Category: President’s Journal (page 1 of 2)

Why We Farm

It’s been a wet and slow start to the season here in Oregon. I’m sure by the time you read this article the memories of our record slow start will be forgotten. So with the objective of saving time I constructed a brief “multi-media” journal for this issue. (Less typing – more pictures and even a video)

Step one before reading this article: open your computer or phone internet connection and do a Google search for “start with why video.”  The video in question is a TEDX talk by author Simon Sinek.

At the beginning of 2016 I was working for an ag tech start-up company and collaborating with an international team on a project to clearly define the company’s marketing message and value proposition.  We sifted through multiple exercises to define the who, what, when, where, how and how much.  Ultimately the project produced the desired outcome.  During my research and gleaning ideas from the all-knowing internet I came across the video “Start with Why”.

It was apparent to me that the team had answered all the key questions except WHY.  Although not a necessity to market your company, the gentleman in the video demonstrates how WHY creates focused meaning within an organization and connections with its customers.

Inspiring urban Oregonians to have an enlightened perspective of Oregon agriculture is a monumental challenge.  Outreach programs like Adopt a Famer have created action through open-minded early-adopters, but we can accomplish even more.  Oregon agriculture and the Aglink membership are made up of diverse businesses and individuals.  Some know their WHY and other may struggle to define it.  Finding ways to distil Oregon Aglink’s collective WHY can be the catalyst to bridging the gap with the HOW of our Cultivating Common Ground initiative.

Some producers may farm and ranch for pride, others for the lifestyle and maybe some just simply because their parents and grandparents did.  Think how strong our collective messages would be if we could connect to consumers with inspiring statements of WHY we farm!

Welcome to 2017

As I begin this year as President of Oregon Aglink, I’d like to thank the membership, board, and executive director for the privilege to serve the agricultural community in this role. My overarching goal for the year is to learn as much as possible about the risks and opportunities farmers are faced with and find ways to help weave them into the educational and communication platform that is Oregon Aglink.

As producers, we’ve all seen the change in perception that the 98% of society has about the 2% that is engaged in agriculture. Change is familiar territory to ag producers, and their ability to identify and capitalize on it demonstrates our resilience and ingenuity. We’ve all dealt with change in the form of regulation or marketing dynamics of our crops. Many of these changes have a concrete and straight forward cause and effect.

A good example of change that I’ve seen over the decades is associated with one of my favorite events growing up on the family farm in the Willamette Valley. When harvest was winding down and the seed was in the barn, the excitement of field burning was in the air… literally. Getting the word from the local fire chief that burning one of your fields was a go set into motion people and equipment that transformed fields with tons of hay and chaff to a clean black slate to begin again with next year’s crop. The cultural practice had significant benefits to the crop and farmer.

The side effect of burning was obviously a temporary compromise of air quality due to the smoke it generated. My guess is that this side effect was perceived as a negative among valley residents who had no connection to farming. The fate of field burning was sealed on August 3rd, 1988 when a tragic fatal automobile accident occurred on Interstate 5 due to smoke and the lack of visibility. The state regulated field burning by phasing out the practice.

This left growers, industry professionals, and academics the challenge of finding new ways to replicate the agronomic value of field burning. Through research, trial work and good old farmer ingenuity, seed producers solved the challenge dealt to them by this regulated change. The challenge was clear and apparent. Farmers are great at solving these types of concrete problems with pragmatic science and economic discipline. Someone throws up a hurdle and we see it and react.

Fast forward 30 years and think about the risks and opportunities that exist for farmers today. What would happen in today’s society if the tragic events of August 3rd, 1988 happened today. How would our chosen profession be viewed and perceived? I’ve always held the belief that farming is a noble profession. Not every person classified as the 98% has the same reverence for the profession that provides the food and fiber that sustains them. Oregon Aglink serves as an organization to close the gap on any misperceptions. It’s here to communicate and educate what, how, and why we farm.

I highlighted field burning because, in my mind, it was a great example of reacting to a clearly defined risk and challenge. It’s a great testament to the industry’s problem solving abilities. Now it’s the time where I toss you some food for thought. Is our industry great at proactively innovating when risks and change are continuous, unclear, fragmented, and subtle? How good are we owning and promoting the realities of farming to our non-farming members of society? Is our radar up to identify these subtle and progressive changes and meet them with a mind-set of proactive innovation?

