Why You Need to Get Involved

Getting Involved Ag Menu

How many times have you heard someone say they just don’t want to get involved, or that they belong to a farm organization so “they” will speak up for them? Maybe they feel like it’s no use…they are just one person, and their vote or opinion won’t count anyway, so they give up. Frustrating, isn’t it?

This past week, I attended the first ever Governor’s Pheasant Summit. Our area in Minnesota is pretty popular for pheasant hunting, so they met at the college that is a few miles from my place. Even though I live close to the venue, I hadn’t heard about the Summit until our Farm Bureau Director of Public Policy mentioned that he would be there. I was starting to feel as if I was being prepped for the menu.

I went online to check out the Summit details, and to go through the background information. It was clearly spelled out that this was supposed to be a discussion between hunters, farmers, policy makers, conservationists, DNR, and other stakeholders and government officials. What I saw when I walked in the door was very different. There were many state agency people – DNR, SWCD, MN DOT, BWSR, NRCS – but very few farmers. Besides the few farmers that I saw, there was a small group of cattlemen, a small group of bee keepers. With the format of the event, it was evident that the small number of farmers, ranchers, and bee keepers wouldn’t have a lot of clout…even though we represented the largest private landowners, and would be the most affected by whatever decisions came out of the Summit.

There are some lessons here.

1. We need to show up. When there is an open call for stakeholders, we need to respond. We cannot wait for “them” to represent us. “They” may represent you, but when it comes to events like the Summit, I have the same amount of votes as everyone else in the room. Every voice counts. Let me repeat that…Every voice counts.

2. We need to engage. Don’t like how things are going? We cannot afford to just walk away and hope someone else speaks up for us. In any of the areas mentioned in the graphic above, there are or have been opportunities to engage. Not sure how? Join a farm organization. It could be Farm Bureau, State Cattlemen, Farm Bureau, Corn Growers, Farm Bureau, Soybean Growers, Farm Bureau, Pork Producers, Farm Bureau, Bee Keepers, Farm Bureau…  Jonathan and I are members of more than one group, giving us opportunities to engage through those different groups.  Many of these groups also arrange group trips to the State Capitol and Washington DC giving you the ability to engage with your elected officials, while helping you to speak effectively to them.

3. We need to be persistent. After the Pheasant Summit concluded, I approached the Commissioner of the DNR to ask if a farmer would be a member of the group that hammers out the action plan that came out of the Summit. In our private conversation, he agreed that we need to be at the table, and we need to be able to work together. The 5 areas outlined are too broad to let the government agencies decide on the action plan without agriculture at the table. We need to be persistent and willing to be the squeaky wheel every once in a while to ensure that agriculture has a voice. We can’t take one private conversation and be satisfied that we will be heard.

4. We need to work together. There are times when every farmer and rancher needs to work together, regardless of size, methods, or farm type. A good example is the issue with the Environmental Protection Agency and their Waters of the United States rule that would essentially give them jurisdiction over all the water in the United States. Through an organized effort, and the participation of farmers and ranchers all over the United States, we are getting the attention of our elected officials, and they are responding. The Pheasant Summit is a state wide issue that affects every farmer and rancher, regardless of size or method. We need to be willing to set aside our differences for the good of the whole, there is strength in numbers.

Where do we go from here?

Get involved. It’s okay to start small. Join your county Farm Bureau. You don’t have to sit on the county board to take advantage of the opportunities for members.  If you are not comfortable in front of people, at least respond to the Action Alerts when they are sent out. Participate in your Day on the Hill. Your county Farm Bureau and commodity organizations make it very easy to show up, and be effective. Head to Washington DC with Farm Bureau. You will learn a ton about Farm Bureau, the legislative process, and you will be making a difference by your very presence. Attend events like the Pheasant Summit. We need the agriculture voices to show up and help shape the recommendations that will affect us. You don’t have to stand up and address the crowds, or give a speech, or be on TV to make a difference. Just get involved at the level you are comfortable with. Help agriculture be at the table, and not on the menu.

30 Things I Love: Agriculture Organizations

Agriculture organizations

I love all the opportunities we have to become involved with various agriculture organizations. We are currently members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Corn Growers, Minnesota Soybean Growers, and the Minnesota Pork Producers. All of these organizations have a direct connection to what we raise on our farm.

You may wonder what the point is in being a member of an ag organization. After all, you’re just an average farmer with the nose to the grindstone, and no time to be on a board. That’s the beauty of these organizations. You can be as active as you like. If you don’t have time to sit on a board, you don’t have to. Your membership is still important.

