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What did you learn today?

Jennifer M. Latzke Farmers at meeting
FARMER MEETINGS: Winter means it’s farmer meeting season. As you head off to a meeting, it’s good to ask yourself, “What did I learn, and how am I going to use it?”
Farmer meeting season is the perfect time to learn new things for the farm and ourselves.

I feel like I’ve been sitting in meetings for a full month.

It’s winter, and that’s pretty much what an agricultural journalist does in the winter months — attend farmer and rancher meetings so that we can report on them for you, our readers.

I don’t mind. It’s my job to distill the highlights, so that if you weren’t able to attend, you could still get the gist of what happened — and know who to ask when you have follow-up questions down the road.

But I have to ask — why aren’t you there with me?

Something to learn

I saw an inspirational post that said, “The wisest mind has something to learn.” I pondered that these last few weeks while I went from meeting to meeting.

Don’t you think you might still have something to learn?

Whether we are hearing market forecasts from an expert, policy updates from an industry lobbyist, crop management research from an Extension specialist, or just getting inspired by a former NFL quarterback, we can come away from meetings better than when we walked in the door.

Speaking with one of our Kansas Master Farmer-Master Farm Homemaker couples, it struck me how they took advantage of every learning experience, field day and farmer meeting to improve themselves and their farm. For them, the speakers were helpful, but being able to make connections with other farmers like themselves was even more helpful.

Connections

My dad used to tell me, “Iron sharpens iron.” And when you’re sitting in a room with other farmers and livestock producers like yourself, you’re going to come away with valuable connections.

You never know what conversation you strike up with that stranger at the table over a barbecue brisket sandwich might lead to an opportunity for your farm. You may meet someone who challenges your thinking. You may chat with someone who’s tried a farming method and succeeded, or one who failed; and frankly, both are great friends to make.

Making connections is not only good for your bottom line, but it’s also good for your mental health. Farmers need neighbors, whether they’re down the correction line or across the state. Someone to vent to, someone to bounce ideas off of, even someone to share funny memes with over Twitter. They all have their purpose in your personal and professional development.

Investment

Sure, attending meetings can take time away from the operation, but that time is only wasted if you don’t implement something you learned. It reminds me of my dad, who would ask me every time I would come home from college, “What did you learn, and how are you going to use it?”

It’s not only about gathering the information, but also deciding how you’re going to use it that is important. Take the drive home and discuss the day’s learning with your family or your neighbor who tagged along. You should be able to think of three takeaways from the day that are going to improve you either personally or professionally. Then, make a plan to implement them.

When you do these things, you’ll improve yourself and your farm. And that’s really what winter meeting season is all about.

Well, that, and maybe getting a new cap at the registration table.

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