Traditional thoughts of what innovation looks like might take the shape of what happened in reaction to field burning’s exit: a clear and timely change-management to a challenge. I’d like to raise the awareness that some of today’s risks to agriculture require a constant, long-term mind-set of innovation. The innovators on the front line of our industry today that are communicating, educating and bolstering positive perceptions aren’t university stalwarts with PhDs but strong voices such as Brenda Frketich @NuttyGrass, Shelly Boshart @BoshartDavisAg, Marie Bowers @MarieB41, Molly McCargar @FarmerMolly9, Robert Saik @rsaik, Oregon Farm Bureau @OreFarmBureau and Oregon Aglink @oregonaglink.

Innovate every day! It’s a new year and a changing world.

 

 

 

 

Jeff Freeman, Oregon Aglink President

Courtesy of the Media Circus

I am entering 2017 with a bit of apprehension and dismay, courtesy of the media circus that our election year produced.  The whole election fiasco wore me out.  There was nowhere to run and hide from pre- or post-election polls, opinions, and results.   To top it off, we had to hear about the countless number of protests happening, whether they had anything to do with the election choice or were a random march disputing the rights of the oppressed.

I would like to put all of the malicious actions, the he said/she said rhetoric, and the excuses behind. Instead, let’s focus on having more respect for others and their beliefs, cultures, and ages. All three of those played a key role in the election and what happened afterwards.  Although the presidential race was far from predictable, there were moments of sheer clarity. Apparently, we have entered a new era of generational diversity and culture clashes.  The conflict is real. The largest generation is aging and taking their “Team Player” mindset and leaving the work force. At the same time, younger cohorts are trying to validate their own importance with a tech-savvy mentality and a push for obscure cultural changes.

As a parent, I see the limit-pushing and electronic-loving temperament in my kids, but what better way to witness age variance and character contrasts than within our own family businesses?  I, for one, work with my parents from the “Traditionalist” generation, our long-time employees from the “Boomer” and “Generation X” eras, and just a few “Y” (Millennials) who round out our staff.   These four generations cover seventy-six years of knowledge and experience, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and each aging just the same.

Now that I’m in the Boomer category and no longer just the bosses’ daughter, I’m in denial that my “out on a limb” attitude has curved more towards the “better safe than sorry” territory. A few years ago, my sense of invincibility would allow me to gravitate to the scariest ride at the fair, to crawl onto a roof to stage the best Christmas light display, or to look risk straight in the eye and know that—no matter how this turns out—there would be someone to pick up the pieces.  Now, instead of jumping first and asking questions later, I’ve become more concerned about the bigger picture: is my choice going to affect someone else?

It’s crazy business becoming responsible, and it is quite clear that everyone does it on their own time. Maybe, though, that mix of generations and sensibilities is a good thing.  Being president of this fine organization has challenged me to think out of the box and to step out of my comfort zone to try something new.  The Oregon Aglink Board and the wonderful staff is made up of very progressive and knowledgeable people all stemming from different generations;  I see this and am excited for a coming year that promises to be one hell of a ride.

 

 

 

Lori Pavlicek, President

 

Social Media Madness

Lori PavlicekI struggled with what direction I wanted to go for this column.  I was passionate about many things taking place currently, but I didn’t know if I could comment without pushing an opinion.  On the other hand, SEX is something people like to think about, talk about, and act on, but is too broad to write about (I probably would give inaccurate terminology anyway). Last but not least, I still don’t want to head into any political arena with anyone, but politics did come into play when I finally chose to write about “social media,” how it affects our industry, and what we can do to improve what is being said.

“Social media” is a phrase that we throw around a lot these days, often to describe what we post on sites and apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, to name a few. I, personally, have procrastinated up until last year from getting into the social media scene and slowly tackled the Instagram, Facebook, and most recently LinkedIn.  I had to enlist the aid of my 12-year-old daughter to get started on this endeavor and discovered that once you get signed up and ready, you are thrown into a whole new world. For instance, many organizations choose not to use “snail mail” anymore, so they send information to the members of the organization via one nice Facebook post. The most recent negative aspect of Facebook is the political crap (oops! did I say that?) that is being tossed around.

