Heritage connects Chris Rogers to his part of southern Ohio, where a culture had been cultivated in tobacco fields dispersed among hillside pastures.
It was labor intensive work that brought opportunity to small family farms and prosperity to the rural economy—a path for farm kids to afford an education, to pursue a better life.
Since then, his Brown County community has been in transition. But he’s not going anywhere.
This is where he raises cattle on his own family farm. It’s where he makes his living as an administrator for the local Soil and Water Conservation District, helping to protect the area’s natural resources. And, as the volunteer president of his county Farm Bureau, it’s where he gathers with his friends and neighbors to listen to community needs.
That’s what he finds most rewarding about this role—“Trying to be a facilitator of the conversation—we need to be talking about things together, not separately,” he said.
And that goes well beyond farming.
“We are involved in community activities,” Rogers said of the Brown County Farm Bureau.
There are similar leaders serving as local advocates within every county Farm Bureau in Ohio. They work with a volunteer board, they take input from county residents, and ultimately they shape the vision for how Farm Bureau members can work together to improve their way of life.
It may be anything from a matter of pressing public policy in the Statehouse to the simple pleasure of a shared meal on a local farm.
“They are like family to me,” said Heather Utter, an Ohio Farm Bureau organization director, describing the volunteers she works with. “The people in my area are hard-working, down-to-earth genuine people.”
Utter is describing the everyday Ohioans who govern the Ohio Farm Bureau. She is part of team of professionals that works to carry out programs developed under their direction.
Also from Brown County, she supports volunteers in several southern Ohio communities as they determine what actions they can take toward solving their common problems or becoming better connected with their neighbors.
She also sees the county Farm Bureau’s local programs as a way to help connect farmers and nonfarmers.
“Having an active Farm Bureau shows the community that agriculture is still very important in their lives,” she said.
But success has always depended on volunteers like Rogers’ deep-running roots in the communities they serve and the knowledge they bring.
“There’s a local face there for people to go to,” Rogers said of the county Farm Bureau. “It’s not a 1-800 number. It’s not a website.”
Get in touch with your county Farm Bureau.