Oct. 26 will mark 20 years since my family left the farm. While it may have been nearly 20 years since I milked my first cow, I am even more invested in agriculture now than I was back then.
After we left the farm, it would have been easy for us to embrace the ‘city kid life’ and never look back. Odds were not exactly in our favor to be successful in agriculture, but our mom and dad stacked the deck.
My dad used his vacation days during the last week of July every year so he could be at the county fair. My mom took on five-kids-worth of fair projects every summer for 20 plus years while working full-time and keeping us fed. We did not go on a lot of family trips or play many summer sports. Instead, we spent our summer nights driving across the county to halter break heifers, and then came home to finish woodworking projects. We were taught to work hard and always give our best effort.
Someone who came before me believed in my dream and sacrificed something so I could achieve it.
I am who I am today because of the generations of support that came before me. That sentiment carried me through the days when it would have been easier to give up on agriculture-related dreams.
Someone believed in me, so I pursued leadership and communication roles in agriculture organizations during college.
Someone believed in me, so I started my own herd of Jerseys.
Someone believed in me, and I owe it to them to give my very best effort in achieving my goals and dreams.
Someone out there believes in you, too. In fact, someone relies on you to continue to produce the safest, most sustainable food in the world.
The fundamental idea surrounding sustainability and conservation is to leave the land, water and soil better for the next generation. Farmers are working hard towards progress today to meet the needs of tomorrow. Recently I was hired by Wisconsin Farm Bureau to share those powerful stories.
Our advances in sustainable farming practices are what they are today because someone who came before us recognized the necessity of preserving and protecting our land and water and got to work.
At Wisconsin Farm Bureau, we recognize the need to promote those efforts and encourage forward thinking and proactive communication.
When we were farming in the 90s, my dad rotationally grazed 40 cows, used crop rotation on 150 acres, no-tilled wheat and alfalfa and followed a nutrient management plan. Sustainable practices were already happening, even two decades ago.
Today, farmers are efficiently using these same resources in more ways than you can imagine, ranging in size, scale and commodity. One common goal reigns from generation to generation across Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture industry, and that is to work together to further climate-smart solutions that protect our resources, farms and communities.
Our ability to produce food is as efficient as it has ever been. U.S. agriculture would have needed nearly 100 million more acres 30 years ago to match today’s production levels. We are doing more than ever before with less land and inputs. It is an exciting time to highlight stewardship efforts and facilitate conversations between farmers to collaborate on concepts and ideas.
We are living out the dreams of previous generations. Those who came before us made it possible for us to continue to succeed and grow.
It is up to us to continue preserving and protecting the legacy entrusted to us. It is our turn to raise the bar, try new things and share our successes so we can continue to innovate and excel towards progress.
Now is the time to share how you are working towards your sustainability goals on your farm. I am thrilled to offer you a platform to tell your story.
Rachel Gerbitz is WFBF’s Director of Sustainability Communications and Partnerships. In this newly-created role, she oversees the organization’s sustainability communication efforts. Rachel grew up in Rock County where she was involved in 4-H and the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association. She now lives in Kaukauna. In her spare time, Rachel manages her small herd of registered Jersey cattle.