I enjoy Instagram, which is mostly pictures and short blurbs; it is more like seeing a picture book than reading a novel.  Instagram used to be the “spy on your child” media of choice, but according to my now 13 year old, Snapchat is the teen favorite way to drive your parents over the edge route. With Snapchat, your little darling can send a picture and/or text and once the recipient receives it, it lasts 10 seconds; I can’t even get focused to see a post in that amount of time.

Along with Instagram, Twitter is also taking the teens and young adults by storm. Your media whiz can post something and all their followers can get sucked into what has been said.  This age demographic takes in and spits out more information faster than any previous generation.

All of these forms of social media are all ways to communicate with your peers or anyone willing to listen.  The beauty of social media is the ability to spread information and get it into the hands that need it. At the same time, not everything you see and read on the internet is the truth. Unfortunately, the negative media is what people view first and react to.  Social media is how people form their opinions, so we want to help them form positive ones on issues we, as farmers, face.  Everything you post creates attention and how you interact with information shared generates a bigger footprint on line for that topic. Simply put, the more positive information being tossed around over the World Wide Web, the more people will gravitate towards a progressive view.

So, get on board and go out into the shared vortex of social media and convince your “friends” that Farming is Sexy and that we are doing the right things on our farms and ranches.  Post photos of happy cows, goats, and sheep basking in the sun.  Crops such as fruit, nuts, berries and vegetables make for great conversations, along with pics of the kids getting physical around the farm.  For those who are born with the gift of gab, “blogging” is an exceptional way to chat and give facts on certain subjects that others have no clue about.

Someone always cares what is being said: make an impression.

Lori's Signature

 

 

 

Lori Pavlicek, President

Happy Birthday, Oregon Aglink!

Lori PavlicekIt is time to applaud one of the best organizations dedicated to growing agriculture in Oregon. Fift years in the making, Oregon Aglink began as the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, and has become the bridge between urban and rural Oregonians. Even though the term “agribusiness” worked, it didn’t describe who we are or what we want to achieve. Aglink is more defined, shares specific goals and ways to accomplish those goals with our members. Turning 50 is not easy, coming from someone who has been 49 for three years, but we plan to celebrate agriculture’s past, present, and future the best way we can…by throwing a party.

Who doesn’t enjoy cutting loose? I love throwing on a pair of boots and kicking up my heals and this “shindig” has got some real potential to be a barn burner, a figure of speech considering Victor Point Farms in Silverton has offered up their beautiful grass seed farm and straw shed to host!  Even though it is an over 21 event, the presence of farm families, ag businesses, and folks who just want to celebrate agriculture is always appreciated and a welcome sight. In addition to good food, libation, and mingling with people from all around the state, we can expect an extra helping of some down home music from local boy and Nashville recording artist, Ben Rue.

The Board of Directors wants to encourage members from all over Oregon to join us in our celebration. We periodically hold meetings in different parts of the state, such as a recent meeting we held in Baker City. With my youngest in tow, we saw beautiful fields and mountain ranges made up of shades of green, gold, blue, and brown. It was like a living quilt spread out over miles and miles of terrain. The farms and ranches encompass large swaths of land with small and larger cities dotted throughout. It truly was an enjoyable adventure. My daughter had no idea we could drive so far and still remain in Oregon, but she really enjoyed the small towns and found that each one had a different story to tell, along with a Starbucks or Dutch Brothers. I encourage everyone to take the time, and a road trip, to see what our Eastern, Central, and Southern Oregon neighbors have to offer.

In addition to seeing the beautiful countryside we met locals that shared our vision and desire to introduce our industry to the next generation of urban consumers. We are fortunate to belong to such a well preserved agricultural support group such as Oregon Aglink. It reminds us that we have come a long way in defending our way of life through education and promotion. While most people are several generations removed from the farm, you still come across many urbanites who have relatives on the farm, or have some attachment to a farm or ranch. We come across this many times with the Adopt a Farmer program when a teacher, parent, or chaperone hears or sees something that triggers a fond memory or previous experience. That memory becomes the link to their past and a better awareness of the present, just as the middle school students in the program are creating their own connection to their food and fiber.

