Fayetteville, Ark. – Two Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative Native Youth Summit leaders have been chosen as Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspective honorees in recognition of their work to change rural communities and agriculture for the better.
Odessa Oldham (Navajo), of Lander, Wyo., and Zachary Ilbery (Cherokee), of Checotah, Okla., were selected for the honor by a panel of agricultural leaders and are veterans of the Native Youth in Agriculture Summer Leadership Summit held at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville. The honorees were announced at a National Ag Day event on March 15, 2016, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Oldham, Camp Director of the summit, began her own agriculture operation with a USDA Farm Service Agency youth loan, which has since grown into a 600 cattle, 100 sheep and 60 horse partnership with her brothers and sister. She was the first Native American candidate for a national FFA office and has assisted in chartering FFA chapters throughout Indian Country.
She witnessed firsthand the need for a leadership training opportunity available to Native youth interested in agriculture and food production. This inspired her involvement in the summit – a nine-day, comprehensive educational experience incorporating classroom and experiential learning centered around food system development and sustainability.
“Indian Country is moving forward, youth are our future, and they need to see the importance of agriculture and embrace their heritage,” said Oldham.
Ilbery, a high school FFA Chapter President and Summit Fellow, is an agricultural entrepreneur who began running his own cattle operation two years ago at age 15. He now manages a 150-head herd. At the summit, he learned how important financial management would be in the success of his fledgling business venture. With his grandfather as co-signer, he was able to secure a loan to finance his dream.
“The future of agriculture will be challenging, but if we educate people on the importance of agriculture and what it does for us, then we can better ourselves for the future,” said Ilbery.
Selected by a panel of experts on rural matters, including Farm Credit leaders and others from around the agriculture industry, honorees like Oldham and Ilbery are among the best-of-the-best who are positively shaping what is next for rural communities and agriculture.
“We are so proud of the work of Odessa and Zach,” said U of A School of Law Dean Stacy Leeds (Cherokee). “They are exactly the type of leaders we had in mind as we designed the program and we look forward to watching their careers unfold. They will serve Indian Country well.”
Farm Credit launched the Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives program as part of its 100th anniversary of service to rural communities and agriculture. As a Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives honoree Oldham joins an impressive list of leaders in agriculture and rural enterprise.
“Farm Credit has supported rural communities and agriculture for 100 years, and we understand the vision and commitment it takes to remain successful as rural America evolves and changes,” said Todd Van Hoose, president and chief executive officer of the Farm Credit Council. “The Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives honorees are inspiring examples of leaders who are creating a brighter, more vibrant future for rural America.”
For a complete list of the Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives honorees, visit farmcredit100.com/top100.
About the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative: The Initiative enhances health and wellness in tribal communities by advancing healthy food systems, diversified economic development and cultural food traditions in Indian Country. We empower tribal governments, farmers, ranchers and food businesses by providing strategic planning and technical assistance; by creating new academic and professional education programs in food systems and agriculture; and by increasing student enrollment in land grant universities in food and agricultural related disciplines.
About Farm Credit
Farm Credit supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services, today and tomorrow. Farm Credit has been fulfilling its mission of helping rural America grow and thrive for a century by providing farmers with the capital they need to make their businesses successful and by financing vital infrastructure and communication services. For more information about Farm Credit please visit www.farmcredit.com.