Even though I get paid to promote and support Farm Bureau, many people also forget I’m a member first and foremost. Today I’m wearing both hats and I’m gonna share my favorite parts of Farm Bureau. If I left this job today, you can bet I’d be an active volunteer in the county.
Farm Bureau is a grassroots (membership-based) organization. Our members are the backbone of this organization, and until I worked for Farm Bureau I truly had no idea what that really meant, nor did I realize the magic that occurs when everyone comes together to accomplish something. Farm Bureau works to protect your property rights, fighting for CAUV (farmland tax rates), improving water quality, business climate issues such as trade, beginning farmers/businesses, federal tax reform, migrant labor, energy development, and more.
What makes Farm Bureau so amazing is that it all starts locally with members. Members come together throughout the year to discuss current issues affecting the industry (which encompasses all types of agriculture — big, small, conventional, organic, crops, livestock, bees, fruits, veggies, fish — just to name a few) and our communities. We then take those discussions and we build policies at the local level. Those policies are then presented to a committee of members (from throughout the state) to review and compare with current state policies. Then in December, over 300 delegates who were elected by members at the county annual meetings head to Columbus to vote on those policies as well as Ohio Farm Bureau board trustees and officers. The process then moves on up to the federal level with American Farm Bureau. Those policies at the county, state, and federal level guide staff like myself on actions to take throughout the year. If any issues come up that affect our industry and our members have passed policy on those issues, our policy team at OFBF can take action to protect agriculture and its members. As a member, Farm Bureau is your voice, and united we are stronger.
As a member, I encourage all members to use that voice. We work very closely with elected officials (regardless of their political party designation), and community organizations at all levels to plead our case, educate, debate and advocate for our members and the future of agriculture.
All it takes is one person. One person to share a thought, concern or suggestion and it can guide the entire organization through the federal level (with the approval of the majority of the members of course). That’s why it is important to step up on issues that mean something to you. We may not all agree on all the issues and areas we take a stand on, but I promise you there are more issues we have common ground on, than not.
Being involved in agriculture doesn’t mean you have to be a full-time or even part- time farmer raising grain and livestock. This is another reason I love my job and Farm Bureau. I learn something new every day working with our diverse members. I’ve learned about fruit and vegetable production, nurseries, miscanthus, and the work that goes into that glass of wine that I so enjoy after a long day. I saw hops growing for the first time, toured small sugar shacks and a larger scale maple syrup bottling facility. I’ve learned about issues affecting aquaculture and honey bees. I’ve had the opportunity to tour oil and gas facilities and visit with landowners who we have helped navigate through leases with those companies. I work alongside all those members and staff to help push through the Farm Bureau recommendations to the CAUV calculation, to improve water quality, to fight the opioid crisis and to help improve water quality. Currently, we are urging members to reach out to their U.S Senators and Representatives to encourage them to take action on the farm bill.
I’m only a small portion of the Farm Bureau family working to make a difference for agriculture. So today, I encourage members to become a little more involved — even if it’s just a phone call with a concern or topic you heard about. If you aren’t a member, I encourage you to join Farm Bureau and help us protect the future of agriculture and to strengthen our communities.
Mandy Orahood is an Ohio Farm Bureau organization director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull Counties. Mandy can be reached at [email protected].