Hopefully, you and yours will stop in and partake with family and friends from across Oregon on August 20th at Victor Point Farms to celebrate with us. Tickets must be bought ahead of time and can be purchased here or by calling 503-595-9121. Let’s honor the past 50 years and get a good start on the next!

Lori's Signature

 

 

 

Lori Pavlicek, President

 

A Subject That Has More Teeth Than Less

Lori PavlicekAs I’m sitting in an airport pondering what direction I want to take my first editorial with the newly minted Oregon Aglink, I’m overhearing people complain about their overbooked and delayed flights, seating that is too tight, and the lively debate about the Presidential race.  I would be a fool to take on the pros and cons of the election, and that topic definitely doesn’t fall under the “Warm and Fuzzy” category, but the airline complaints stem from the fact that more people are traveling and there are fewer flights to get them where they need to go. Sadly, it isn’t going to get any better.

With my first column I want to focus on a more positive, quality verses quantity, subject. Something true Oregonians would understand.  As I mull this thought around, I start to think about the number of people moving into Oregon.  Why wouldn’t they? We don’t get hit with devastating fluctuations in weather or natural catastrophes on a regular basis. Despite the drought of 2015, we still have plenty of water in most places, which leads to all sorts of great outdoor opportunities and a great farming environment. People are drawn to our rural charm. Our state has a lot going for it.  But, Oregon isn’t the only state with population growth; data shows we will be expected to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050. That’s only 34 years from now!

This topic has teeth, especially looking at it from a producer’s point of view.  How do we plan to accomplish this feat of producing enough food and fiber with limited availability of land, water, plant protectants, and having to work under constant scrutiny and constraints?  Granted, technology will play a major role, but we as business owners have to work on our image. Perception is reality, and right now our perceived perception to the public is mixed at best. Working with the Adopt a Farmer program has opened my eyes to the fact we have a long ways to go.  The good news, though, is that whether it’s our Adopt a Farmer program, or FFA and Ag in the Classroom, we are hitting the very ages we need to engage.  These grass roots efforts have an easy story to tell if we get behind them with our financial and intellectual support.  We need to enlighten the naïve and misinformed.  Remember, there is going to be more and more of the misinformed as the years go by, so we have to start now.

Organizations such as Oregon Aglink, the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Women for Ag, or any of the other hard working organizations that dedicate their time to getting our voice heard, are here to serve you. Help us help you!

As you know, it will be an uphill battle for the Natural Resource Industry and for anyone dedicated to creating food and fiber, to gain a foothold.  Thirty-four years is not that long so we need to start the pendulum swinging our direction.

In spite of the microscope we live under, I’m optimistic for the future of agriculture.  I see progress being made in technology, and in the classroom.   Oregon Aglink is working hard at “cultivating common ground” between farmers and the urban consumer, along with putting a face on the family farm.  We represent a pretty cool industry. That is something to smile about.  🙂

Lori's Signature

 

 

 

Lori Pavlicek, 4B Farms

Keeping Pace with a Changing World

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a BIG Chicago Cubs fan. For those who don’t know much about them, they are the loveable losers of Major League Baseball. The history of the Cubs rivals few others in professional sports. Wrigley Field celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014, and I got to visit the iconic field for the first time that same year. Wrigley hasn’t changed much at all in the past 100 years, some minor upgrades, but the walls of the Friendly Confines have remained much the same. At the end of the season in 2014, they began remodeling those historic walls, much to the dismay of die-hard Cubs fans. The new owners had decided it was time for a facelift, they needed something to attract new players and fans with the hopes of finding the right formula for a winning team. Folks in Chicago’s North Side were NOT happy, resisting it in many ways. You just can’t mess with the nostalgia and history of Wrigley Field.

