When I was in high school, I attended the National FFA’s Washington Leadership Conference. I spent the week visiting monuments dedicated to the great women and men who have served our country, looking at the Capitol building where significant policy decisions are made and having the opportunity to interact with my representatives. This experience brought a simple truth to light: politics, whether you love it or hate it, impacts everything we do. Laws that are crafted through the political process determine how much we pay in taxes, what support we can receive from the government or how we can appropriately seek the pursuit of happiness.
Why does the word policy need to elicit fight or flight? While many individuals tend to lean towards the flight end of the spectrum, I find myself gravitating toward those conversations. I like to discuss the nitty-gritty of what the intended purpose of a policy proposal is and the impact that it will have.
It wasn’t until the years following my FFA trip that I realized I needed to be part of that work. If I wanted to be a part of policy that could positively impact my community, getting involved in organizations that have touched my life was the way to do it.
I also decided that regardless of my age, there was no need to wait to get involved. Engaging in hefty policy discussions isn’t where most folks my age are spending their free time. Age doesn’t serve as an obstacle for me serving, and it shouldn’t for you.
Currently, I serve in a variety of roles including as a member of the Ripon Area School Board. While these roles all take time and require work to know and understand what is going on, I find it very fulfilling. To see how a vote after a constructive conversation can open the door to new opportunities or combat an ongoing issue in a more effective way, proves that the system can work. While the results are not always immediate, I rest with the knowledge that the policy decisions I am helping to craft now are done to positively shape the future.
Through my involvement in Farm Bureau, I have grown as a leader who is equipped to tackle responsibilities and policy discussions. Involvement in the district policy meetings and the Discussion Meet have provided a greater understanding of the issues and the ability to confidently share my opinions. As a member of the WFBF Leadership Institute, I was able to take it a step further. If not for these opportunities to participate with supportive Farm Bureau members at the local level, I would not have felt as prepared for any of my current leadership positions.
As a young adult, I feel that I provide a unique perspective. One that is sometimes missing from organizations. Diverse voices bring forward a wealth of experience that will make any governing body stronger. The voices of young agriculturists are needed now more than ever in Farm Bureau, and I have a recent example to highlight why.
During a recent conversation with a fellow school board member, someone who I thought had a basic understanding of agriculture, I was asked, “What is a ewe?” As you might imagine, I was a little taken aback.
That question is why I wanted to have a seat at the table. There continues to be a need for those of us in the agricultural community to use our voice to share our perspectives when others who do not have the same knowledge are making decisions that will affect us greatly. While this person is a decision-maker on the local level, I guarantee the same conversations happen at all levels of government.
Now is the time to consider how you can serve. There are many opportunities to contribute the knowledge and passion you have to share. Policy might be a great fit. Don’t fear it because you are young. Don’t fear it because sometimes it comes with tough conversations. Get involved and you might just find it fulfilling and worthwhile.
Nate Zimdars is a Fond du Lac County Farm Bureau member from Ripon and a recent WFBF Leadership Institute graduate.
This column originally appeared in the August|September 2019 Rural Route.