In a grand and generous gesture – or maybe they were just hard up for entertainment – the Great Plains Regional Youth Conference of the National Grange has asked me to speak at their meeting in Lawrence on Saturday.
Ever since I met Roger Bostwick, the head of the Kansas State Grange, and his family at Farm Aid last summer, the Grange has been good to me. I was invited to their meeting in Emporia last fall and I’ve called on some of their members when I’m checking out possible stories.
So when Nathan Strawder, a Grange member from Park City, Kansas, who is organizing the conference, emailed me and asked to speak at their lunch, it took me about a nanosecond to reply.
Next step: what to talk about?
Nathan suggested I tell the young people about the importance of speaking up and telling their own story, in an effort to help promote agriculture and rural issues. This didn’t surprise me, since Nathan spoke to me last fall about his concerns with the U.S. Post Office cutting back on some services. He’s also an advocate for more broadband services in rural areas – which is particularly important to a young guy who lives out there.
Farmers and ranchers of all ages and stripes are being encouraged to speak up and tell their own stories about agriculture. It’s the new mantra – those involved in agriculture are told they should take their case to the American people and educate them on where their food comes from.
"There's an emotional connection to some of what we produce," he said. "We connect it to happy times, we connect it to good experiences, and that needs to be better utilized, so that there's a level of trust and connection. Agriculture is losing the emotional battle. ...
"That's why it's extremely important for us to get agriculture elevated in this country. I'm doing the best I can, but we all need to be singing."
So that’s what I’ll be talking about on Saturday – the need for those young people to tell their own story. And of course I’ll show them how easy that is with the Harvest Network. By signing up as a source for public broadcasting, these young farmers and ranchers can become part of our grassroots reporting team, sharing their experience and expertise.
But I’m also going to share with them a good comment we got from our Facebook page. Chystal Yocom offered up something simple – a nice thank you from someone who knows what their work is like.
I would share with them that those of us who spent difficult but joyful days, weeks, months working "in the fields" as teens (and who are not currently working in agriculture) have great respect and admiration for the people who are taking the industry forward, especially with all of the current changes and challenges.