Yet, as fans entered the stadium this spring and as the season went on, die-hard fans, many of them generational season ticket holders, warmed up to the change and began to embrace it. It also helped that the team had a great season, making it to the October playoffs. The Cubs won their first EVER division pennant at home. It took over 100 years of baseball for this new historical event to occur, and it happened within the NEW walls of the Friendly Confines. The second phase of Wrigley’s upgrade began at the end of the 2015 season, and fans couldn’t be more excited. They realized the change isn’t drastic, the Cubs and its history will still remain, all while moving the team forward to the future. (It’s just too bad that Doc didn’t get his prediction right in “Back to the Future,” maybe he meant Cubs win in 2016!)

What’s my point you ask? How does this pertain to ABC? Well friends, in November I had the privilege of announcing a new change for our organization. After 50 years as The Agri-Business Council of Oregon, we will now be doing business as Oregon Aglink! Why the change? As the Agri-Business Council of Oregon has continued its mission – through Road Crop Signs, television and web campaigns, and our most popular Adopt a Farmer program – one thing has become clear. The term Agri-Business raises eyebrows, and creates confusion and misconceptions among many who are unfamiliar with the term and the industry. Agri-Business Council of Oregon is still who we are and, while our history as an organization is rich and full of nostalgia, it’s time for a facelift and a bit of an update. We need to keep pace with our ever-changing world. Our priorities and our mission will continue to be the same. The only change will be our new name and logo. It is our hope that these changes will help us continue our efforts to unite all of Oregon agriculture and positively connect with our urban neighbors.

Change is challenging, those with long history often have the hardest time adjusting, and that’s OK. While it may be difficult at first for the diehard fans, it’s what’s important and necessary to attract new players and grow our support across the state, in both our urban and rural communities. We appreciate all of our members, and we hope that you will continue to support us in the years to come. So join us, embrace the change and let’s all help keep Oregon Rooted, Green and Vital!!

Molly McCargar's Signature - Cropped

 

 

 

 

Molly McCarger, Pearmine Farms

Oregon Agriculture: The “WHY” Approach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere I go again, my homework is due and I’ve procrastinated once again. As ABC’s president, I am only asked to write four simple stories and so far I am 0 for 3 on turning in my homework early or on time. Maybe the next time I’ll do better? Feels like the story of my life. I find it appropriate to mention my homework tardiness given the start of fall, a new school year, and my lack of motivation and inspiration after a very LONG, HOT and DRY summer. Yet, as I watch and listen to the excitement my kids have for school (it’ll wear off by Thanksgiving I’m sure) I’m slowly becoming inspired and motivated once again.

Their endless possibilities for life, the eagerness to learn and to then think they know everything, only to realize there’s more to be taught and people to be inspired by. Who will they look up to, and see inspiration from? I secretly, ok maybe not so secretly, hope to inspire my girls. They are potentially the next generation of family farmers. Memories of my own school days flood back, and honestly I just hope I can teach them why to turn in homework EARLY! Life is all connected through possibilities, leadership, learning and inspiration, and through ABC, I believe we are working hard to accomplish this each day.

There is a theory that great leaders have a different approach to inspiring. They allow us to see what lies within us, not behind us or before us. They don’t need to be rich, well-educated, or have all of the resources available to them. As a matter of fact, you can have none of these and be a great leader. It’s the WHAT and WHY which are important and the order of how we receive this information from them. Think about this too, what’s our purpose, our cause and belief? We get folks to join us because they believe in what we believe. Let’s test this theory out briefly.

I believe Oregon has the best agricultural community in the world. We produce the highest quality products in the most efficient, sustainable, safest and reliable way. Oregon agriculture is incomparable to anything around the world. Oregon producers are willing to step up and help fill the need to feed hungry communities by donating extra or additional acres of produce to the food bank networks. We love our lifestyle, what we do; who we help and take pride in producing the best that Oregon agriculture has to offer. This makes you feel pretty good about Oregon Ag, doesn’t it? This is WHY people want to buy into and believe in what we do.

The WHAT approach could look a little like this: Farmers and ranchers produce over 250 different commodities grossing nearly $7 billion annually in Oregon agricultural products. We have approximately 35,000 farms and ranches in Oregon and approximately 140,000 jobs are connected to agriculture. All of these facts are great. This is the WHAT of what we do. But how does that really make you feel about Oregon agriculture? Does the cause or belief stand out? How about pride, does it show through in these numbers? Do they inspire you to want to rush out and buy local fruits and vegetables and add to the cause? Probably not.

