For those who choose production agriculture as a way of life, I’m sure you are familiar with the infamous way that events unfold so unexpectedly just when your bags are packed and you’re headed down the driveway. This is exactly what happened to me while trying to get to the first Wisconsin Farm Bureau Leadership Institute Class meeting. A vet call for a heifer calving early, a silo unloader that wasn’t throwing feed and a tie stall barn lined with hungry cows full of milk. Leaving the farm for more than a few hours always seems to be a challenge, but thankfully I was able to accept the challenge of making it out the driveway and off to Madison with the morning’s issues resolved and a few minutes to spare!
Helen Cashell once said, “Life is full of challenges; it’s how you respond to them that makes a difference to your life.” I have this quote written down and placed in the milk house on our farm, because if there is one occupation that can give you a good challenge, it is that of being a dairy farmer!
Why take the time from an already full agenda to join the Class XI Farm Bureau Leadership Institute and set myself up for a year’s worth of challenges? As I walked into the Farm Bureau Office with minutes to spare that morning, I looked around the room at 14 other people who were probably asking themselves that very same question. Well, somewhere between the videotaping of a 3 minute speech and learning about our unique strengths as leaders in our communities, I think each of us realized we were very glad we had accepted the challenges associated with this leadership opportunity.
For some members of the group, it was a challenge just to tackle the technology and learn to turn on an iPad for the first time! For others, the challenge of speaking in front of a group with NO NOTES was something that had to be overcome. The quiet, reserved, institute members were forced to dress up in goofy costumes and introduce their group members, while the outspoken, natural born leaders were able to be better listeners by using tips from their emotional intelligence books. No matter who you were that weekend, there was a challenge to overcome and everyone responded to those challenges very well. There is something to be said, and admired, about people who commit to things and stay the course of completing those commitments despite the challenges they face along the way. After this first session there are now 15 agriculture advocates who made the sacrifice to show up and work through the challenges that might have kept them from otherwise attending, and who are better Farm Bureau representatives because of it. Dairy farmers, sales people, maple syrup producers and news reporters, not to mention moms, dads and community leaders; you can add these occupations to the list of people who have taken the first step to becoming a better voice for agriculture.
Is it a challenge to go against your daily routine and be a part of something that will make a difference in your life? Absolutely! But those challenges, and how we handle them, shape who we are as agriculture leaders at the county, state and national levels.
Wellnitz milks a small herd of Holsteins in southern Wisconsin on her parents’ 200-acre farm located in Rock County. She recently returned to the family farm after spending time as an agriculture education instructor and FFA advisor.