SALEM, Ohio — Adam Sharp, named executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation in July 2016, was brought up on a family farm in Fairfield, Ohio.
With a degree in agricultural communication, he has spent time in radio and journalism, working for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington D.C., and took an appointment from President George W.H. Bush to serve the EPA.
He worked for four years at the EPA before returning to Ohio and taking on roles at OFBF.
I had the chance to sit down with Adam before one of his county visits to discuss his plans and measures of success.
• • •
Q. What are your goals for your first year?
A. What we are doing well, I want to do better. Grassroots, that is who we are. Strong county Farm Bureaus make strong state federations and ultimately strong at the national level.
Because of that grassroots focus, my goal this year is to get out to all 88 counties and to the farms of our 26 board members.
In the counties, I want to hear from members — what is going well, what could we do better, what isn’t working, could be improved or done away with. As we approach 100 years, I want to know what our members want their organization to be at 100.
I want to visit the board member farms to see what issues they deal with, what their everyday looks like and understand the strengths and experiences they bring to the table.
• • •
Q. What challenges does OFBF face?
A. Our strengths and challenges lie in our diversity of members. This morning, we had a meeting in a grocery store, sometimes it’s at a winery or in a church.
We have a very broad agriculture community and it is important for the future of agriculture to work together toward solutions.
A challenge is that Ohio is unique in that it has a lot of diversity in agriculture — it could be compared to California and other large states when it comes to diversity.
We have a large urban spread, which brings challenges and opportunities.
As agriculturalists, we shouldn’t alienate an industry or niche, but rather bring them together in ag unity.
• • •
Q. With this being an election year, what can we expect from Farm Bureau on candidate endorsement?
A. Well, we do not endorse a national candidate or any candidates for that matter. We have published a OFBF Election Guide and distributed it to our members.
This guide notes “friends of agriculture” at the local and state levels and publishes letters from each national campaign.
We have engaged with both national campaigns, met with their staff, shared information and offered resources for them to utilize.
Though we do not endorse a candidate, we try to gather the facts and help our members make and informed decisions. The election guide can be found at www.ofbf.org.
• • •
Q. In the ever-changing world of technology, how do you keep up in communicating to the members?
A. It is always changing. In the next membership year, the focus will be on trying new approaches to engage with the public about what we do and drive membership.
We should not be afraid to fail. With the technology world continuously changing, we have to ready to do business differently.
• • •
Q. One thing we’ve heard you continuously support is 4-H and FFA, how do you hope to connect those organizations?
A. Yes, inclusiveness is a focus of mine. 4-H and FFA are very important to me and to the future of agriculture.
As youth come out of these programs, we have to build the bridge and be right there for them as a perfect place for them to stay involved in agriculture and grow personally.
We need to build that bridge as the natural progression to the Young Agricultural Professionals program and we are working on it.
We have seen significant growth in this program from 70 participants at the state conference to more than 700 in four years. It is a nice bright spot for the organization and only getting brighter.
It comes back to ag unity. We can be strong together, and with that, we are planning a new series of activities. We have good relationships that can turn great, we can be stronger together and collectively be better.
• • •
Q. How does OFBF stay neutral and represent all facets of agricultural, with all of the different niche markets and farming methods that circle around as fads?
A. The overall goal is to protect and grow Ohio agriculture. In Farm Bureau, we don’t care sector, niche or market you are trying to reach, if you are using conventional techniques or are touting being certified organic.
The important thing is that your neighbor is growing food in safe way too, assisting you in feeding and clothing the world. Don’t tear him down. Let’s build each other up and strengthen ag unity.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!