We need to start thinking a bit differently about our approach to connecting the urban and rural populations. We need to stop telling them WHAT and HOW we do it and instead start with WHY we do it. Inspire them to believe in what we believe in. Perhaps if we took the approach and started with WHY we are and love Oregon agriculture, followed by HOW we do it, then maybe folks will understand the WHAT of it all.

With this model, those who are driven by WHY now have a cause, purpose or a belief and will join for themselves and their beliefs. As they believe in us and our stories, we will continue to succeed as an industry. Are you confused yet? Just remember the why. Why you fell in love with farming, why you stay awake at nights worried about the animals, why you worry about the weather, why you’re at work before dawn and come home after dark, why you get up each and every day hoping to inspire the next generation with your love for what you do.

There are three quotes I have heard repeatedly over my educational career.  They are from well-known, very different, yet all very influential, inspiring leaders. I hope they inspire you a little.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. “ –Nelson Mandela

“Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” –Albert Einstein

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” –John F. Kennedy

As students head back to school  for another year of learning, I would like to encourage you to also keep learning, to lead, to inspire, or be inspired.

For those participating in the Adopt a Farmer program or those who are sharing their farm in other ways, know you are all great leaders of our industry and are a key instrument to the success of keeping Oregon agriculture Rooted, Green and Vital.

Molly McCargar's Signature - Cropped

 

 

 

 

Molly McCargar

Farmers and Ranchers: The Eternal Optimists

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a glass is half full kind of person, the eternal optimist. I will look for the upside of life even at the worst of times. I’ll admit, there have been times where cynicism has snuck into my thinking, and most recently during our current legislative session. It always seems easier to be cynical; reasons are abundant for why one could become a bona fide pessimist. I mean really, why should one really care about finding the good in challenging times? Because the fact is, optimism can create opportunity.

Summer is here and life on the farm is even busier than normal. The spring has been filled with dry weather, early crops and the continued challenge of finding labor to get all the jobs done. While we are all gearing up to harvest, the legislative session is winding down. Many bills are being debated and some are being passed, several of which appear to make doing business, especially farming, an even bigger challenge in Oregon.

I could begin to ramble off the long list of bills making their way to the governor’s desk, but I’d rather not. What I’d rather do is share with you some of why I think our industry continues to survive. Farmers and ranchers, whether they believe it themselves or not, have always been optimists, even when they don’t sound like it. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t still be taking on the challenge each day, season and year. We go to bed each night, expecting good things to happen. We wake up and set our intentions for the day. Some of those intentions are little things, others are much larger. Some days my intention is just to make through the day and I’ll be honest, if I can get the day’s work done and get my kids fed and in bed before 10pm on a summer night, it’s a success. When you read stories about agriculture or press releases about new rules and regulations, ones that make it seem like our jobs just got harder or that what we do doesn’t matter, it’s easy to become cynical. To feel sorry for ourselves. Nobody wants farmers to succeed. Right? We’ve all had the occasional thought. But guess what? People want to be us.

Farmers and ranchers are like rock stars. You’re laughing, but it’s true. We carry ourselves in a different way, one that appears to others as strong and courageous. We stand up tall, smile and engage with people, which makes us appear as confident, optimistic people and others aspire to be like us. Everyone wants to be a farmer. Think about it for a minute. Think about the conversations you have with your urban friends. They probably like to talk about their gardens or chickens with you, wanting to relate, trying to be a farmer. Why do I mention this? Because these are the opportunities, to listen and engage, to share what you do and your love for doing it. These opportunities may seem small and meaningless, but they are far from it.

Like I mentioned earlier, farmers and ranchers set their intentions or expectations every day on the farm. Being intentional helps guide what we bring to the day and the jobs we set out to get done, it helps us focus our time and energy to accomplish the most. There are always setbacks and that’s often when farmers thrive. We are masters of reframing a problem into an opportunity. Problems aren’t solved by complaining about them, so we gather information and data, analyze, create plans A, B and C, and then put one of these new plans into action.

