My name is Cynthia (Cyndi) Johnson and I’m originally a South Eastern Montana ranch girl, raised on the Powder River. Now, I’m a North Central Montana farm wife and agriculture enthusiast, raising small grains and pulse crops with my husband, Ken of 22 years. In between those two very important events of my life, I spent time in the long-term care industry, raised some amazing kids and served as an elected official.  While I was born into an active Farm Bureau family, I didn’t find my way back until becoming actively engaged in agriculture again in 1995. I’ve served as a board member or an officer of the local county organization since 1996 and am truly honored to serve as Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s current Vice-President.

The MFBF ACE program has interested me since it’s’ inception because I saw it as an opportunity to engage local communities about agricultural issues.  I became inspired to participate when I had the opportunity to join the first ACE team for dinner one evening and experience their energy and excitement to be learning to become solid advocates for agriculture. Later, I was asked to serve with a few of those early team members in a Task Force capacity to discuss refinements and ideas to streamline the program. MFBF’s ACE (Advocate, Educate, and Communicate) is a leadership development program, community engagement program, and an educational program all rolled into one amazing curriculum. 

This is a chance of lifetime!  Here we can refine skills to work more effectively with the public and government leaders, brainstorm new ideas for bringing Farm Bureau front and center in our local communities to create stronger organizations, and gain insight into the issues that both drive and deter Montana Agriculture.

I’ve had leadership opportunities at many levels and I very much enjoy both past and present leadership roles and intend to continue those, but I need to become better at creating or nurturing new leaders.  There are strong leaders in our Ag communities but the last thing we want to do is “voluntold” our leaders of tomorrow and leave them high and dry without support, ideas, spare hands or other resources. 

There a many critical issues that impact Agriculture today – stagnant commodity prices, market gluts, regulatory issues, tax complexity, accidental misinformation and intentional misinformation, trade and trade imbalance, legislative uncertainty – the list is long and varied.  To me, one of the most important issues is that we must all get involved, tell our own story and not let it be told for us, and support one another in the field of Agriculture.  I’m pretty enthused that the ACE program will help me become better versed in issues that might not affect me – the grain farmer- directly, but adversely impact my neighbor – the cattle rancher.  I’d like to be in “their corner” when they need support in lobbying the legislature or contacting my Congressman.  In Montana, we are fortunate to have close personal relationships with both our state and national political leaders; I want to become a stronger and more vocal advocate for my peers by better understanding their issues as well as my own, before I engage.

I hope to motivate our small county Farm Bureau to become more active and present in our four-county region.  Front Range Counties represents a large and diverse geographic region and while we have a relatively stable membership, we seldom interact as a unit or engage in community wide activities.  Just as every cause needs a champion, every organization needs a nurturer, a planner, a coordinator, a firecracker.  Using tools that I gain through ACE training, I can choose to be a catalyst for membership development, issue awareness, and, hopefully, spark the desire for others to lead and advocate. 

‘Silence means agreement’ or ‘silence means acceptance’.  Those phrases haunt me when I think about the times I should have said something by reaching out to my state Legislator or Congressman or countered an argument full of fallacy in regard to agriculture practices or facts.  The continual development of leadership and advocacy skills for Montana farmers and ranchers is vital for our prospective existence.  The number of political leaders with dirt under their fingernails or cow stuff on their boots is dwindling with every election.  Without agricultural advocates and leaders willing to step up, enlighten and engage the world about the truth in agriculture and related sciences, we face an uncertain future. Montana ranchers and farmers are well versed in their field and respected for their opinions.  The only way to have a lasting impact is to choose to lead and answer the call to advocate.