So Monday, I found myself walking down the actual Magnificent Mile in Chicago, carrying my coat. On December 3. In fact, though I packed gloves and a terribly cute scarf, I never used them. Ever.
What the what?
For sure, it's the first time in the 15 or so years we've been attending the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting in Chicago that we haven't needed arctic-level bundling. Seriously, there have been years we've underpacked, frozen, and ducked into a Macy's just to buy some ear muffs. While Summer2012 proved itself ridiculously hot, we'll likely remember IFB2012 as exceptionally warm, too.
But the meeting? Very fun. We spent the weekend with friends from our Young Leader committee days, enjoying a couple child-free days in Chicago and plotting our summer vacation excursion together. Our kids wouldn't miss it for the world. And while Amy and Julie and I wandered and shopped, John, Allyn and Ted walked, waited and talked. And talked. And talked some more. I cannot imagine there is any piece of equipment, any potential equipment trade, any potential land sale or purchase they did not cover. Seed? Covered. Fertilizer? Covered. Shops? Covered. Equipment? Definitely, definitely covered. You would think they'd run out of equipment to talk about, but you would be wrong.
Back at the meeting, we learned a lot too. Like how the Mississippi River could likely shut down, and soon. We talked about the Farm Bill and what will happen if nothing happens (which appears likely). We talked about the EPA and what out-of-control regulations mean on the farm - including a report that a bale ring had been declared a feedlot. I'd like to say this is an exaggeration, but no.
We also attended the Young Leader Awards ceremony, which, despite its 8 a.m. billing, is heart-warming and inspiring and makes me glad I got up early, despite the late nights prior. Any group that starts the day with the Star Spangler Banner, the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer to God is a good one.
The ceremony honored top young leader chairs from each county, and recognized county Farm Bureau managers who do a lot to encourage young leader programs in their county. They also recognized the Ag Excellence Award winners, Brad and Paula Zwilling, Champaign. The Excellence Award is given to those who are not primarily involved in production ag. The Achievement Award was given to Chad and Ashlie Broster of West Salem, recognized for their work as farmers and in their community. Sort of like the Master Farmers of young farmers!
Technically, the Brosters and Zwillings had already received their award, at the State Fair this summer. Illinois Farm Bureau used to present this award at the annual meeting, but it left winners with little time to prepare for national competition at AFBF in January. Now they award it in August, and help the winners to prepare with mock interviews and such. This is a good thing, as the year we won in Chicago, we were a little like deer in headlights at AFBF. And it was clear other states were doing a *lot* to prepare their candidates. So this? Progress.
The Discussion meet is the final contest, and it's held throughout the meeting and the winner is announced on Sunday morning. This year, Ann Larson of DeKalb County won, and she'll represent Illinois at AFBF next month.
All in all, it was a good meeting.
Food. Friends. Farming. Good stuff.