I recently returned to the farm from a long weekend trip to Jacksonville, Florida. I went on behalf of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Special 10. While in Jacksonville, I attended the American Farm Bureau Fusion Conference. This conference had representation from numerous states throughout the U.S., all members involved in Young Farmers & Ranchers, Women’s Leadership, or educating and promoting about agriculture. It was during this conference that I took a moment to reflect and thought to myself how getting involved in agricultural organizations – even more so for me, Farm Bureau – has made me a better farmer.

One might ask, “How has being involved in farm groups made you a better farmer?” You are probably thinking that it is just one more thing to have to do, one more meeting to have to attend, one more set of dues that needs paid. While you do have to pay membership fees for certain organizations, and many do have meetings or events that as a member you should attend, the truth is that it will make you a better farmer for many different reasons. I picked the first three that came to mind for me, and I will share those with you today. You may end up having your own reasons, but for me, the first three reasons are: time management, building connections and having a support group.

Time Management

When most people hear the term time management, I feel that they often think of how they are going to fit everything that needs to be done into their day. While that does hold true, time management is a lot more than that. For me, time management not only is how I am going to get everything that I need to get done in a reasonable time frame, but it is also making time for things that are a priority to me and setting boundaries. Being involved in Farm Bureau and other farm groups does add more things into my already busy farming schedule, and farm chores must come first. However, having an extra activity to do that is of great interest to me motivates me to get my work done so not only can I do what I love by actively farming, but I can also have time to stand up for farmers and agriculture in a grassroots organization.

Building Connections

Next is building connections. By nature, I am a person who tends to focus on what’s in my lane and not venture from my path or routine. I tend to have “my” group of people that I know I can count on, and I never really cared to find ways to meet others. Well, on the first conference trip that I went on as an adult a few years ago, that rapidly changed. All of a sudden, I found myself sitting with people I had never met before and having to room with a fellow female in ag who I had only known for 20 minutes. Quickly, I found myself having to make small talk to break barriers. Within a short amount of time, I learned so much not only about these people but their farming operations and involvement in the farming world as well. To this day, I still talk to some of these individuals, follow their farming journeys on social media, and even bounce farming ideas and theories off of them on a regular basis.

Support Group

The third reason that getting involved in farm-related groups has made me a better farmer builds upon my second reason, and that is having a support group. Like I previously mentioned, I was never really outgoing or trying to go out of my way to meet new people until I was basically thrown into it. We often have our circle of friends who we have met throughout life, whether it be from school, sports, a job, etc. And more often than not, these people are there for us no matter what. Finding a group of people that genuinely understands your life as a farmer; knows the hard work, long hours, blood, sweat and tears; and literally has lived that life and is still pursuing it day in and day out – those are my kind of people. Those are people who are in your corner and are there to support you when you had a rough planting season or a sick calf. Those people have been in your shoes before, and they know what it is like.

No matter how busy you are on the farm, I highly encourage you to make time to get involved in a farming organization. Whether that be Farm Bureau, 4-H, FFA, a breed association or a milk co-operative, get involved in some way. There are so many ways that people farm throughout the country and to be able to share your ways with others, and listen to their ideas in return, is such a valuable moment. Meeting these people who then turn into lifelong friends that have the same passion you do is priceless. We are all in the farming world for the same reason: to raise, grow and develop wholesome products that provide for and feed others. This is a huge undertaking and often comes with challenges and obstacles, so what better way to navigate these than with a group of like-minded people who are always on your side?

Julianne Holler is a farmer and Farm Bureau member in Ohio. This column originally appeared as a blog post on the Progressive Dairy website and is republished with permission.