Thoughts from Jan Libbey and Greg Lipes
Practical Farmers turns 30 this year! In our spring newsletter, members reflected on Practical Farmers past and future. In this blog, new member Greg Lipes and long-time member Jan Libbey provide advice to new members on how to make the most out of being part of the organization. They also contemplate what is most important for Practical Farmers to preserve as the organization looks toward 30 more years of farmers helping farmers.
We joined PFI in 1994 in support of the group, a donation to a worthy cause. We got more involved with PFI as we got more directly involved with agriculture in the mid 1990s.I can’t even recall first memories. I suppose it’s more like an osmosis experience – absorbing the culture that pervades through the organization – always manifests in relationships – field day farmer to farmer, trouble shooting one on one, sharing insights in conference sessions, getting personally acquainted with each other’s farms and families, and watching kids grow up in the midst, experiencing staff that rely on the membership to give the direction, they providing the valuable technical support.
To connect to the strong network within PFI, I would encourage new members to expect that network and to contribute to that network – expecting that support to be there for them and expecting that they have a role, responsibility, and opportunity to perpetuate that culture.
There is an integrity and authenticity about the PFI that is unique among organizations. One might think that spirit of camaraderie could get diluted as the organization grows, but I have not experienced that. The fact that that culture is so prevalent speaks to its power. I don’t think we can take it for granted, however, that it doesn’t need care and attention.
What struck me about PFI and convinced me to join in 2014 was the culture of open information-sharing between farmers. I feel very fortunate to have a network of farmers available at my fingertips if I need to reach out to ask for advice. I really appreciate PFI providing the structure to bring different farmers together to learn from each other.
The listserves are a valuable resource! It is easy to type up a quick email and send it out to a targeted audience of people who may be able to help. I have later met several people face-to-face who either remembered me or I remembered them through postings on the listserve. By going to field days you start to recognize some of the same people who keep coming to the same sessions you do. Conversations naturally strike up and friendships are formed.
I recommend new members participate in the listserves both by asking and answering questions that are posted. If you have an opinion that is different from other folks are saying, respectfully put it out there. Go to as many field days that are related to your farming interests as you can. It’s a great way to put names to faces and learn a little bit while you’re at it.
One of my favorite PFI-related quotes is in Teresa Opheim’s signature. She quotes PFI co-founder and farmer, Dick Thompson as saying “That’s the latest word, not the last word.” I think this captures so much of the spirit of PFI. To constantly learn from each other. To challenge the status quo. To be able to amicably disagree. These things are the key to PFI’s continued success as it grows.