I’m Taking a Seat

Meeting at an auction market
Listening in to a meeting about the Veterinary Feed Directive
at our local auction market.
I was the only young producer in attendance.

If you aren’t at the table, you aren’t part of the conversation.

That mantra is heard often throughout society during presidential elections and debates but have you ever taken the time to consider how your voice can affect everyday activities in your community or your professional interests?

Jennifer Latze, a phenomenal writer and outright awesome person, recently penned an article in the High Plains Journal titled, “Where Have All the Members Gone?” in which she discusses the need for young people in agriculture to pay our dues (literally, with money) and attend industry meetings and events. After all, the discussions taking place at local, state and national agriculture organization meetings are those that will shape policies, procedures and trends for our industry for several years to come. Jennifer hits the nail right on the head when she says, “Today, the average age of the American farmer is 57 to 58 years old. We need to not only think about who’s going to take his place in the field or on the ranch, but also who’s going to take his place in the grassroots organization he’s spent a lifetime supporting.” It’s my generation’s responsibility to ensure that the time, sweat and efforts that have been devoted to improving agriculture for the past 30-40 years aren’t wasted away by a lack of leadership or involvement.

Personally, I devote a lot of time to initiatives and organizations that are near and dear to my heart so I volunteer on our county fair board, county livestock association board, spend time with Kansas State University student groups and just recently was selected to the Board of Directors for the Ranchland Trust of Kansas, which is an organization that works to preserve the ranching heritage in Kansas for future generations. I’m a Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Livestock Association and NCBA member as well. Those fees add up and as Jennifer says in her article, are a seemingly easy line item to cut. We are just starting out in ranching – we’ve got water lines to dig, pots of cattle to buy and trucks to repair. Saving a few hundred bucks would really help out in the long run.

But it only takes one or two industry meetings to remind me that those dues are worth it. I recently attended the KLA legislative conference and was able to learn about legislation that will affect my ability to do business in the future. The floor was opened to comments and industry positions were voted upon. That meeting was the definition of “grassroots” – people coming together to make decisions to positively impact our industry and livelihood. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of millennials at the meeting and hope that as I continue to get involved with passion projects, I will meet more young people willing to donate their time and talents to leading our industry through the next generation.

If you aren’t involved in your community and industry, what right do you have to criticize the policies laid out or the direction being taken? Discussion about life-changing events starts at the local level – meet with your councilman, senator or representative. Start out by joining a county organization to get your feet wet and then take the next step to a state-level involvement. You’ll be surprised at the lessons you’ll learn that will not only affect your livelihood but your outlook on life in general. I’m thankful for the time I’ve been able to spend learning from those who have been making decisions for the past 30 years – their guidance and wisdom is unmatched and I hope to continue working with them to create a better future for my family, community and industry.

What are your “passion projects?”

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


3 responses to “I’m Taking a Seat”

  1. Rae Wagoner Avatar
    Rae Wagoner

    Hi Buzzard – I think the sermon you are preaching is definitely one that needs to be heard across the nation. I'm especially appreciative of the closing sentence in the last paragraph that reminds younger folks to learn from their elders.

    Sometimes, I think that Millennials (who have been told by their parents that they are MORE special than the other kids, who have received ribbons for participating, and who have been raised in the "it's not a competition" culture) succumb to the entitlement mentality and don't see the need to pay their dues and show respect to the leaders who have, in many cases, built the very organizations you refer to.

    There are communication style differences between the generations, and I can say with certainty that the "here I am, God's gift to your organization, let me show you how super-smart I am," attitude goes over like a cow pie in the punchbowl.

    YES – young people are our future, both in these worthy organizations and the world in general. YES – young people are smart and they do bring fresh and innovative, often tech-savvy solutions with them. I think it's important to realize that folks will be much happier to see a new face at the table if it is accompanied by respect for the ones who built the table.

    1. Thanks for reading and for your comments, Rae. I agree that we need to be listening to the wisdom of older generations that have strove to preserve our heritage and way of life. I hope that I conveyed that sufficiently in my post, because I never meant to imply that we should shove them out of the way!

  2. Great post. As a young farmer I pay my dues to several ag organizations because I know it is the right thing to do. I'm in a phase of life where things are busy and my family is always growing. I think ag organizations need to have ways for members (of all ages) to get involved in different levels and different ways to stay viable and valuable.