Fly-in Scholarship Provides Opportunity for Advocacy
By Ruby Sheaffer, WFU South Central Chapter
Hello everyone! I am a senior at Monroe High School in Green County, and I had the privilege of attending this year’s NFU Legislative Fly-In as a first-timer. I grew up on an organic vegetable farm in south central Wisconsin, where I developed a passion for conservation and sustainable farming.
When I learned about the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to attend the NFU Fly-In, I jumped at the chance. After finishing high school, I am interested in studying political science in college with the goal of pursuing a career in government or public service. The fly-in presented a perfect opportunity to get a close look at our legislative process on a national level while advocating for causes I am deeply passionate about.
This trip was not my first time in Washington, DC. In fact, it was my fifth. But that didn’t dampen my excitement. Walking around Capitol Hill and in the halls of legislative offices felt a bit surreal. It didn’t quite register that we were walking in the same halls that we had heard and read so much about and that we were truly in the heart of our federal government. As for the city, I love how it never feels quite like a major city. Yes, the traffic is crazy (DC Uber drivers are the most confident and unconcerned people you’ll ever meet), and over 700,000 people call the city home, but you’ll never find yourself staring up at an eighty-story skyscraper.
I thoroughly enjoyed the legislative meetings. We visited the offices of Representatives Mark Pocan, Tom Tiffany, and Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson. I found great satisfaction in conveying our concerns and thoughts directly to the decision makers. I also enjoyed hearing my fellow Farmers Union members’ perspectives and experiences. One of our duties as a Wisconsin delegation was to represent the National Farmers Union in meetings with other states’ representatives and senators. These meetings gave us the opportunity to highlight the important role farmers play in even the most urban communities. All of the legislators and staffers we met with in our meetings were kind, professional and curious about our agricultural concerns.
My main talking point in these meetings was climate change. The effects of climate change will have a significant impact on young people like me, including those who want to pursue farming careers. In addition to climate change, I also advocated for policies that support small, diversified, and sustainable farmers, as that is my background and the side of agriculture that I am passionate about.
I felt that the NFU fly-in was a very well organized event. Everything was clearly laid out, and WFU and NFU staff made sure everyone was comfortable and informed. Any anxiety I had about attending alone quickly disappeared. Social events provided the opportunity to connect with my fellow Wisconsinites and with farmers and NFU members from across the country. As a recipient of a WFU fly-in scholarship, I am very grateful to the organization as it made the experience possible for me. I encourage anyone to attend the fly-in, even if you’ve been before. It truly is a great way to make a positive impact on farmers across the country, while also having fun and making friends.
Thank you to all of the NFU and WFU staff who made this event happen - it truly is an invaluable experience!