AFR women are invited to attend the annual AFR Women’s Conference-Weekend in the Springs, August 11th and 12th in Sulphur, Okla.  The historic Artesian Hotel, located in downtown Sulphur, is the headquarters for this fun and educational conference.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to experience a relaxing weekend in beautiful south central Oklahoma for our conference,” said Pam Livingston, AFR Women’s Cooperative chair. “Our goal is to educate, motivate and inspire women.”

Conference highlights include a tour of the Chickasaw Cultural Center, Stomp Dance demonstration and meals featuring local cuisine. There will also be time to visit local shops in historic downtown Sulphur before concluding the evening at the Artesian Hotel.

The original Artesian Hotel, built in 1906, was a regular getaway for celebrities, politicians and trendsetting tourists. A 1962 fire destroyed the building but not the concept. Today, the new and improved hotel features unique shops, fine dining and indoor bath house and pools taking advantage of the area’s natural springs.

The Chickasaw Cultural Center, located in the Arbuckle Mountains, is a world-class museum focused on the Chickasaw history and culture. The center includes an amphitheater, sky terrace, traditional village and interactive exhibits.

Livingston notes adventure and fun awaits participants at this year’s conference, but it’s just one of the many opportunities of the AFR Women’s Cooperative.

“Our mission is to build community involvement by offering initiatives and educational opportunities to AFR members,” Livingston said.

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Francie Kucera Tolle has always considered herself a farmer and rancher.  Growing up on the family’s Grant County, Okla., farm, she learned first-hand the many sacrifices farmers had to make in order to feed their family and the families of many others. Today, Tolle has dedicated her career to serving the agriculture industry.

This strong compassion and agricultural background has led to AFR selecting Tolle, the current Regional Director of the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, to receive the coveted AFR Ag Advocacy Award.

“Francie has contributed a great deal to agriculture in Oklahoma and across the nation,” said Terry Detrick, AFR president. “When she was on our staff, we respected her knowledge and wisdom on crucial farm policy issues.”

Francie and her husband, Chuck Tolle, continue the farming legacy today in Grant County with their two sons, Cole and Clint.

Francie’s journey from a young farm girl to a national advocate for agriculture has been sprinkled with many accomplishments and contributions to agriculture.  In addition to her efforts as legislative policy analyst for AFR, she has worked as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers, Agricultural Liaison to Congressman Brad Carson, Director of Agritoursim for Oklahoma, and State Director of the Farm Service Agency.

“Being recognized by AFR as an advocate for agriculture is a huge honor for me,” Tolle said.  “I always try to do what I think is best for our agricultural producers.”

Last year Tolle received the Significant Women in Agriculture award from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.  When receiving the award she was quoted as saying her greatest accomplishment is building a legacy with her family to make sure that others will value and appreciate agriculture as a result of their stewardship. “My goal is to leave a legacy,” she said.

More than 825 lives were saved as the result of blood donations made during AFR-sponsored blood drives last year.  The announcement was made during the AFR Women’s Cooperative awards luncheon, Feb. 17. The luncheon was held in conjunction with the annual AFR convention at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center in Norman.

“This is incredible,” said Crystie Shebester, AFR Women’s Cooperative state council chair, “we are so pleased and overwhelmed by the generosity of Oklahomans.”

The AFR women leaders made blood donations a priority activity in 2017 as many local and county AFR groups and insurance agents sponsored blood drives. AFR partnered with the Oklahoma Blood Institute.  As the nation’s 9th largest non-profit blood center, Oklahoma Blood Institute relies solely on 1,200 volunteer blood donors a day to meet the needs of patients at more than 160 hospitals and medical facilities statewide.

A total of 2,475 units of blood were donated in 2017 during AFR sponsored blood drives.  OBI estimates for every three units of blood donated, one life is saved.

During the luncheon, awards were presented to local AFR groups attracting the most donations.  This included:

1st- Northeastern State University with a total of 200 units donated, sponsored by the Celeste Looney AFR Insurance Agency.

2nd-Elk City with 125 units donated, sponsored by the Crow AFR Insurance Agency.

