Thursday, May 22, 2014

Picnics, Fairs and Policies

This morning I was thinking through the next few months. Graduations bring summer and in the life of a field person at Farm Bureau that means picnics, BBQ's, fairs, festivals and policy development. It means more time on the road with extra events and time spent with members. I've been at Farm Bureau 14 and half years and I have made several friends over that time. Some of them I see on a monthly basis and others I only see a few times a year.

One of the things that I think Farm Bureau does well is policy development. It doesn't sound fun or exciting and sometimes the best thing about the meeting is thinking about the kind of pie I'm going to eat that night but it really is a solid part of what makes Farm Bureau special and a little different from the other agricultural groups out there. Instead of the American Farm Bureau (AFBF) office telling the states and we in return telling our county members what our positions are going to be on issues- it's the opposite. The state or AFBF doesn't take a position on something unless we have a policy on it and that starts at the county level.

I can read through our policy book and even parts of AFBF's policy books and see the faces of our members. I know that the policies on discarded road signs and elections were written by Jerry Kennedy and our border security policy was written by Joe King, Alan Sietz and Jim Chilton. That same border policy is in the AFBF book. There is also a portion of the AFBF's policy on forest health that was written by rancher Jim Parks who lives in Coconino County. The fallowing land during drought was written by Sarah Teskey who used to live in Yavapai County. I could go on about most of the policies in our book.

So for me its exciting because I don't just see a policy of words written on a page, but rather faces of my members who went to a meeting and stood up and said "I want to talk about..." Some of the policies took members driving to other counties to visit with their members asking for the support of the policy. I've seen different counties sit across the table and work together to make better policy. Some of our policy has been in the book long before I came and I'm sure if you talked to the Jim Klinkers or Bob Wilsons of Farm Bureau you would get the story behind the policy and the person who started began the process.

Even though sometimes the things we look forward to is the good pie or great dinner it turns out to be the stories that make it important. That's what the end product is- issues with faces on them written in a book.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dr. Weber

This year at University of Arizona, Dr. Knight is retiring. I didn't go to U of A, I didn't have him as a professor but I worked with him on the FFA Foundation and I could tell how great a teacher he was by the students he taught. And since my Facebook feed is filled with comments on how great Dr. Knight is, I thought I would share about my  "Dr. Knight" at Oregon State. His name is Dr. Dale Weber. Dr. Weber started at OSU in 1976. A lot of my friends have fond memories of Dr. Weber but I think he is one of those people that falls into the category of "Everyone Needs to Know How Special He Really Is." I also think you could fill Reser Stadium, the field and parking lot with the students Dr. Weber has impacted over the years.

Courtesy of OSU Animal Science
I transferred to OSU and didn't have Dr. Weber till the Winter term for Beef Production and as a Junior I didn't take his Intro to Animal Science class where he would get to know you. If you had him as a freshman, most likely your photo was on a board in his office so he was able to get to know you. I had him that Winter term for two classes- Beef Production and Steer-A-Year. Two weeks after starting class my mom died and I left for a week to go home. I was barely able to pack a suitcase with a black dress so I didn't even consider packing my books to study. The week I was home I decided that I was going to stay home but my dad insisted I go back. So my roommate and I left straight from graveside and drove back over the mountain to school. I came back to half my first set of midterms being over and a few left to take.

And here's the first reason why Dr. Weber is so special. I went to class that next morning and he was passing out the midterms- graded. He came to me and said he wanted to talk after class. After class he said he knew I was a good student and that he would just take my second midterm and double it to make up for missing the first. He had never had me as a student and I don't know if he knew if I was a good student or not.

The second reason came in my next class with him. Steer-A-Year (SAY) was a student-run feedlot. The night I got the call I made two phone calls. One to my big sister at my sorority house to tell her what was happening and the second to my friend Brook to see if she could cover my feeding time slots. Walking into that class later on that Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Weber handed me a card. He had had everyone in class sign it and they gave it to me. It touched my heart because the rest of my professors didn't care or even ask if I was ok, if I needed anything- nothing. They had all be contacted by the school and even in one class I walked in on Thursday morning to find that we were taking our midterm. He informed me that because I had the syllabus I could have taken my books home and studied. I got a 13 on that midterm.

