Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Telling My Story

I had the good fortune of growing up with friends who always knew my love for the farm and cattle. Despite not really understanding why I loved it so much, because they didn't have the same interests as me, they knew enough to know it was my thing. Long story short, even though they didn't really care about agriculture, they could appreciate my love for it.

Fast forward to college, I went to Iowa State University and majored in Agriculture. All of the sudden I was in a sea of people who had the same interests as me. They had showed cattle. They had grown up on farms. They had the same goals and passions and hopes and dreams as I did. They REALLY understood me. It was bliss.

Now I work in agriculture, lending money to the people who feed you. So to say I don't go a day without talking farming with someone who understands it would be an understatement.

With that being said, being in a bubble where I talk farming all day every day and am surrounded by people who understand agriculture, one can become complacent in advocating the agricultural industry.

A few months ago an opportunity to be a part of a group called the Ag Leader Institute came about. I read through the program details and gave it some thought since it would be a big time commitment. Ultimately it didn't take me long to decide to apply. I filled out the application and waited.

I got the call when I was headed back from one of what seemed like 13 Christmas' with my family that I had been accepted into the program, along with 24 other Iowans.

I was excited.

I didn't REALLY know what I was getting into. And, to be honest, I was a little nervous about the "public speaking and presentations" session that was on the list of activities we would be covering over the next year. I'm pretty outgoing, but public speaking is not my thing. I like to share my opinions, but only when I feel like it and I'm in a seated position, if you know what I'm saying.

Anticipation grew as our first session approached and I looked through the other 24 names of participants. The majority of the participants were men (story of my life as a woman in agriculture) and I only recognized one name from my college days.

But it was going to be good. The whole reason I applied for this was to push myself out of my comfort zone. It's good to things that make you uncomfortable, am I right? That's how you grow and become better, yes?

Ultimately I want to become better at communicating agriculture's story. First and foremost, because I believe it is vital to our industry moving forward. Also, because if I want to continue my family's legacy of farming into the next generation, it is going to be important to educate the consumers of the products I produce that I am doing it safely. I felt like being a part of this program would *fingers crossed* help me do just that.

So, all of this brings me to today.

I'm reading through materials and preparing for our next session this upcoming weekend. There are not too many details about our speaker other than a webpage where we can go and learn more about her.

I of course go to her webpage to scope her out.  My first thought is: I could only dream of being able to write like her! She is such a great advocate for agriculture!

My second thought: This woman...she gets me. Like, woah. Check out this blog post she wrote about her daughters experience showing a calf her first year in 4-H and the lessons she learned through that.

I don't know how many times I've tried to explain to someone in conversation, in a job interview, etc. what showing cattle taught me. I couldn't seem to put all the words into sentences. But it was all of those things and then some.

I can't wait for the day I can teach my own kids those same lessons. Those 8 reasons are why it is so important for me to tell my story. So that my kids, someday, have the same opportunities I did. And they can learn these valuable life lessons at a young age.

I also cannot wait to meet Michele this weekend. She tells her story so well. And I think you've figured out by now, she inspires me to do the same.

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