The Minnesota Farm Bureau President, Kevin Paap, often says, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Being a member of an agriculture organization helps to keep us at the table, and not on it. Your membership dollars are used to help us know how and what to say to our legislators when we visit them at the State Capitol, or in Washington DC. We are strong when we speak with a unified voice! Those that wish to become more vocal have opportunities to learn communication and leadership skills by attending various events. You don’t have to be a board member to participate in those opportunities. That said, if you choose to become a board member of any county or regional agriculture organization, you will be welcomed!

I am amazed at how much my leadership and speaking skills have developed over the last 14 years. Jonathan and I joined Farm Bureau in July 2000. We were encouraged to compete in the Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award contest, which we did. The third time was the charm, when Jonathan won in 2004. The American Farm Bureau Annual Convention was in Hawaii that year, so I had to get on my very first airplane when Jonathan went to compete nationally. We didn’t make it into the top 10, but I remember thinking about how cool the convention was, and that I wanted to go to another one. I joined the county Farm Bureau board around that time, and for the past 6 years, I served as President. In that time, I had other opportunities to serve on state committees, and I became a member of the Speak for Yourself program, where we were taught how to tell our farming story to the general public and continue to learn how to engage the non-farm consumers. I was also encouraged to apply for the position of representing a general farm organization on the Organic Advisory Task Force, which has lead to being appointed chair this term.  Last winter, I felt the nudge to run for our district’s seat on the MN Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and was elected at our November annual meeting. 26 years ago, when I first moved to the farm from my home in the Twin Cities, I never dreamed I would have the passion for agriculture that I do…or that I would have the voice that I do. I am so thankful that I swallowed the nervousness and went to my first county board meeting.

If you are on the fence, I encourage you to join a county organization. The grassroots nature of many of these organizations really does give the power to the farmer, and gives you a voice even when you cannot physically be at your state capitol or in Washington DC.  That is why I love agriculture organizations!

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage


Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

Day 27: My Daughters

Day 28: Viktoria

Day 29: Agriculture Organizations

Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog, and see the link for other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 25: Farm Bureau

CarolynCares Farm Bureau

This past weekend I was in Bloomington, Minnesota at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. I look forward to this meeting every year, and seeing friends from all over the state.

One of the coolest things about attending the Annual Meeting, is to see farmers of every type and every age sharing meals, sharing laughter, and sharing stories. Farm Bureau is one place where Democrats, Republicans, Independents, young farmers, “seasoned” farmers, dairy, beef, pig, turkey, conventional, organic, large, small, hobby, fruit, and vegetable farmers all meet together for one common goal. We all care about our farms and ranches, and we want to be able to pass them on to another generation. We want to learn how best to care for the land, tend to our animals, and meet consumer’s wishes while being able to make enough money to support our families and better our farms.

The delegate session is always interesting. My county in Southwestern Minnesota is very different from my friend’s farm in Northwestern Minnesota. The resolutions passed at their county meetings may not have any bearing on my county, yet we get the chance to debate and vote on the resolutions brought to the voting floor. It is one of the strongest grassroots organizations I know of. Every member has a voice, and has the chance to be heard. I wish our government was like that!

I am thankful for Farm Bureau, the leadership, and staff. They organized an awesome Annual Meeting this year. I came away from the weekend tired, yet excited for the future of Farm Bureau, and the future of Agriculture. I know I have some work to do to help our county continue to grow. It is so reassuring to know that we have a great staff that we can call on for answers to our questions, no matter how big or small.

After this weekend, I am really looking forward to the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting and Convention in San Antonio in January. I am excited to meet some of my social media friends in person, and to engage with Farm Bureau members from all over the United States and Puerto Rico. Who will I see in San Antonio?


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Catching Up Is Hard To Do…

I cannot believe that January is almost over! Typically this month is filled with farming book work, getting tax stuff ready, and all the other end of the year stuff that comes with running a business. This year we started out a little differently…

On December 26th, Jonathan’s sister and family came from the Chicagoland area for a few days. We had a fun Christmas celebration with that side of the family on the 27th. I love reconnecting with family, and catching up on their activities.

My side of the family arrived on the 29th. We celebrated Christmas with them on the 30th, and stuffed ourselves silly (again).  On New Year’s Day we drove down to Iowa to see relatives that were gathering at my aunt’s house. It was fun to reconnect and catch up on their lives.

