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Not all those in young farmers are young

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By Laura Clark

The first thing to know about the Shelby County Young Farmer's Association is that age is not a prerequisite. Gathered in a Shelby County High School classroom to share a Christmas potluck supper, the faces of the club show years of hard work outside.

There are a handful of young faces, too, many of them second-generation members. It's the older farmers who do much of the talking.

"They're going to tell stories. They're going to tell you know they made it through the hard times," said Clayton Largen, a 3-year member in his early 20s. "They know a lot more financially about how to do things than someone like I do."

Which gets to the heart of the club's purpose. Sure, the socializing is nice, but the club was founded to provide continuing education to farmers. It grew out of the Future Farmers of America clubs common in high schools.

"The complexities of modern agriculture and its importance to the economy of the nation require that more time be given to out-of-school groups. Well informed, efficient and progressive young farmers are extremely important to the nation's welfare," states the official purpose of the Kentucky Young Farmer program.

The monthly meetings bring together a wide diversity in farming specialties. There are dairy farmers, cattle farmers and tobacco farmers. There are some who do a little bit of everything.

The club's president, Roger Smith, works to bring a guest speaker to each meeting. At a recent  meeting, a representative from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Agriculture Marketing came and spoke about farmer's markets and community supported agriculture.

During the Christmas supper, Smith requested ideas for future guest speakers and topics from the members. Some of the ideas submitted included logging, beekeeping and orchard establishment and maintenance.

YFA members have the opportunity to attend state and national conventions for continued learning, socializing, and competition in categories like dairying or best invention.

To be a Young Farmer, you need only to be out of high school and be -- or want to be -- established in farming. There are minimal yearly dues. The next Shelby County Young Farmer's meeting will be Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. in the high school agriculture classroom. The public is invited to attend.