Julie Gemmill of Fordville tells her story during the summer outing of the Farmers Union Enterprises Leadership program. Missy Axt of McClusky, and Amanda and Lucas McClean of Ypsilanti joined Gemmill as NDFU’s four participants. 


Julie Gemmill is learning to share her story.

The Walsh County Farmers Union President — who farms with her husband near Fordville — was selected to take part in the Farmers Union Enterprises Leadership (FUEL) program last winter. The group recently finished its summer outing at the new Farmers Union Camp on the Jamestown Reservoir.

“We each had to write a story about our interest in Farmers Union and what got us to where we are,” she said. “We started with our background, and we elaborated on all the things that brought us to that day. Then we got up in front of the group and told our story.”

The FUEL program is one of the opportunities North Dakota Farmers Union provides to help its members take the next step in their leadership journey. It’s run in conjunction with the other Farmers Union Enterprise states, which include Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Gemmill was joined by Missy Axt of McClusky, and Amanda and Lucas McClean of Ypsilanti as North Dakota participants in the program. Each state brings four producers, and all five state presidents attend as well.

“I sat next to (Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden) at dinner, and we had a really good conversation,” she said. “We had a lot of stories to share.”

Gemmill said there were notable similarities and differences among the participants from all five states.

“We have very similar values,” she said. “What’s different is how we experience every day in our own lives. Some have a different perspective on farming than what I do. Raising dairy (cows) is different, and growing (vegetables) is different. You learn a little bit about everybody, what they’re doing and how important it is for sustaining our food (supply).”

The program typically involves three events — the National Farmers Union convention in early March, a summer outing and the NFU Fly-in to Washington, D.C., in September. It also involves a state convention.

Gemmill said it’s a good opportunity to meet others and learn more about agriculture.

“It’s a great learning tool to expand your knowledge about everything Farmers Union and to also develop leadership skills and communication skills,” she said. “We spent a lot of time just talking to each other and making connections. That’s important with whatever you choose to do in your life.”

Anyone interested in becoming a FUEL participant for the 2024 class can apply at ndfu.org/fuel.

— Chris Aarhus, NDFU