3rd- Locus Grove Guns & Hoses with 65 units donated, sponsored by the Cowan AFR Insurance Agency

Also recognized for their outstanding blood donation efforts were Gilbert AFR Insurance Agency in Tecumseh, the Miller AFR Insurance Agency in cooperation with the Pushmataha Hospital, and the Brown AFR Insurance Agency in cooperation with Lone Star Elementary school.

An amazing fact of the 2017 AFR blood drives was the response from 172 people who were first-time blood donors.

In addition to local blood drives, AFR also sponsored blood drives during the 2017 Oklahoma Youth Expo and the Oklahoma FFA convention.  Practically all donations were from rural Oklahomans.

Serving rural communities is a cornerstone of AFR.

“From our very beginning, more than 100 years ago, we have focused on serving rural Oklahoma communities,” Terry Detrick, AFR president, said. “Improving the lives of rural Oklahomans has always been our priority.”

When he is not working on his Wynona, Okla., ranch, Eddie Fields is representing District 10 in the Oklahoma Legislature.  It’s not easy running a successful ranching business while spending almost half of the time 130 miles away at the state Capitol, but Fields has a strong sense of serving others.

His call to public duty was a significant factor in his selection as an AFR Ag Advocacy award winner.

“Sen. Fields unwavering compassion for public service and his strong dedication to agriculture make him a great candidate for our Ag Advocacy award,” said Terry Detrick, AFR president.

Fields is a third-generation rancher, continuing the Fields Ranch legacy started by his family in Osage County in 1952. Today he gets plenty of help from his wife, Christina and three daughters, Tailor, Jacie and Tristan.  A strong desire to hold public office fueled his first election to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.  He crossed the aisle in 2010 to represent Kay and Osage counties in the Oklahoma Senate. His leadership has been evident, as he has served as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and is currently Assistant Majority Floor Leader and Vice Chairman of Appropriations, Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services, and Chairman of Rules.

“I have just felt it necessary to step out and work for my neighbors and the citizens of Oklahoma,” Fields said.

“The coveted AFR Ag Advocacy Award is presented to deserving individuals who have demonstrated a strong record of advocating for agriculture,” Detrick said, “and Sen. Fields has definitely worked hard for the farm and ranching industry.”

Kent Boggs and Kendall Brashears received special recognition from AFR members Feb. 17 during the annual AFR convention in Norman, Okla.

Boggs, Oklahoma FFA executive secretary, is retiring this year after 32 years of working with Oklahoma’s youth.  After graduating from OSU, he joined the faculty as an agricultural education instructor at Marlow High School in Marlow, Okla., for two years.  In 1980, Boggs became an agricultural education instructor at Elgin High School in Elgin, Okla., where he taught for five years before joining the Oklahoma FFA Association as the State FFA Executive Secretary. He is responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing the leadership component of the student organization which includes state officers, membership development, marketing and public relations, conventions, contests and awards.

Brashears retired last year as executive director of the Oklahoma FFA Foundation.  Brashears has served the Oklahoma FFA, agricultural educators and students since his career began in 1974. He has worked tirelessly in the classroom, in school administration, and as executive director of the Oklahoma FFA Foundation to support agricultural education in the state. In Brashears’ 12 years with the FFA Foundation, annual sponsorships increased from approximately $150,000 to $680,000. These funds support the state FFA convention, student awards, and the annual agriscience fair.  Under his leadership the FFA Foundation has twice received the Community Impact Award from the Oklahoma Business Ethics Consortium.

“Both of these men have been incredible role models for our state’s agricultural youth,” said Terry Detrick, AFR president.  “Many of our leaders today credit their FFA experience for contributing to their success and I know both Kent and Kendall had an impact on their lives.”

Voting delegates at the recent 2018 AFR convention elected one new leader and re-elected three current leaders for their board of directors and officers.  The voting took place Feb. 17 during the second day of the three-day annual convention at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center in Norman, Okla.

