This past week I was lucky enough to be allowed to attend the Young Farmers and Ranchers Leaders Conference in Manhattan. I say lucky enough because I have come to grips with the realization that I am no longer a young farmer or rancher. I guess it is the gray in my beard or maybe the fact that I have children who attend the conference on their own. Either way I am allowed to attend but not qualified.

The YF&R program is something that is near and dear to my heart. It was where Jennifer and I got our first taste of Kansas Farm Bureau and saw the power and importance of not just being a member but being involved. It was where we learned that while attending was a sacrifice, what we got back was more than worth the time invested.

I must admit my motivation for attending the conference is somewhat selfish. Yes, there are many great workshops, and I always come away with great information and ideas, but the workshops are not the most important thing. The conference also has some of the most incredible speakers, and often they are very motivational. While I need as much motivation as possible, and I enjoy a great speaker, that is not my number-one reason for attending.

No, my greatest motivation for attending is to soak up the energy and excitement that comes with being in a room with nearly 600 of the best and brightest in agriculture in Kansas. The passion that comes from the young farmers and ranchers in Kansas Farm Bureau is incredible. They are the newest and best trained professionals in our business and excited about the future.

If you have ever been worried about the future of agriculture, you have never attended this conference. It is so infectious, even an old guy like me can catch it. I must admit I learn a lot from this group, and my energy and enthusiasm levels are through the roof after this weekend.

It is refreshing to see the way new technology and ideas are embraced and considered. Again, I must admit as an old guy I am envious of how easily they adapt to the ever-changing landscape of agriculture. Often skeptics wonder how we are going to meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population. Spend the weekend at the YF&R Conference and it will be apparent.

Optimism and enthusiasm are infectious, and after this weekend I have caught it. I must admit that this conference makes me a little jealous — if only I could find the fountain of youth and start all over again. I guess in a way I did find that fountain of youth at the conference; just being there made me feel young again. OK, maybe that is overstating it, but I am grateful they allowed this old-young farmer to tag along.