Tag: President’s Journal

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

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: 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!

anissa branch signature

 

 

 

 

 

Anissa Branch

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