Published Mar 26, 2019

From the Executive Director: Inspiration from PFI Leaders

By Sally Worley

I would love to bottle the energy, warmth and inspiration present at our annual meeting, to bring out on a day when I was feeling tired or lonely. The camaraderie that exists in this group is so prevalent at this meeting. Cultivating Connections was a fitting description for this time to get together, support each other, and learn. Words spoken during this meeting’s sustainable agriculture award presentation embody Practical Farmers and this meeting aptly:

Doug Alert and Margaret Smith with pfi sustainable agriculture achievement award

Doug Alert and Margaret Smith pose with the 2019 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award after the award ceremony on Jan. 18, held during Practical Farmers’ 2019 annual conference.

Mark Quee, farmer near West Branch and board member who presented the award to this year’s recipients, Doug Alert and Margaret Smith, long-time members who farm near Hampton, said, “In some ways, I can trace my involvement in Practical Farmers back to Margaret’s hospitality. When I was a new member and still trying to find where I fit in this organization, it was daunting to show up at a big event like this. Early on when so many faces were unfamiliar, I was always seen by Margaret. She acknowledged my presence, made me feel welcome and invited me into this vibrant community. I hope we can all follow her example.”

In PFI style, Doug and Margaret talked about what Practical Farmers has meant to them, rather than what they have done for Practical Farmers. You can learn about Doug and Margaret’s many contributions on page xx of this magazine.

Doug said, “When researching some esoteric agricultural detail, you are the first people I query. Google is second. When hatching one of my wild ideas, you are the people I use as a sounding board. When turning these ideas into research trials to verify my theory, you are the people who help me see the right question is being asked. Most importantly, when an idea fails miserably, you are the people I commiserate with. The value of community you have provided Margaret, whom I met at a PFI field day, and me is beyond my ability to adequately put into words.”

Margaret talked about the physical connections they’ve made as well, including buying heifers from Dick Thompson, breeding ewes from Torray Wilson, sheep netting from Walt Ebert, breeding gilts from Randy Hilleman, laying hens and boxes from Connie Tjelmland, and just last year, a rooster from Paul Willis.

Margaret encapsulated the important combination of things that make Practical Farmers a unique and meaningful group. She said, “You have an option to spend your time many different ways and groups, why PFI? The first thing about PFI members is their curiosity. Inquiring minds want to know. So many questions, you just can’t keep us from asking questions. Curiosity quotient here is amazingly high.

“The second factor of PFI members is their humility. We note that how we’re farming isn’t perfect, and we aren’t afraid to admit it. We know we can do better. This doesn’t mean we aren’t proud of what we do, but humility tempers pride and makes us more sympathetic real people.

“I love the cheerful spirit among PFI members. We always leave a gathering with some renewed spirit, an enthusiasm to go out and try to do it another year.

“The powerful sense of community is one of the main objectives and you achieve it wonderfully. Most members here are integral and active members of their own geographic community. They’re also members of the greater ag community and PFI specifically.

“The last characteristic of PFI members is a strong sense of spirituality. We are not of the same organized faith community, and it doesn’t matter. I think we come from perspectives on faith that embody and look at the aspects of faith that encompass love of land and love of community.

These are only excerpts from their powerful acceptance. You can watch the entire acceptance on our website. You can also find photos of the 720 smiling conference participants on pages xx of this magazine.

I will echo Margaret’s closing words in closing here: “Thank you for the combination of these characteristics that make you, you! Thanks for your curiosity humility cheerful spirit, sense of community, and spiritual perspectives!”

Humbled to be part of this group,