As a district coordinator at Wisconsin Farm Bureau, I strive to make a difference in our farming communities. My primary roles include working with county leaders, handling a lot of the day-to-day administrative tasks and, of course, membership. This role provides me with the special opportunity to form close relationships with members in my district who continuously go above and beyond in representing their farms and counties.
Recently, I attended the wake of one my long-time directors, Ray Maciejewski, who had been an active member for almost 30 years. I had worked with both him and his late wife for fifteen of those years, first as a county volunteer and eventually as a Wisconsin Farm Bureau staff member. He was a truly remarkable person that was steadfast in his beliefs and had the unique ability to make friends wherever he went.
Ray served as the county membership chair, on the county policy development committee, was involved in Ag in the Classroom and was a champion for the county scholarship program. Beyond his work in the county, Ray was also recognized several times as one of the top membership workers in the state.
Ray’s passing left a vacancy on the board and in the hearts of all of us that knew him. One of my favorite things about him was his passion for this organization. Even as he was battling cancer, he would call and say, “Hey, can you drop off some membership applications? I ran into someone at the clinic I want to get signed up”. That, my friends, is how much this organization meant to him.
In talking with his family, it became apparent that to at least one farmer and member, I had made a difference. Ray and Jane had six amazing children, most of whom I had met only in passing, but that day without saying a word, almost all of them knew who I was walking through the line. Talk about a humbling moment.
I tell you all this because leaving that church, I started to think about legacy, and the importance of it, especially here in rural America. As farmers, we talk a lot about legacy in the form of crops, animals, and our farms. One of the greatest honors as a farmer is knowing that the farm will be passed down to the next generation, continuing our family’s farming legacy.
The definition of legacy is “a gift; something transmitted by or received from ancestor or predecessor from the past.”. When I think about legacy, I think about the footprints we leave behind. Both Ray and Jane left a Farm Bureau legacy that will live on in every director that had the privilege of working with them, and it makes me wonder what my own legacy will be one day.
The first board meeting following Ray’s passing happened to be the night the scholarship committee presented their recommendations. Part of the application process includes writing an essay on “The Value of Wisconsin Farm Bureau”. Reading through the essays each year, one cannot help but be hopeful for the next generation. Reading them gave me chills and reignited a fire in me.
The excerpt below came from Reese Brock, a high school senior who will be pursuing a degree in agribusiness with a double minor in accounting and financial planning. Reese hopes to return home one day to help other farmers achieve their goals and dreams.
“To me, the Farm Bureau Federation is an organization that Wisconsin should be honored to have. I have lived on a small start-to-finish beef management operation my whole life. With the Farm Bureau, the voices of small farms like ours can be heard. Being a member allows me endless opportunities in the farming industry, though… Being a member allows my family to communicate and form new relationships with people who are as passionate about the agriculture industry as we are.”
Reading her words reminded me why I chose to become involved with this organization over fifteen years ago. Farm Bureau is about bringing farmers and agriculturists together for a common cause: to help them find their voice, champion them to make a difference in their local communities and provide educational opportunities to not only improve their farms but to grow as individuals, too.
This organization is about family, carrying our legacy through to the next generation. It is about supporting one another in the face of challenge and celebrating together in moments of triumph. As a diverse membership, we collectively work together to move the organization forward – whether that be in the county board room or on the policy development floor – and ultimately do what we do best: protect and preserve Wisconsin agriculture for the next generation. Afterall: all we have to leave behind is our legacy.
Thank you for being a Farm Bureau member. Thank you for the work that you do, your passion and your commitment to the organization. It is because of you that when I am asked what I do for a living, I stand a little bit taller, smile a bit bigger, and can proudly say that I work for Wisconsin’s largest general farm organization, made up of farmers and agriculturists of all kinds. Whether you know it or not – you are making a difference and are building a legacy that will live on in every member who has the honor of standing next to you.
This blog was written in memory of Wood County Farm Bureau member Ray Maciejewski as a part of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s celebration of National Volunteer Week, April 17-23. National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world.
Ashleigh Calaway serves as the District 8 Coordinator for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. Ashleigh and her husband, along with her husband’s family, raise beef cattle in northern Wisconsin. They are also proud parents to their daughter.
Leave a Reply