Mom and my sister Pam spent the night with us once again, while Sheryl’s family stayed overnight at aunt’s house. On January 2nd, everyone headed for home. That is when Jonathan and I started packing for our trip. 🙂

On January 2nd, Jonathan and I left for Fargo, ND. We had an early morning flight from Fargo to Salt Lake City, UT. From Salt Lake City, we flew to Honolulu, HI! We were going to attend the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, which was held on the 8th and 9th.

We were traveling with cousins Andy and Heather. We have traveled with them to Nascar races and Disney World, and they still like us, so we thought it would be fun to go to Hawaii together. We were right. We had a blast!

Our travel agent arranged for a tour company to meet us at the airport where we received a fresh flower lei, and an invitation to a free breakfast the following morning. We all thought, “Free breakfast? Okay!” It was a sales pitch of sorts, telling us about the various tour packages they have available. Since we had about 4 days before the AFBF stuff started, we gave a look at what we thought would be fun. For once in my life, I really didn’t care what the plan was. I chatted with a tour company employee while Jonathan signed us up for events. It was quite nice to be able to just let go.

(Pic: At the airport after landing in Honolulu…we had been up for about 18 hours at this point, and it is starting to show)

Our first activity was whale watching, while Andy and Heather chose to go snorkeling in an area with sea turtles. I get motion sickness really easy, so I made sure I took meds for that. Good thing! I had never been out on a boat in the open ocean, so I was a little nervous about the waves. This was a lunch cruise with a buffet of great food to eat while cruising out to the whale watching waters. At least that was the plan. The whales had a different idea. Two of them were in the harbor that morning. They think it was a mom and a juvenile calf that had followed a fishing boat for 6 days and over 800 miles! We got up close enough to be sprayed three times with whale snot.   I gave my new camera a workout!

(Pic: one of my whale photos. I have others that I am not sharing online…)

That evening, all four of us went to a magic show dinner theater thing. We met some really nice people from Australia and Canada. After that ended, we went to the Lani Misalucha show. The best part was when she did impersonations of different singers. She had some of them spot on! Sadly, no photos were allowed for our evening adventures.

The next highlight was Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial, where the weather was beautiful. The museum grounds had been improved since we were there in 2004, making it an even better experience. Three survivors were at a book signing for a few hours.

After Pearl Harbor we went on a city tour and saw the State Capitol building and the Iolani Palace. Friday night we went on a supper cruise where we would see the sunset while at sea, and watch fireworks over Waikiki. There were Polynesian dancers on board, so between the sunset and the fireworks we didn’t get bored. The night was beautiful. The fireworks had to compete with a great full moon over Waikiki for my favorite scene of the cruise.

(I’ll let you decide which you like better…the full moon or the fireworks)


Saturday we had some beach time, and just took it easy most of the day. Sunday brought the start of the AFBF Annual Meeting. The opening ceremony sets the tone for the entire event, with an address by President Bob Stallman. We were really impressed by what he had to say, and it made us proud to be a part of such a great organization.  We believe that there is room for all types of agriculture – organic or conventional, crop or livestock, etc. We need to work together, which is what President Stallman mentioned in his speech. The keynote speaker on Monday afternoon was Dave Barry. He was hilarious! It was a great way to end a great meeting.

(Pic: AFBF President Bob Stallman)

We also attended a luau, and went on a Circle Island Tour with a bunch of our Minnesota friends. We started our journey back to Minnesota (and reality) on the 11th, and made it home the afternoon of the 12th.  Our flight schedule took us from Honolulu to Los Angeles (no celeb sightings, but it was 5:00 am when we landed). Los Angeles to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Fargo. Then a 4 hour drive home. This didn’t quite work with us. Thursday evening was Parent’s Night for the dance team. Laura is a senior this year, so in my mind this was a big deal. If we were to catch our flight from Minneapolis to Fargo, we would not have made it back in time.  I was bummed when we discovered this before we left, but Jonathan made a few phone calls…

Cousin Denise picked us up from the airport in Minneapolis, and brought us home. Andy and Heather flew on to Fargo as planned, picked up our luggage (we checked it in under their names in Honolulu), and drove our van to their house. Jonathan and I made it back home in time to shower and change clothes before heading into the school. It was worth making it back in time!

The following morning, Jonathan and I ran some errands, then packed our bags to head to an organic farming conference a couple of hours away. We picked up our van on the way home from the conference the following day, and kinda crashed once we got home. That was a week ago.

I still have a few loads of laundry to do, and gifts to distribute. I finally caught up on reading all my emails as of this morning. Jonathan and I both feel like we are finally back in our time zone, and that our brains have finally caught up with us.  Hopefully, we’ll get caught up on the book work this week as well.

Vacation was great, but catching up is hard to do!