Braden and Jordan McInnis have served as the new voice for agriculture in Anderson County, but now they're ready to be a voice for farmers nationwide. The couple from Tennessee Colony, both 25, won the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmer & Rancher Achievement competition at the national convention Monday in Austin.
Drawing 6,000 representatives nationwide, the convention was attended by President Donald Trump and US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who spoke Sunday. Trump spoke about his administration's success in settling trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea. The McInnis couple won a Ford vehicle with a value up to $35,000 and a trip to Farm Bureau's Leadership Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, later this year.
In a time when family farms are closing by the tens of thousands each year, the McInnises, first-generation farmers who started on a plot of just 300 acres, have bucked those trends to emerge as the new voice for US agriculture. Challenges to US farmers include competition and price wars overseas and at home, global warming, farm debt of $416 billion, debt delinquencies and even suicides.
As members of the Anderson County Farm Bureau, they advocate for agriculture, education and youth activities, and hope to bring their ideas to Washington, DC, as members of the Y&FR's national advisory committee.
“Being Farm Bureau members has opened up many doors and opportunities for us, including networking with other farmers and agricultural businesses across the nation,” Braden said.
The McInnises own 4,500 acres in Anderson, Henderson, Navarro, and Kaufman counties, where they farm corn, cotton, wheat, soybeans, oats, grain sorghum, and hay, mostly along the Trinity River bottoms. Braden hasn't always turned a profit, especially with recent crop losses. The area is vulnerable to flooding, feral hogs and unpredictable East Texas weather, but he keeps going.
Braden's farm grew quickly. He began farming at 15 on acreage he bought with a government loan and continued to add acreage. He later graduated from West Texas A&M University in Canyon.
To qualify for the national award, the McInnises were first nominated for the state contest in December, where they won first place. They interviewed with judges, competing against finalists from nine other states. “We honestly didn't think we'd make it into the Top 10,” Jordan said.
As lead ag teacher at Elkhart High School, Jordan has clear ideas about the importance of connecting consumers and producers and encouraging youth to pursue careers in agriculture. A graduate of Plano East High School and Stephen F. Austin University, Jordan teaches animal science, livestock production and floral design. She also helps students with FFA projects, such as showing animals at livestock shows and career development and leadership events.
After participating in the statewide YF&R board, Jordan and Braden pushed to create the first county chapter. The couple has put on social events and shared their knowledge of agriculture by inviting youth to their farm for local field days.
Ted Britton, President of Anderson County's Farm Bureau, said the award has brought national attention to Anderson County and Elkhart schools, where Jordan teaches. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our county and our state,” Britton said.