engaging the existing members more to increase retention. Arkansas reported that they started doing member appreciation days at county Farm Bureau offices and they thought this helped strengthen membership. Several county Farm Bureaus in Virginia have been doing this for years and the staff and members always enjoy it. North Carolina has implemented radio and highway billboard sign ads across the state to mainly strengthen the image of Farm Bureau and agriculture in general. Some states are just now starting anniversary billing for membership which we have had for a few years.
On leadership training and development, several states do a regional or state wide training for new county Farm Bureau directors. In Virginia, we do one on one training at the county level; usually right before the monthly board of directors meeting. This has worked well for all involved as it limits travel and time away from the farm for the volunteers. Most states have a yearly conference for county Farm Bureau presidents. Texas has theirs in conjunction with a commodity conference.
Several other states have the Member Deals Plus program but it has a different name in each state. Similar to what we have been doing the past year, Arkansas is making a concerted effort to add businesses to the program in each county to give the program more value to the members. We had a contest this spring at Sales Conference and at the VFB Women’s Conference where we received over 200 referrals. We have also analyzed existing programs to determine to continue with them or not.
Under the promotion category, I liked what Florida does. Several counties in the state cook or cater meals for the county fair livestock exhibitors and their families. They recognized that meals over several days at a fair can be expensive on a family. So they provide meals to the exhibitor families for $3.00/person. It is their way of helping to promote agriculture. In Virginia, several county Farm Bureaus pay for a dinner for livestock exhibitors and buyers, provide t-shirts, or purchase animals. Florida also promotes the Bonnies Plants scholarship program for 3rd graders on the best and biggest cabbage. This has been well received by students and teachers and ties in with their Ag in the Classroom program.
It was good to hear some new ideas, and good to know that many of those things are already taking place in Virginia. However, we are always looking to be more effective, efficient, and providing value to our members. So if you have any ideas, feel free to contact one of the field staff.
Until next time,