Farmers and ranchers are generous people. When a neighbor is injured or ill, folks just pitch in, without being asked. Rural folks are also generally focused on volunteering for their farm organizations, commodity groups, schools and churches. These are priorities to those of us who live and work on the farm.
However, sometimes in rural communities there is a disconnected feeling between farmers and ranchers and folks who live in town. I’m not sure why this exists, but some farmers believe they aren’t welcome to join the local chamber of commerce or community club. They don’t feel that it is their responsibility to be involved in town, outside of school and church. Perhaps they don’t believe that their opinions are welcome or needed.
I think in most cases, the experience, volunteer attitude and wealth of skills that farmers and ranchers bring to the table would be most welcome in the local chamber of commerce or community club. And, there are benefits for farm families to become involved in these endeavors as well.
We talk about connecting with consumers and telling our farm story. What better place to do this, than in our own backyard? Working side by side with residents in town for the good of the community helps foster important relationships and positive images of farmers and ranchers in general. It brings the opinions and thoughts of farm folks to community goals and projects. This type of involvement helps bring farmers and local community residents together in a special way. There are many farmers who belong to local chambers, retail clubs and community clubs and are actively involved in community and civic projects. If it is not the norm around your community, maybe it should be.
Besides the social aspect of belonging, there are many positive ways farmers can tell their story to their urban neighbors by working with them to better the quality of life in the area for everyone. These days, farm families benefit from better infrastructure, parks, swimming pools, recreational and educational facilities in our local towns.
In my own case, our children are active in softball leagues in town and take advantage of swimming lessons, Christmas and Easter activities, the local library and other community events. We are proud of our local community and understand the hundreds of hours of volunteer time it takes to enhance our quality of life in Crofton.
I would encourage you in this New Year, to follow the lead of many farm and ranch folks around the state and become as active as possible in improving your local community, and representing the spirit and volunteer attitude of farmers and ranchers in local civic groups. Most civic groups are looking for new ideas and new energy, and farm folks might just be the energizers they are searching for.
Be sure to watch http://www.nebraskafarmer.com and read our January print issue of Nebraska Farmer for news, information and tips on meeting the challenges of drought. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress drought site at http://www.DatelineDrought.com.