Monday, December 1, 2014

Diary of a Diary Wife: The Wi-Fives and the I-Tubes: Growing Agvocates

Hey folks!

My diary has been silent for a bit.

Have you ever had those times in life where you just keep thinking "next week it will be calm. Nothing on my calendar." and then before you can get to Monday it is already the next Monday...
I was swallowed by the TimeEater and just got to return to a small resemblance of what things were like when I thought I was busy.

This year has been a roller coaster. One with ups and downs and twists and barrel roll after barrel roll. I'm exhausted of it. I get motion sick anyway....let me tell ya....I'm green and dizzy. I needed off the ride for a few minutes. I am. Back with y'all. Tell me how excited you are!!

The last few months I've had SOOO much to say. God has been giving me lessons in biting my tongue, I believe. I'm that person that allows rogue thoughts escape my mouth. I don't always use the brain to censor. We all know my filter isn't fully connected so maybe it has all been for the best that I've been AWOL. With the world burning down and all....

In the time I've been pretty quiet we have had a lot going on. We got a little short-handed so I got to be a farmer part time. It was fun for me. The Milkman wasn't quite as thrilled. I have little to no experience running equipment, I question his methods of doing everything, I like to stop and have lunch, and The Milkman isn't as excited about photo-ops and selfies as I am. We managed to stay happily married though. We have since filled the vacant spots (with people other than me) and I had to return to, and catch up on all my dairy wife/mom/everything else duties.

The Fancy Pants Family and the Dairy Wife Family do some volunteering with our county and state Farm Bureau. We have had some amazing opportunities, made lots of good friends, and learned so much from this organization. Some of the experiences we've had volunteering have been the starting points to many of my blogs, especially the agvocacy ones.

As young farmers we stand in a strange place in the more "farm geared" organizations. We are looked at as the inexperienced. We don't know how things work, how they've always been done. (Good grief, don't we know how I feel about that statement.) We come into these organizations trying to "take over" and "change things." We think we know everything. We just want to do everything on our phones (which we don't stop looking at, by the way) or from home. We don't want to come to meetings or have dinners or carry on the meetings we do attend for hours. We want the "wi-five" and the "i-tube" on the "internets" to make things happen. (Shout out to Memaw....her technical terms are my favorite!) We just don't understand what farming is really about.

How about I say something here....that individually the "not" young farmers do not see young farmers like this. Individually the "nots" are encouraging and open-minded. But then you get that one "not" that doesn't have a computer or a phone and refuses to change with the times and that guy...he reminds the rest about the good ole days. And then....holy moly....then comes the doubt.

Countless times I have heard this question, "How do we get young people involved and KEEP them involved?"

I have written on this topic. I will continue to write on this topic until y'all tell me I should really get some new material or that someone, somewhere has gotten the point. 

I see what you see...I see young farmers working their tails off, in today's farming world. I see us trying to fit everything into the short hours the day offers. I see us wanting to change the perception. I see us trying to find an outlet for the frustrations we face as young farmers. I see us finding those outlets just to be discouraged. Today's young farmers are not quitters. But we feel that way when we are dismissed by folks that don't understand today's agriculture.

We are hammered in the media by groups that spend tons of cash (raised by lies and deceit). Not all apples are good apples...there are rotten ones, and these groups sniff them out and exploit it like its "the norm." And it ain't. If they can't find putrid fruit they prey on stand-up folks and edit until it looks awful. Y'all...this is a whole other post... We are hammered by social media. Oh the GMO, the grain fed/grass fed, the organic, the vegan, the vegetarian, the diets, the "studies," the hipster, the easily swayed, and the easily amused. Everybody has an opinion and it is based on a blog post Joe Blow, Susie Sainthood, Willie the Wacko, or even I wrote. Quickly I wanna say that you should do your homework on anything you read. Don't phrase a google search "milk bad for you" or "milk the best for you." Google reads phrasing and body language...I swear it freaks me out. Dang I am easily distracted. We are hammered by other farmers. Other farmers? What? Our own kind, throwing us under the bus?


Every day.

There is a screwed up war between conventional farming and organic farming and every other kind of farming. And the fact is...we need all of them. For marketing. For healthy competition. To suit the tastes, desires, and dollars of every consumer. Stop it. You hear me? STOP IT. There are enough hungry people to keep us all in business. By 2050 we are looking at 9 billion people on Earth. NINE BILLION. Not as high as our national debt, but still a dang BIG number. We need all the farmers willing to live the life. Stop taking cheap shots at each other. Everybody's gotta eat.

