Recently when talking to my husband about taking an upcoming trip he said, “I need to know which vehicle we’re taking so I can make sure it’s in working order.”
I said, “Does it matter? Shouldn’t they all be in working order?”
At the same time, I thought to myself, “Hmmm, I’m going to be driving 6 hours by myself the next two weekends. First to the Ag Women’s Summit and then to session two of the Farm Bureau Leadership Institute, is my vehicle in ‘working’ order or will I have to change my plans?”
As farmers and ranchers, it’s necessary to plan, but we’re used to making last minute changes: equipment breaks, weather changes and frankly, livestock have a mind of their own! Making the change in my schedule to be a member of class X of the Farm Bureau Leadership Institute has already helped me become more emotionally intelligent, discover my personality strengths and weaknesses and be more confident in speaking. Leaders most often have to use these qualities to initiate change. The ability to lead others through change can help us on and off the farm.
I won’t lie; my Farm Bureau district coordinator and board member hounded me for a couple of years to apply for the Leadership Institute (Thank you Ashleigh and Don). I kept questioning: Do I have the time? How will it benefit me, my county Farm Bureau, or my community? Am I too old? Then I wondered if these were valid concerns, or was I just afraid of change?
It didn’t take long to feel comfortable with my new classmates, a diverse and easy going group of agriculturists. Each of us is looking to gain something slightly different from the class, but alike in how this class could change us into better leaders.
In session one, we had the privilege of having Craig Culver, co-founder of Culver’s Restaurants, speak to us. One thing Craig said was, “Status quo is a real risk, but so is risk”. On the farm it’s sometimes cheaper, easier and more convenient to do things status quo and perhaps less people will question what we’re doing. It’s only a matter of time though until we’re forced to change; like when they stop making parts for your 1940’s equipment, or suddenly it’s not profitable enough to raise a few animals while the fertilizer bill is growing? Perhaps you have millennial offspring who cannot live without technology and think you should get with the program! It usually takes leadership of someone to help another change and it is inevitable.
Although most producers would probably like to just stay on the farm and do their thing, it’s often the experiences off the farm that create the most opportunity for change. It’s said that the average American is now at least three generations removed from the farm, and clearly we aren’t farming the same as we did three generations ago. It’s pivotal for our own right to farm, to share how we take care of our life’s investment; our farm. We have to change how we communicate verbally, by using social media and hosting educational events. We may also have to change our schedules to include off-the-farm education, so that our children may be able to stay on the farm if they choose. Henry Cloud said, “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.”
Are you ready to sow change?
Melissa Yates is a graduate of the School of Health Education program at UW-Lacrosse. She is also on the Board of Education at her church and serves as the women’s chair for Lincoln County Farm Bureau. She has been responsible for securing sales and managing marketing for both Yates Family Farm and Mary Kay for more than 10 years. Jim is her husband of 13 years, and with in those they are blessed with 3 daughters.