Originally published in the February|March 2018 issue of Rural Route
A little over a year ago, I found myself nervously packing my bag for a job interview that led me five hours away from home. This may not sound like a great distance, but when you consider that my family lives a half mile from where my dad grew up and only a few miles from where my mom grew up, that is a daunting distance. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel. I have been halfway around the world to Thailand and Ethiopia, but no matter how much I travel, I am always glad to be back home.
This job interview I was preparing for, luckily, didn’t bring me halfway around the world, just across the border from Minnesota to Wisconsin. Shortly after meeting with Wisconsin Farm Bureau staff, I accepted an offer to be the director of communications. Looking back on this a year later, I am filled with gratitude for those who believed in me and took a chance. My biggest takeaway from the past year is to never be afraid of change.
Initially, I was scared to move away from a career in the swine industry, which was a focus of internships and work experiences since I was a freshman in high school. While I’m still passionate about pig farming, I’ve had many unique experiences in other facets of agriculture because of my involvement with Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
One of the experiences that stands out is visiting a mink farm. I had no idea Wisconsin produces the most mink pelts in the USA and I didn’t know how mink were raised. I learned that mink farmers have the same standards for high quality animal care as those who raise other livestock. I also learned about the stress from animal activist groups that routinely raid mink farms to release the animals. I was familiar with the stress and pressure that activist groups put on the swine industry, but this took things to a new level.
During the year I have spent in Wisconsin, I certainly haven’t missed the significant impact dairy has on the state. Only a few short months after starting with Farm Bureau, I saw the uncertainty many dairy farmers faced when they lost their milk processors. I quickly learned about contracts between farmers and processors, or the lack there of and how trade is essential to the success of Wisconsin agriculture. I still have a lot to learn about the dairy community, but I have made many connections with dairy farmer members who only laugh a little when I ask, what I can only assume they consider silly questions like, “What is a dry cow?”
“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” – Albert Einstein
I am beyond grateful for the learning opportunities that Wisconsin Farm Bureau has provided me. It is also evident that Farm Bureau believes in the power of learning and development for members through initiatives including: WFBF Leadership Institute, trips to Washington, D.C., and Promotion and Education activities.
Farm Bureau plays an important role in serving as the voice of farmers, but this organization takes this task a step further by helping Wisconsin farmers and agriculturists refine their voice through personal and professional development.
I am proud to be part of the Farm Bureau family and I am excited to see what the next year has in store. I can relate to how unnerving it is to experience change and I admire the farmers who are determined to push forward each day. Farming is not like any other business or lifestyle and I look forward to helping Wisconsin farmers manage future changes while helping lawmakers and consumers understand what happens on our farms each day. Thank you for welcoming me into the Farm Bureau family!
Sarah Marketon serves as the Director of Communication for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. She is a Minnesota native and is passionate about answering consumers’ questions about how food is raised and encouraging farmers to engage in those conversations.