Elected to represent the southeast Agent Director, District 4, was Randy Gilbert, Tecumseh.  Gilbert and his wife, Suzanne, own and operate Gilbert Insurance Agency.  They also operate a cow/calf business and Crossing Hearts Ranch, an agri-tourism venue. They also operate a family trucking business. Gilbert is a graduate of Tecumseh High School and Oklahoma State University.  He began his career as an Agriculture Education instructor in Lawton. Gilbert serves on the Arvest Bank Board, Oklahoma Youth Expo, State Board of Career and Technology Education, Chairman of the Oklahoma FFA Foundation, President of the Southwest American Livestock Foundation and has been Chairman of the Shawnee and Tecumseh Chamber of Commerce.

Re-elected to represent the Southwest Independent District 2 was Joe Ed Kinder, Frederick. Kinder has served the organization in many capacities since his first involvement in the late 1950’s.  He service includes the AFR/OFU policy committee and By-laws committee, the NFU policy committee and the NFU policy working group.  He also participated in the organization’s legislative action “fly-ins” to Washington, D.C. In addition to his work with AFR/OFU, Kinder has served on the Tillman County Rural Water District #1 for 12 years and on the Chattanooga Town Board for 18 years.  He was chairman of the Chattanooga Public Works Authority and chairman of the Chattanooga Airport Board.  He has also served on the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association Board and chaired the Red River Terrace Water Authority.

John Porter, Edmond, was re-elected to serve as the organization’s Vice President. Porter is a graduate of Quay High School and Central State University (now UCO).  He has a rich heritage with the company as his grandfather and parents were agents, as well as his brother. During his 36-plus year career with AFR/OFU, he worked in insurance claims and as an AFR Insurance agent. He currently owns Porters Insurance Agency in Edmond.  Porter was inducted into the Oklahoma Softball Hall of Fame as a player, participant and member of the Player Youth Program. He is also a retired Oklahoma high school sports referee for basketball and football.

Kyndell Nichols, Fairview, was re-elected to represent the Northwest Agent District 1 position.  After graduation from Oklahoma State University with a BS Degree in Ag Economics and Accounting, he returned to the family farm to work with his father and with his mother in the insurance and real estate business. Nichols has been an agent for AFR/OFU since 1985.  He now runs the farming operation and has expanded a registered Hereford cattle herd with the help of his two sons, Levon and Lathan. As an active AFR member, he has served on the Policy Committee, attended Washington DC fly-in and participated in a Special Advisory Committee to the Board of Directors.  As an agent, Nichols served on the Agents Association Executive Council and served on a special committee appointed by the Board to review the agent’s contract. Nichols has been an active leader in his community for 25 years serving on the County Fair Board and is a Charter Member of the Ringwood Lions Club.  He was a member of the Oklahoma Hereford Association Board and served as President.

The state’s dire budget situation and need for revenue dominated policy discussion during the business session of the annual convention of the American Farmers & Ranchers, Feb. 16-17 in Norman, Okla.

A proposed 6 cent per gallon fuel tax attracted much of the delegate’s attention. The farm organization, consisting of mostly rural residents, has traditionally been opposed to fuel tax increases because of the long distances many of them must travel for business and personal use.  However, the group has possibly eased their opposition to such a tax.

“We are seeing a possible softening of our fuel tax opposition,” said Terry Detrick, AFR president, “as a way to open the door to common sense ways to raise revenue.”

“Our members want to try to figure out a way to help the state pay for all their needs, including rural infrastructure and teacher pay raises,” Detrick said.

The AFR leader said many of the delegates questioned how state revenue is being raised today.

“They have seen so much in the news media about the various energy sectors arguing over who pays their share of the taxes,” Detrick said.  “There is just a great deal of uncertainty out there and we want to take a cautious approach to make sure everyone is treated equally.”

The farm group reaffirmed its position on a comprehensive overhaul of the federal immigration system in order to safeguard the multi-billion dollar American agriculture industry.

Other issues drawing support included:

  • Decreasing the constitutional requirement for revenue raising measures in the legislature to 60 percent.
  • Increased education on the proper usage of the herbicide dicamba
  • More aggressive state and federal efforts to help control feral hogs.
  • Higher priority for funding to eliminate cedar trees in Oklahoma.

AFR members re-enforced support for the agriculture mediation program, as they requested inclusion of guaranteed funding for the program in the next farm bill.

More than 900 voting delegates were registered for the AFR convention, making it one of the larger contingencies showing support for rural and agriculture issues.