by Bailey Morrell, NJHA Communications Chair
81 National Junior Hereford Association (NJHA) members from 22 states met in Oklahoma City, Okla., for the 2021 Faces of Leadership Conference, July 28-31. This year’s theme, “Improve You,” set the tone for a conference that would be filled with inspirational speakers, leadership workshops and industry sessions. Starting off with a motivating keynote from the great Kelly Barnes, our team’s leadership mentor and workshop builder, he encouraged the participants to be engaged throughout the week and to leave better than they came. We then transitioned into communications and team-building workshop sessions led by the junior board. These sessions were among my favorite experiences from the conference, as we got to connect with each of the participants and work through engaging activities and meaningful debriefs, while ending the night with several games of Cornhole, giant Jenga and I found my personal winning streak playing Connect 4.
Thursday morning came early for the group as we hopped on busses destined for Oklahoma State University (OSU). Beginning with a session focused on cow efficiency and forage management at the Range Cow Research Center before traveling to the OSU Purebred Beef Center (PBC), where we listened to the stories and lessons from speakers including Hereford breeders and industry leaders, Joel Birdwell and Cindy Pribil who were both past managers of the PBC. We were taught the importance of utilizing EPDs in marketing and were given time to compete as teams in the creation of footnotes that would accompany the sale of an animal in a catalog, with winners receiving scholarship money from OSU. After heading toward the interior of campus for lunch, we had a chance to listen to Dr. Clint Rusk, Head of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at OSU, explain his 16 steps to being successful in life.
Now, the day wasn’t over yet as the group toured the OSU Food and Agriculture Products Center while learning about the differences in meat packing and quality and even having the opportunity to do a taste test on six samples, judging tenderness, quality and fat ratios. The on-campus sessions were concluded by a presentation from the Agriculture Communications Department, encouraging us to be continued Agvocates for our industry. As we loaded up the buses for our next drive, the karaoke started and let me tell you my throat hurt from singing and my cheeks hurt from smiling as we travelled to the renowned Express Ranches in Yukon, Okla. We got the chance to meet the Express Clydesdale Team, tour the cattle show barn, have a delicious steak dinner in the sale arena accompanied by a presentation by Express Ranches staff. After a long day, the group headed back to the hotel ready to discover more of Oklahoma City.
Friday morning we took a somber moment to step back from cattle and livestock and visit the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing memorial. Even though not one Faces of Leadership participant was born at the time of the tragedy, the impact it had on so many was noticeable. Quietly leaving this location of reflection, we then went to visit the last national stockyards in the country, the Oklahoma National Stockyards followed by a lunch with a panel of leaders from the Oklahoma Youth Expo and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.
Aric Jackson was the keynote speaker for our last evening at Faces of Leadership, speaking during our dinner at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. We dove into our own individual leadership styles while grasping the three rules meant to make us stronger individuals and leaders. His spontaneous, authentic and unapologetic approach to honestly communicating with us was well received, while analyzing the approach to decipher your own leadership style from the categories of thinkers, directors, socializers and relators.
Hours later our feet hurt from being on the dance floor so long, but as the group quite literally ended the night and conference singing Garth Brooks “Friends in Low Places,” I couldn’t help feeling like I had made new friends from 22 places. Thank you Team Hereford for making the first of my last events on this board so special in Oklahoma.