Quality Agricultural Education is Critical in Addressing Present and Future Agricultural Issues
Greetings from Wolf Creek! I am Lindsay Orem, and my husband Marc and I are raising three daughters at the Ox Bow Ranch, where we raise registered Angus bulls and run and breed commercial heifers. I spent 20 years as a teacher working in special education, technology, TAG and even some general classroom. For the past two years, I have been working with the Montana Ag In the Classroom Foundation as the Executive Director working to build the program’s reach and impact. My three daughters, Gracie, Sallie and Hattie all attend Augusta High School and are active in rodeo, volleyball, basketball, 4-H, FFA and anything else they can get involved in. We have been Farm Bureau members since 2014 and I served on the women’s committee in Ravalli County in 2015.
As I have been working to build Montana Ag In the Classroom, I am finding value in expanding my professional toolbox. ACE is allowing me to be more aware of my communication style and my need to stay informed on issues. Additionally, ACE assists me in connecting with agricultural stakeholders across the state, enabling me to understand the needs of teachers and students throughout the state. Being engaged in ACE as a producer gives me a voice and makes me think differently and more proactively. As we proceed through the program, I will be more focused and effective with my energies put forth in the communities we live in. I don’t set out with structured visions for change and improvement. I simply engage with the organizations we interact with and seek to have a positive impact where I can. Through these actions, I hope to leave things better than they were when I came and teach my children that contributing to our community is key to thriving schools and individuals. We cannot have the attitude that “someone else should or could do the good things for the community because I am too busy”.
Although there is an increasing number of important issues in agriculture today, the parent and educator in me cannot escape the concern for quality, well-intentioned education for our kiddos. Today, we can battle transparency, trade and increasing costs of every aspect of agricultural production. But I feel strongly that if we don’t build in funding for our schools to provide ALL our students with an education that is rich in agricultural knowledge, we will always battle the immediate issues. Funding agricultural programming in the state of Montana would accurately expose our students to information and experiences that will assist them in developing fair opinions of agriculture and our dependence upon it economically, environmentally and physically. Ensuring accurate information is provided in all Montana schools is an issue that I feel strongly about. We have 5,000 members of FFA in the state of Montana. That’s only 7% of our 67,000 eligible students in Montana in 7th-12th grade. Now more than ever, the general population understands the value of agriculture, but it’s our job to teach the story of agriculture and all that it entails. My involvement in ACE has helped me focus on that concern and start to communicate my concerns to legislators in ways that we can hopefully start to discuss viable solutions or pathways we can explore.
Pre-ACE enrollment, I found myself convinced of two things:
- I have too many commitments with my kids, husband, job and ranch to attend meetings and have enough knowledge and time to have a meaningful impact on community or county Farm Bureau meetings.
- People that have lived here longer and have more time and knowledge can take care of the issues and represent us.
Mid-Ace enrollment, I find myself wavering in these opinions. Yes, I am busy and have a lot of commitments, but part of those commitments need to be represented accurately at community and county levels- and I am no different than anyone. By not even attending local Farm Bureau meetings I am eliminating the opportunity to learn more and know more people. I am giving up my right to speak out, as questions and offer ideas. I still don’t know at what level I can commit to county-level engagements, but I am no longer of the opinion that I don’t have the knowledge or time earned right to give input.
Overall, I can conclude that ACE has already given my desire to make things better some focus and fuel. Although, I am sure my family is rolling their eyes, thinking “mom doesn’t need more fuel and things to do.” Hopefully, the focus will make me more effective in all aspects – not just drain my ability to keep up on “all the things.” One thing I do know, I can’t just pretend to be busier than my neighbor. If I care, I must be willing to respectfully and effectively share my voice and be willing to put thought and effort into possible solutions, understanding our country was built on individuals of differing opinions coming together for the greater good and finding common ground, which we aren’t very good at that these days. We need to just do better. As a parent, producer and educator; I want to be part of the solutions and be better. Through learning about our leadership styles and improving our advocacy skills, we can all do better.
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