We take an approach from a new angle and get the job done. Even if it means stepping outside of our comfort zone, farmers get it done. Folks in our industry are capable of doing more than we realize, we just take for granted our innate ability to survive, all by just reframing the challenge in front of us. Where pessimists see problems, optimists find opportunities. If you change the way you look at your problems, your problems will change into opportunities to grow. Optimism is contagious, so too is pessimism, which would you rather see grow?

Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking they were created.” Farmers and ranchers are resilient, and I believe it is because we start out our days with the glass half full, the eternal optimists. Hey, and if all else fails, find the humor in any of the most unfunny situations and laugh. Humor can be the antidote to almost every ailment or adversity, it’s either that or exercise. And let’s be honest, I think we all get enough of that every day at work. As the season goes on don’t forget to lighten up and laugh a little, because our optimism will keep Oregon rooted, green and vital!

Molly McCargar's Signature - Cropped

Molly McCargar

President’s Journal: Oregon Agriculture is About Teaching

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrowing up on the farm I worked every summer starting around age 12, doing things like driving combine, tractors, moving irrigation pipe, or dumping cherry buckets; growing a variety of crops and being a part of the process. I never knew anything different. To me, it was not just a way of life but common knowledge. I could tell the difference between a perennial ryegrass field and tall fescue while flying by at 65 mph on the freeway, without needing a sign to identify it. To those of us in agriculture, these kinds of things seem like obvious common knowledge. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that there’s no such thing. Unless it’s a shared experience, it’s not common at all.

With less than two percent of the U.S. population farming, it’s no wonder it gets harder to have conversations about the production of these products. The more people are removed from what was once a shared experience, the larger the disconnect gets with each new generation. My first glimpse of disconnect, or the lack of common knowledge between urbanites and food production, was when I was about 21 years old. While visiting my sister in California her friends were asking about the farm. As I was telling them about what we grow, one young man asked if the broccoli grew on trees. It seemed like such an odd question, I blurted out such an obvious “Duh, no” kind of response that I felt was required. How could this guy not know how broccoli is grown? For him, it just appeared in the store with no story or explanation behind it. This was 20 years ago and if I knew then what I know now, I would have taken a much different approach to my response.

As I moved through college I bumped into this disconnect over and over again. And each time I was surprised at how little people knew about where or how their food and fiber was produced. I never took the time or opportunity to teach at each of these occurrences, oftentimes I felt myself defending false stories instead. After graduating from college with a health education degree I was ready to head off and change the world teaching and coaching. I knew how to teach about health and coach volleyball. So how was it that I didn’t do the same for the lifestyle I grew up with? Looking back I guess I always thought I didn’t need to. Someone else was there to do it for me. I never intended to end up where I am today.

After several years of coaching and teaching middle and high school age kids I decided to “retire” so I could stay at home with my (at the time) two girls. My dad asked me if I’d be interested in doing the books for the farm part time. Now, 10 years later, my part-time bookkeeping has become full-time farmer with the unique opportunity to continue teaching. Today, rather than blurt out responses making someone look stupid or getting defensive the way I used to, I teach. I share everything about the farm and all that goes into it, hiding nothing. I know that if it’s not me telling our story then it’s someone else trying to tell it for us, and a lot of good information can get lost along the way.

There are many opportunities to get involved and share your story. One of the easiest is by participating in Oregon Aglink’s Adopt a Farmer program. This program is especially important to all of our farms and their future because these kids ARE the future. The future consumer, policy maker, engineer, plant breeder, accountant, banker, truck driver, restaurant owner and the list goes on. These are just a few of the types of careers that we depend on. And we hope that what they learn about our operations, what it takes to get food to people’s plates and that it doesn’t just magically appear in the grocery store, will stay with them for a lifetime. This is why they, and this program, are critical to each farm’s future success. If we all do our part, share our story and teach at every moment provided, hopefully our stories won’t be so critical in the future because we’ve taken the time to make a difference now.

So please join Oregon Aglink and myself in continuing to promote Oregon agriculture and all that it has to offer.

Molly McCargar's Signature - Cropped

 

 

 

Molly McCargar

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