“I feel really fortunate to work with animals and to grow up in the agriculture world, not everyone gets to do that,” said Jordan Riley who grew up on Riley Brothers Beef and Grain Farms in Lafayette County where they farm 3,000 acres of corn and 900 head of Angus cattle near Darlington.
It was not until hearing a professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison speak during his senior year of high school that he decided to pursue an agricultural career.
“I was kind of mad at myself for not knowing this sooner,” said Jordan. “But after I got in to UW-Madison, there was no question about it: I was studying agriculture.”
Collegiate Farm Bureau Begins
As a UW-Madison freshman, Jordan helped form Wisconsin’s first collegiate Farm Bureau in 2010.
“It was a great thing to bring Farm Bureau to campus, so we can be a voice for ag here,” said the student of agricultural economics and life sciences communication who serves as a director at large of the collegiate chapter. “It is not work to be in collegiate Farm Bureau, I see it as something I get to do for the ag industry.”
Last school year, the collegiate Farm Bureau began with 16 members; this year they have grown to 28 active members. “Now that it has a year under its belt, a lot of people want to hear us and get involved with us,” Jordan mentioned. “It is comforting for all of us to have the huge state Farm Bureau to help and support us.”
Voice of Ag on Campus
Staying informed on current ag policy is one way members strive to be the voice of ag on campus. Monthly meetings feature policy discussions, guest speakers and event planning. Each of the five officers presents an ag issue that has been in the news. He notes that when new federal child farm labor laws were proposed last year, the student-run collegiate newspaper, Badger Herald, went straight to the collegiate Farm Bureau to hear what agriculture’s opinion was.
Having held multiple leadership positions in 4-H and FFA, he helped win a state forensics title all four years of high school, sang and acted in numerous high school musicals, played trombone in the school band, and took multiple projects to the fair, including photography, swine and beef.
“I don’t ever want to miss anything,” says Jordan, who on top of all these activities and helping on his family farm has also worked for the local grain elevator.
“I learned a lot about corn. I shoveled corn and shoveled more corn,” he said with a laugh.
On campus, Jordan is also involved in Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, Badger Dairy Club, and Saddle and Sirloin. This summer he will be a sales intern with Helena Chemical in Minnesota.
“As a new organization on campus, we are working out the kinks, but are also very optimistic of the years to come. We see ourselves as an organization that likes to collaborate with others instead of re-inventing the wheel and is constantly working to promote the ag industry. I am excited for the future of the collegiate Farm Bureau. It is a promising organization and there is so much that we can do,” Jordan said.
The UW-Madison Collegiate Farm Bureau is also helping foster the next generation of Farm Bureau leaders.
“I will be a Farm Bureau member forever,” he said.
Story by Sheri Sutton. Original version appeared in the February/March 2012 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.