My kids call me Mama, my students call me Mrs. J, but you can call me Dana.
I’m Dana Jansen - a ranch wife, teacher, and mother from South Central Montana and a proud member of the Wheatland-Golden Valley County Farm Bureau. Growing up on the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains, in a town lovingly referred to as the “Malting Barley Capital of the World”, agriculture was (and continues to be) the cornerstone of the community.
The influence of agriculture and my involvement in 4-H and FFA from the first available opportunity cemented my desire to attend Montana State University to continue my formal education and pursue a degree in agriculture (what better place than one of the best Land Grant colleges in the West?). There I received a degree in Agriculture Education Broadfield Teaching. While at MSU, I got my first real taste of the Farm Bureau through the Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers. The Thursday evening meetings proved to be nearly impossible to work into my schedule due to class conflicts, but it was a real honor to associate myself with the organization’s ideals and membership.
In addition to YF&R, I was involved in a host of other student organizations that gave me what I so desperately craved - a connection to a community of other passionate, like-minded individuals that challenged me to further my skills and knowledge while encouraging me to honor the traditions of the past. Upon graduation from Montana State University, my husband and I were presented with an opportunity to return to his family’s ranch west of Broadview. Eager to join the family operation, we came home to start our family and pursue a path in production agriculture. Together with his parents, we run a commercial cow/calf operation and forage enterprise. In addition to the ranch, I am the agriculture educator and FFA Advisor at Broadview Public Schools. The reality of living 20 miles from the nearest “town” complete with the standard church, bar, post office, and school and 52 miles from the nearest grocery store or bank means that opportunities for engagement are few and far between. After being actively involved in the school and community throughout high school and college, the inability to connect with the ‘greater good’ was a truly isolating feeling. These feelings certainly weren’t helped any by the fact my husband and I are the youngest people in a 15 mile radius, either. Although we had been paying our Farm Bureau dues, we rarely were able to sneak away for an annual meeting or social function.
It became apparent, though, that the Farm Bureau was going to be one of our only opportunities to form some connection to community and rekindle the engagement we had been missing - some not-so-subtle persuasion from Rikki Swant may have also helped. Our commitment to the Farm Bureau began in earnest this Fall as I began to actively pursue the ACE program and my husband was appointed to a seat on the Wheatland-Golden Valley County Board. We both plan to further our involvement with Farm Bureau at the county level and beyond.
As a teacher, I am no stranger to professional development, and let’s just say, I finally understand why none of my teachers were as excited about a day off of school as I was in high school. Most educator professional development simply isn’t geared toward the type of teaching I do. The agriculture classroom is far from typical and I struggled to find value in the information being presented at each professional development workshop.
ACE’s advocate, communicate, and educate model of building connections throughout the industry and its associates seemed like the perfect solution to my professional development woes. Not only will the skills and connections gained through participation in ACE help me as a professional, they will be of immense value to my students, my community, and the industry that my world revolves around. I plan on implementing much of my ACE learning in the classroom to ensure my students are equipped with the tools they need to succeed in life beyond the classroom walls. While many of my students will not be involved directly with the agriculture industry after graduation, they will all have a functional understanding of the massive scope of modern agriculture and its effect on today’s society. Maybe more importantly, they will be able to think critically, share ideas respectfully, and be prepared to take an active role in their future communities.
I think EM Tiffany said it best in the final line of the FFA Creed:
“I believe that American Agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”
That influence is simply not possible without continued education, active involvement, and a genuine desire for the betterment of all. Farmers and ranchers play a crucial role in the vitality of this great nation and more often than not, that role is easily overlooked. American’s have access to one of the safest, most abundant, ethically and environmentally responsible sources of food, fiber, and pharmaceuticals in the world that has led consumers to a place of arrogant complacency. Educating the consumer is certainly a noble pursuit; however, I do not believe that it is an issue of critical most importance to the agriculture industry.
I see a much greater issue plaguing the agriculture industry - the idea that there is one superior production system. Somehow “organic” has become a four-letter word amongst commercial producers, commercial production is synonymous with “factory farming”, and today’s farmer and rancher are the target of hateful rhetoric from both the consumer and fellow farmers and ranchers. We cannot, and will not, continue to advance agriculture through the actions of progressive agriculturalists if we do not begin to resolve the animosities felt amongst producers of all kinds. These divisive actions make it that much harder to survive the deafening blows felt from ill-informed legislative efforts and misguided consumers. It is time to present a unified voice for agriculture. I, by no means, mean that we need to agree with the methodology of our production counterparts, but, just as an animal singled from the herd is increasingly vulnerable to attack from a predator, agriculture as a whole will be driven to ruin by our own hand.
Montana Farm Bureau’s ACE program is designed to empower Farm Bureau members to be confident, effective leaders in their County Farm Bureau and local communities. Advocacy follows leadership and with practiced, ever-evolving leadership skills, participants will be prepared to actively advocate on key industry issues. Learn more about the ACE program and how you can build your local leadership skills here.