Dr. Weber (right) and his brother 
There are many more reasons to love Dr. Weber. He retired a few years after I graduated but still today you can find him in a meeting, teaching a class, or talking with a student at OSU. I had the privilege of traveling the Midwest with him one Fall and I was able to meet his family- brother, nieces and nephews, on their family's farm. He shared the story with us of being a kid and going into Chicago and visiting the doorman at the Wrigley building to get a stick of gum. To us that isn't a big deal but when he was a boy that was a big treat. I also remember one day in class, Dr. Weber came in with his arm in a sling and said his wife was making him give up skiing because he had hurt himself.

I went to his retirement party in 1999, before I moved to Arizona and I was able to thank him for keeping me in school. Had I not had Dr. Weber show kindness to me in one of the darkest moments of my life I would have quit school and walked away from OSU. Instead I found incredible friends and made some life-long friendships.

I was able to have lunch with Dr. Weber last summer and it was so nice to catch up with him and visit about what everyone was up to. He shared his story of being honored by OSU with the Dan Polling Service Award.

I think we that had Dr. Weber and those who were taught by Dr. Knight have been blessed because not every college or every student has the privileged of being taught by an incredible person.

The card Dr. Weber had the Steer-A-Year class send.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Blue Corduroy Legacy

I am an FFA nerd. I have been since high school and I always will be. I loved my FFA jacket and I wore it with pride because of the legacy of the organization. My dad was in FFA and my aunts would have been if they would have allowed girls at the time. I have an old school jacket because my emblem says "Vocational Agriculture  instead of "Agriculture Education." I gained so much from the FFA and the leadership opportunities I had through it. I am both the person and leader today because of the FFA. I was a quiet student- never really talking in school (huge shocker to those who know me now). And after high school, I used many of the leadership skills gained because of FFA to build upon for experience in leadership roles  in college and beyond. I can thank FFA for my career foundation. I've been thinking about the FFA and all that it means the last couple weeks because previous years I've spent time with these kids from across the state through contests and leadership development and just coaching or talking with them. I'm always impressed by the change I see in students from their freshman year to their senior years and beyond.

In a month is our state's FFA state leadership conference and amid all the excitement there are two very special things will be occurring and they occur every year. I'm always excited to see who will be the next state officer team and see the retiring addresses. I love judging the speaking contest and visiting with advisors and parents because afterwards I know the future of our industry is in good hands. I get a little choked up when one of the scholarships is given and when the Chase Foster Essay Jackets are given out because they represent two amazing individuals, their families and the

A few years ago we had a wonderful speaker at the Friday evening event. I was excited to meet her because for many years I had heard about her and never had the chance to meet her. For many she was just a name but for me she was my friend's wife. I had met my friend Matt in high school at a National FFA conference when he was a national officer. This was years before email, Facebook  twitter or blogging so to send a note to say thanks or hey what's up-it was old school- as in post cards. I came across the postcards he sent from around the country last summer when I was home. They are still in the box my mom had stored them and I enjoyed reminiscing.  We had Matt come and speak for our annual meeting right after I started to work and he talked about his wife and his family. When I had the chance to meet her, she was amazing. She was kind and we talked about our FFA years, jewelry, hair accessories and what not and at the end our our 10 minute conversation, I felt like I had been her friend for years. When she visited with the kids, she talked about her family, her FFA and she talked about her cancer. She was an amazing woman. When she was finished she was met on stage by a few alumni who had started an endowment in her name to give scholarships to our FFA students. Each year since then, when they read her name and the student walks across the stage I think of my friend, his wife and and the legacy both of them have left on many people across the nation.

The other thing that I look forward to each year is the moments when five new students receive their own FFA Jacket. I remember earning mine. I did chores at my grandma's house to earn the money for mine. I still have it- it's in my hope chest and I see it every few weeks and I am reminded of the amazing things I was able to experience all because of that jacket. I was able to become someone who had dreams. The kids that are given their jackets have to write an essay that if they are chosen they read at some point during a session about what the jacket means to them. As it ends a state officer gives them their very own jacket. It was started by the family of a young man killed in a farm accident. And for me it's the most special part of the whole conference because of the legacy of the family. The young man's brother was an advisor that turned out several state presidents and two national officers. His mom was an professor at the local land grant university and mostly it's just a great way to give an opportunity to have to give potential to a student.  As time goes on, I don't know if the kids will completely understand the legacy of the gift they receive but I hope their adviser or a mentor or someone from the FFA community will share the importance of it. I'm hoping that they get a glimpse of who these two people are and how they gave back to the organization that gave them so much first.