Finding value in membership

Summit County Farm Bureau President Andy Troutman shared this blog with members in his county. Ohio Farm Bureau shares it, with his permission.

January signals the start of another year with renewed ideas, opportunities, and the eternal hope that the weather will provide the right balance of sun and rain to farm successfully. Suffice it to say, while it is only January, Summit County Farm Bureau has been preparing for this New Year for many months. Likewise, I have been preparing to serve as president in some capacity for the last 20 years.

Growing up in southern rural Wayne County there are but a few perennial institutions: 4-H, Farm Bureau, and the local church. Both my parents are devout tee-totaling Methodists, so church was mandatory. My father was the county Extension and 4-H agent, so 4-H was also obligatory. However, I had no idea what Farm Bureau was until years later.

In 1996 I graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in agriculture and I had just begun my job as the vineyard manager at The Winery at Wolf Creek in Norton. The owners of the winery at the time were involved with Summit County Farm Bureau and encouraged me to join, even though I was a “Wayne County boy.” I assumed I qualified as a potential Farm Bureau member but still had little understanding of what Farm Bureau did. With little elaboration, my father’s sage advice was “It’s good… and you should join.” I still had little idea what Farm Bureau was about and imagined it was just a bunch of farmers sitting around talking about corn and hog futures.

For more details, I turned to the county office and the organizational director for the county at the time. He enthusiastically filled me in and sent me a pile of “NO TRESPASSING signs,” bumper stickers, Farm Bureau pens, and a folder with 20 different brochures outlining Farm Bureau policies and my rights as a member of the farming community.

While the discounts, signs, and promised pancake breakfast with local legislators were appealing, the biggest value for me was the information Farm Bureau gave me access to: information about agriculture and rules and regulations that could affect my business; information about how other farmers were marketing their products and managing their operations; information on how we could develop policy and maintain a healthy environment for agriculture. Ultimately, that treasure trove of information is why I became a Farm Bureau member over 20 years ago.

Farm Bureau is a great value for its members. It continues to be the largest grassroots agricultural policy organization in the state and nation. Farm Bureau enables farmers to network and engage on policy and production issues both locally and nationally. It provides its members discounts through many of its partner vendors and seeks to develop agricultural leaders. Perhaps, still most important to me, Farm Bureau continues to provide valuable information and content to its members on a variety of issues.

After all of these years I cannot disagree with my dad’s notion of Farm Bureau that “It’s good…and you should join.” It is up to you to find the value in your membership. For me it was access to information, but for another member it may be one of the other numerous benefits. With the New Year, I encourage you to get involved. Take time to join us for any of the events, activities, and informational seminars the Summit County Farm Bureau has planned to find the value and take advantage of what membership offers you in this new year.

Wishing all of you a prosperous and successful year!

Editor’s Note: Andy and his wife Deanna were featured in Our Ohio magazine in 2008, in the article “Message in a Bottle.”