Have you ever wondered why people involved in agriculture give back to their industry by serving in leadership roles when their plate is already very full with daily commitments to their farming/ranching operation? They have chores to do, feed to grind, fence to fix, and cows to manage, not to mention the additional responsibilities to their families and their communities. I recently asked twelve national beef industry leaders to share their insight on the roles and responsibilities of being an agricultural industry leader as a part of a research study I conducted about leadership in agriculture. 

The most common response voiced by the interview participants on why they were motivated to be in leadership roles — was their willingness to serve their industry. For many of the leaders, their involvement began when they joined their local or state membership association and were willing to take on initial volunteer roles serving on committees or boards to support and contribute to the organization. It was their willingness to get involved, show up at the meetings, take part on a committee and help out the association by lending their interests, experiences or education in any way possible that chartered their roadmap to leadership.  Their willingness to be active and become more visible demonstrated the value these leaders placed on being advocates for the organization and it did not go unnoticed by their fellow peers in the organization.

However, along with getting involved comes the responsibility and understanding of the time and effort needed to fulfill the duties bestowed upon them. A willingness to serve the industry meant time away from their family or business and these leaders understood the accountability that comes with serving their industry and organization. In fact, what drove their willingness to serve was their devotion and dedication to their industry. It was their awareness that they could and should have a voice in the industry, from which they make their livelihood, that pushed these leaders to step up to the plate and serve in leadership roles. In a time when the food industry and those who produce the food are often being challenged by those outside their industry, agricultural leaders see it as their commitment and duty to their industry to stand up and be a voice.

Today, agricultural leaders imbedded in production agriculture serve in leadership roles for industry associations representing commodities such as beef, pork, poultry, corn, soybeans, etc., to help their industry address issues such as ever-changing international markets, increased regulations and policy issues, just to name a few.  Their journey to leadership began when these agricultural leaders showed a willingness to step forward and serve.  Now their journey is giving back to the industry by serving as a voice on political, consumer, and environmental issues as they work alongside their peers to maintain a sustainable and viable agricultural industry for future generations. As we move into the time of year when many organizations are hosting annual or regional meetings, I encourage you to find time in your busy schedule to contribute your ideas and input to the industry that allows you to keep farming or ranching.

Source: B. Lynn Gordon