So...all that said. I want to make a profound point to the "nots."

Today's young farmers know exactly what we are up against. We fight battles that yesterday's agriculture couldn't begin to imagine. We are up against odds that you have never seen. We fight wars with the news, with the papers, with the internet, with OTHER FARMERS. We need support. We need YOU to change YOUR view. We cannot revert to the way things have always been. It is a death sentence. Check the numbers. Check the facts. Go to a school and ask 4th graders where there food comes from. I promise....there will be 10 kids out of 100 that might say that Grandpa has a farm with 25 cows. That will be the closest they will come to production agriculture. They will have no idea where the milk comes from before the store. The meat comes from the meat counter and the rice comes in bags. We need you to HELP us. Not discourage our involvement because you don't understand how we can listen in a meeting while fighting with our kids and working from our phone.

Our technology is what keeps us alive and keeps you fed.

I truly believe young farmers are starting to prove ourselves. We are starting to show the "nots" that this is a new era in agriculture.

I learned something during my hiatus. Mrs. Fancy Pants and I (she lets me help) have tried to plan meetings for our local YF&R (Young Farmers & Ranchers) group.  We plan, we arrange speakers, we promote, we have dinner, we beg, we bribe, we do whatever to make our meetings happen and sometimes the turnout is great. Sometimes, not so much. There are times when a meeting is over and we text each other something like "I'm so done. I'm not doing this anymore." And we go to board meetings and leave discouraged. And folks...we have a great board with really encouraging people and amazing opportunities. But knowing what we are up against is tough. And discouraging. The last YFR meeting we planned kinda smacked us around. We tricked a state employee to come talk about talking to the media and social media use, we had some cheap pizza, and we pushed the beejeezes out of this meeting. Facebook posts and shares, phone calls, emails, and word of mouth. Half of our regulars couldn't make it and we didn't think it looked too promising. We were surprised with a really good turnout and lots of new faces. NEW FACES! That is unheard of.

And those new faces got excited about promoting agriculture. They found inspiration from our speaker. They relayed how excited they were to be a part of something that encourages their involvement. And they had new ideas. And for a moment...just a tiny one....we had that thought, "We've never done it that way. It'll never work." And then we shut that crap down real quick. We will not be that group. We will encourage new ideas and new leadership and new faces.

We had this epiphany. We have been doing this for more than 10 years. We are becoming "the older generation." And while our opportunities to grow and learn are still abundant we have to get to a point where we don't continue to show up for what we can get out of it. We have to be involved so that we can give the new faces those opportunities. This is not about us. It is about them. It is about continuing to evolve while we grow a new crop of young farmers.

If you are involved in something because of what it can do for you. For the trips it sends you on. For the classes you can attend, for the donuts or the cake or the pizza then take a minute to consider what you can do with your organization to pass those opportunities on to the new guys. Give the new guys the chance to see what your organization can do for them. They need the encouragement. They are the link to the next generation.

If you want to know how to get young farmers involved and keep them...rearrange your thoughts. It can't be what is this organization doing for me? It must be what is this organization doing for them? How are we helping them? How are we encouraging them? Remove the constant negativity of what we can't do. Remove the thoughts about how much seniority someone has in the group. We pay our dues every day that we step foot on what God's given us to work. We want to learn from you not be pushed to the side till we are older.

We have busy lives. We ride a roller coaster for a living. Sometimes we just want off for a few minutes. THAT is something to offer....just a break. Just some time to express our ideas and exchange thoughts. Understand that our time is valuable. It is the one commodity that we can't produce. We multi-task for a reason. But if you can offer us a few minutes off  of our amusement park rides, let us know that you understand, that you are rooting for us, and give us room to grow, young farmers will make big things happen. With enough room and enough faith we can move mountains. The "nots" have valuable lessons and experiences to share. We want to hear about it and learn from it, and we need room to use what we learn and what we've experienced to produce amazing results.

Young folks and their ideas aren't a quota to meet. We aren't happy being set on a shelf to be aged like wine. We are full of dreams and determination and ideas. And those 3 things keep us alive. Those 3 things can keep important agvocacy organizations and agriculture alive if given the opportunity.

We want that opportunity.

P.S. I beg your forgiveness, once again, for dropping off the face of the Earth.
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