Schlageck: Why should I serve?
While farmers and ranchers continue to fill our plates with food, their plates are filled with an ever-increasing number of issues. Such issues include escalating production costs, tightening use of water, continuing drought in some western Kansas counties, an ongoing search for new markets for agricultural crops and increasing oversight and regulation to mention a few.
And while these are good times for some in production agriculture, they are very trying times for others. Living out on the land in the rural areas of our state, farmers sometimes experience feelings of isolation — that I’m only one voice, one person, one family and one small enterprise in an age of dwindling farming populations coupled with a continuing exodus to larger, regional urban centers.
That said, membership and leadership roles in farm and commodity organizations are more critical today than ever before. There is strength in like-minded people. There is strength in numbers. There is also credibility when farmers and ranchers tell their own story with a common thread and a common purpose.
Even though spokespersons for this vital industry continue to advocate on behalf of agriculture, farmers and ranchers still speak best. There is no substitute for farmers and ranchers telling the agricultural story.
You begin at sun up and work until sunset during spring planting season. You put in 16-hour days during harvest. You bundle up and head into a fierce snowstorm to help a heifer calf. You must demonstrate the same courage and conviction when telling your story.
Make time. Take time. Those outside our profession aren’t going to be the ones who defend us and tell our side of the story. If our story is to be told, we must make sure the job is done. It is up to you. It is up to me.
That leads me to the following question, have you ever asked yourself, “Why should I serve?”
Each day people ponder and anguish over this question. These same people wring their hands and spend sleepless nights trying to decide. One of the strongest reasons to serving hinges on the personal satisfaction an individual derives from giving of him or herself. John Ruskin once said, “The highest reward for men’s toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.”
Before you decide to serve on a board or committee, evaluate the organization’s position. If you believe in the ultimate goal but disagree on how it’s being implemented, it should be a challenge to serve and redirect the methods used to achieve this goal.
Some people hesitate to serve because they’re unsure how the board or organization operates. No one enjoys appearing foolish or uninformed, yet each group has its unique procedures. Everyone must serve as a novice while learning working procedures.
Never feel embarrassed because you do not know all the answers. Remember, you will not be alone when asking questions. Perhaps you are uncomfortable about serving and the thought overwhelms you. In that case, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
First participate on a small scale until you become comfortable and confident. Begin by serving on a committee. Next expand your sights and serve on a local organization. Continue stepping up your involvement to include county, district, state and national organizations.
Once you have committed your time and effort to serving, be dependable, prompt, prepared and contribute to that committee, organization or board.
“Leadership is that intangible quality in an individual which makes men do better than themselves; which makes men dream greater dreams and perform braver deeds.” This quotation embodies the spirit of people working together for the betterment of their industries and communities. It comes from one of Sam Rayburn’s, Bonham, Texas, addresses to Congress. Rayburn served as speaker of the House under eight different American presidents.
— John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.