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

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

President’s Journal: WHAT A YEAR!

anissa branchHow fast time flies when you’re having fun! The year of my presidency with the Agri-Business Council has flown by and it was more than fun! This article is my last and an opportunity for me to say “Thank You.” I am truly humbled as I think back on this year and all the help and encouragement I received, as well as the enormous strides ABC has made in this short time. THANK YOU — Our members are who make all of our programs and efforts for the Oregon ag community possible!

SAFETY: Our new small farm safety program, in connection with OSHA, started with a bang and has been extremely successful. We started with just four farms and as we head into 2015, are tripling our efforts and expanding to three areas of the state with close to 12 farms! It is so exciting to see this program grow – I know it will drop farms’ workmen’s comp rates and create safer workplaces for all of Oregon agriculture.

ABC GOLF TOURNAMENT: We raised over $14,000 for all of our programs at this year’s tournament, which was our most successful and attended tournament ever! This tournament is continuing to grow and grow – and is so much fun for all while raising a lot of money!!

DENIM & DIAMONDS: Another amazing event that was also our most successful to date. Over 500 farmers, ranchers, friends and lovers of Oregon ag attended and opened their wallets to raise over $50,000 for all of our programs. An amazing night!

ADOPT A FARMER: The touchstone of our organization, Adopt a Farmer continues to grow and grow! Working with Oregon middle school students and changing their beliefs and attitudes about agriculture for life. Not only are we affecting a future generation, we are impacting their parents and families TODAY! With over 37 classrooms around the state involved, this program is on track to be in every Oregon county in just a few short years. WOW!

I would like to thank everyone who has had any part in ABC and my journey this year. Especially Kirk Lloyd of Risk Management Resources, who has stood by and been available all year to assist ABC in implementing our safety program – It would not have been possible without him!

Geoff, Mallory, Heather, Julie and all of the staff at the Agri-Business Council office who do all the day-to-day tasks that make all of us board members look good! And the ABC Board – 28 members who volunteer their time, experience, advice and money to help this organization grow to what it is and will become – what a wonderful, caring group of people: The best in Oregon ag!

As my final word, I encourage all of our members to share what ABC is doing with another farmer or Oregon ag lover and encourage them to become a part of ABC as a new member. Only by sharing what we are doing with others will we continue to affect Oregon ag for many years to come!

Happy Spring!

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Anissa Branch

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