Being a farmer today is participating in a complex vocation. There is the tough, production-oriented business model, where we purchase inputs as cheaply and use them as efficiently as possible. Every dollar is accounted for and net profit is the key to happiness in life.
Then there is the “way of life” model, where we don’t pay much attention to dollars and cents, but worry more about the value and rewards of living a rural life to the fullest and raising a family on the farm.
I firmly believe in both models. Being successful means being able to balance both of those methods of farm life, understanding that one has to take priority over the other at certain times.
But there is a third part of farm life that is equally crucial, not to having a profitable farming operation or having a happy life, but in providing a high quality of life for our neighbors, family and friends in our hometowns. Volunteerism is this key element of rural life that can never be forgotten.
Farm organizations, commodity groups and farm-related boards like Natural Resource Districts and Farm Service Agency committees need strong farm volunteers to fill their ranks. They need farmers who care about their livelihood and operations and who understand farm policy and debate, so they can make informed decisions relating to the future of farms down the road.
Equally important are church and school boards, community clubs and chambers of commerce, who also need farmers to serve, bringing the rural aspect of community life to the table.
Farmers can help others in the community understand why agriculture is so revered in rural life. They can lend a farmers’ or landowners’ perspective to decision making while serving these groups.
Groups like these provide the fabric of our lives, so taking our turn in serving our community in these ways should be part of our personal goals as farmers. Most rural towns have been built, maintained and preserved by volunteers in many ways. Someone else may not always be around. We have to step up to the plate and be honored to serve our churches, schools, civic groups and farm organizations when we can.