When growers are first starting out, they may not be thinking of ways to achieve success beyond the field. While maintaining and working on your land is important, it’s also essential to be an active participant in your community so you can stay informed of and help make decisions that impact your farm.
Former NPB chairman, Dan Ward of Clarkton, North Carolina is co-owner of Ward Farms with his wife, NPB North Carolina alternate Julie Ward, and is a strong advocate for farmer involvement.“It is important to be involved because so many decisions affect what we do as growers and affect our income,” Ward said. “Sometimes these decisions are made by people that don’t understand our way of life or our work. We need to be involved to represent ourselves and our needs as well as educate those that are making those decisions.”
Ward was recently appointed by the North Carolina Governor to serve on the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission of North Carolina. Additionally, he is the voluntary ag district chairman in his county and a member of the American Peanut Council’s sustainability committee. Previously, he served on the Peanut Research Foundation as a grower representative from the Virginia-Carolina Region and the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association as president.
Ward’s involvement within his community stemmed from his county extension agent encouraging him to serve as a chairman of his county farmer’s organization when he was fresh out of college.
“He wanted me to be comfortable leading meetings and speaking in front of people,” Ward said. “He always made me wear a tie and jacket to lead the meetings and always encouraged me to improve each time. He really helped me become comfortable in some of the settings I find myself in today.”
This encouragement solidified the importance of being active in organizations.
“I think the best advice for a young person is to be an active participant in local groups,” Ward said. “It can be agricultural groups or civic organizations. The hardest thing for me has always been to leave the farm for a meeting on a pretty day, but I have learned a lot of different lessons at those meetings and met a lot of really knowledgeable people there too. It is truly a balancing act. Participation is one of the keys to serving.”
Jan Jones of Climax, Georgia is a fifth-generation farmer who graduated from Mercer University to become a teacher. She inevitably decided to follow her heart and help run the family farm with her dad, and in 2015 she acquired her own 150 acres and began planting peanuts.
Currently, Jones is a member of the Farm Service Agency’s County Committee. In the past, Jones has worked closely with the Georgia Peanut Commission, NPB and the National Cotton Council whenever there is a public outreach or educational program.
Jones said she got involved with these organizations because of the learning opportunities they provided.
“These programs directly impact my farm and being involved with them not only educates me on any new policies, practices and products in the peanut and cotton industries but also allows me to tell leaders in the industry what is happening on my farm,” Jones said.
For young farmers looking to get more involved, Jones says a great place to start is your state’s farm bureau, which for her was Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB).
“The first ag program I was involved with was the GFB Young Farmers program, and that's probably where I'd tell someone start,” Jones said. “GFB is a large program, so you should be able to find growers who have similar interests and operations. GFB also gives you a space to learn how to improve your operation and how to become a better leader in agriculture, if you're interested.”
Jones says a younger grower, her number one priority is the success of her farm, but it’s important to look beyond the field.
“What I'd advise other young growers to remember is that there are ways to build your operation's success other than working within your farm's physical boundaries,” Jones said. “Creating new relationships in the ag community and serving on whatever committees or programs interest you will only give you more tools to help toward your farm's success.”
Lexi Floyd of Lubbock, Texas has been involved in West Texas Young Farmers Coalition, Western Peanut Growers Association, Terry Country Farm Bureau and Terry County Livestock Association.
She says that it is important to be involved because if not you, then who else will do it.
“If you don’t show up and get involved, then who is,” Floyd said. “It might as well be you. The time and effort it takes a grower to be involved in commodity boards and political action committees is minimal, but the impact is huge.”
Floyd also had a NPB sponsored seat on the Peanut Leadership Academy (PLA).
“The PLA has helped me tremendously understand the peanut industry as a whole,” Floyd said. “Because I wasn’t raised farming any row crops, the knowledge I have is the knowledge I’ve gained from our personal farming operations.”
The biggest piece of advice Floyd can give to growers is to ask questions.
“There are no stupid questions,” Floyd said. “Asking questions shows your willingness to learn and your ability to be vulnerable and seek education. Communication is extremely important and showing up is half the battle.”