Ben Fletcher is the president of the East Texas Farm & Ranch Club.

Ben Fletcher is president of the East Texas Farm and Ranch Club, which was founded in 1952 and continues to promote agribusiness in the area. Any person who owns or operates such a business or supports the club’s mission can be a member.

Information about the club and how to join is on its website, easttexasfarmandranchclub.com.

Following a career in aviation that ended in 2002, Fletcher said he was able to pursue his dream of “returning to the dirt.”

“I believe that my story is similar to those of other people,” Fletcher said. “There seems to be an urgent need to own and operate a ranch or farm, and these folks are busy with careers until they can escape to the real life.”

What is the goal of the East Texas Farm AND Ranch Club and Scholarship Fund?

The East Texas Farm and Ranch Club and Scholarship Fund Inc. is a nonprofit organization with the purpose of promoting charitable, educational and scientific purpose in the field of agriculture.

Our goal is to provide pertinent information to landowners, ranchers and farmers concerning surface rights: such as tax, water, oil and gas, cattle operations, farming updates, gardening, along with the opportunity to meet individuals that enjoy owning acreage.

The extent to which the Farm and Ranch Club can achieve its goals is directly related to the participation of local farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses.

How has the club evolved as farming and ranching haVE declined over the decades?

Our evolvement equals our involvement. Through our members we are able to reach out to our youth through programs with the Tyler Junior College Vet Tech Program, the East Texas Farm and Ranch Club Scholarship program and the East Texas State Fair. We help countless youth attain help with education with scholarship funds raised at the East Texas State Fair Hay Show.

Last year, over $50,000 went toward scholarships that were raised through these partnerships. Agriculture has become more advanced and technical. As technology has become more prevalent in our lives, the club has had to adapt the club’s programs to meet the needs of the modern farmer and rancher. The county is becoming more urban so we are adapting to farms and ranches that are on a smaller scale.

The club provides a networking atmosphere for area producers and agribusinesses and supports area youth in promoting increased awareness of agriculture. The club’s website has recently been revised and it also has added a Facebook page.

The club has shifted its focus from strictly cattle operations to other interests, such as grape growing, bee keeping, gardening and organic farming to mention a few.

Who is eligible to be a member?

Any person who owns or operates a farm, ranch, vineyard or any other property, or who is interested in the advancement of any facet or agriculture education, is eligible for membership.

The club welcomes small and large farms and ranches to join along with local businesses. The club encourages the area youth to become members and share their experiences and future goals to promote awareness of agriculture. Today’s youth is the answer to tomorrow’s success in the world of agriculture.

What are some of the club’s activities?

The club provides educational programs on a wide variety of topics each year. We work closely with the County AgriLife extension agent and his staff to solve questions that may arise. Some of our guest speakers are the most qualified in their field.

The club provides members with information via email blasts and on the club website and Facebook page, along with monthly meetings which not only give members the opportunity to seek potential solutions to concerns, but also provide speakers that discuss subjects from tax law updates, estate planning, water rights, grape growing, cattle operations, gardening, surface/forage procedures and soil management.

What do people need to know about your annual scholarship fund?

The East Texas Farm & Ranch Club awards two, $1,000 scholarships each year to high school graduates that are majoring in agriculture. This can include soil management and the growing of crops such as fruits, vegetables and ornamental crops and many forms of animal science. Scholarships are intended to encourage and support capable students with interest and potential for completing a course of study in agriculture.

The scholarship award of $1,000 is divided equally each semester for two consecutive semesters. The scholarship applications are distributed through the East Texas State Fair and are awarded each year in May. Scholarship applications can be obtained through our website or from the East Texas State Fair office.

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