This past week, I was fortunate to serve as a voting delegate for Nebraska Ag Educators and attend the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Professional Improvement Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. At this conference agricultural extension professionals gathered from across the nation to gain leadership development and increased knowledge of agricultural issues. The presentations and networking with colleagues across the nations sparks ideas, concepts and programs to bring back home. There were several excellent programs and concepts I am excited to implement in Nebraska and locally, which will not only be a benefit to Nebraskan’s and the clients I serve, but make me a better educator. From agricultural literacy initiatives to youth development programs to new and emerging trends in production agriculture, this is always a highlight of my professional career.
Also, this conference provides a renewed sense of purpose and reminds me what it is that I do. To some, all the county extension office does is conduct a county fair. It always amazes me how one week out of the year, extension is judged on the quality of work conducted. Don’t get me wrong, county fair is important, as it is one of the culminating activities in a youth’s project and allows them to showcase their hard work and dedication that is important. I enjoy seeing projects, both livestock and static exhibits, that youth have been describing to me and talking about for months. Seeing the pride in their eyes as they exhibit their project is awesome! The volunteers we have in Fillmore County are amazing and greatly appreciated. It is great having volunteers that have ownership in the 4-H program and we have countless volunteers who contribute many hours of hard work for the greater good of the 4-H program. To those, I cannot thank you enough!
At my conference, Walt Coleman resonated to me quite well, especially after coming off county fair. Coleman is a fifth-generation businessman in the dairy industry and currently serves as controller for Hiland Dairy. Coleman has also officiated NFL games for 25 years. You can probably guess as an NFL referee, he has experienced his share of negativity! One of the quotes that stuck with me includes, “All we can be is the best we can be” and reminded us to focus on the positive, not negative.
We often will never quite know the impact we’ve had on one’s life. I went into Extension in order to make a positive difference in the lives of those I serve. While it is not usually visible, I sure hope that what I do is making a positive difference and that I leave this world a better place. My parents instilled in me the importance of giving thanks to those whom have made a difference or went out of their way to do something that didn’t have to be done. Let’s reach out to others in a positive manner and be thankful what we have, rather than tearing others down with needless “put-downs” and poor sportsmanship.
In conclusion, with all of the negativity and challenges our world faces, let’s strive to work together, rather than against each other. Let’s be a part of the solution, not the problem and display positive character traits for our youth’s sake. I’d like to end this column with a quote by Henry Ford that sums up what I’m trying to express, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is a success.” We have so much to be thankful for and let’s not loose sight of that. Thanks again to all whom have contributed positive youth development to the 4-H and FFA programs!