Moving Right Along

It’s been a while since I’ve updates this blog. At this rate I’m getting barely one post per month. Life has needless to say been crazy. So let’s try to wrap it up.

This month had a lot of focus on where the organization is going, and what each employee’s role will be in that future. The group began this strategic planning process with a one day event in Jamestown where we did the DISC personality training, and continued with a three day strategic planning trip to Minneapolis. I believe this process is critical to the future of the organization. The staff did intense work, brainstorming, problem solving and critical thinking. It was a lot of work, but left feeling excited about what’s to come. Here are a few pics.


As planting season gears up and the busy time starts for farmers, NDFU focuses energies on what the future will bring, trying to be proactive about issues and concerns that we have heard from our grassroots all winter. It’s probably the hardest part of work for me, because I so enjoy traveling across the state and meeting people, rather than sitting in a board room and discussing plans. However, this planning was a lot better than I anticipated, group discussion and problem solving, left me feeling part of the team.

Other parts of April that were pretty great for NDFU. NDFU is a sponsor of the 2.0 events that ND Rural Development has been putting on in rural communities across ND. I got a chance to attend the capstone event, what a great opportunity. The hosts of Planet Money on NPR were incredibly insightful about how to deal with an oil boom. If only they had been here about 5-10 years ago and offered their advice then, as the number one tip was “Go slow, you’re going to get all of the oil” I thought that was great. They also talked about saving funds, while investing in children. Great concept. Here’s a picture of the event.


While most membership events slow down, youth events tend to pick up. Now that’s not typically my department in the organization. However, I just happen to be in the right place, at the right time for this event. My mom is the new Emmons County Youth Director and she was hosting a skating event in Herreid. Now the person who was suppose to help her fell ill, so I decided to come home, calm her nerves and assist where I could. Needless to say, Mom did a great job, she a natural at these sorts of events, and my dad came down and visited with the crowd. Dad’s been a teacher in Linton for over 10 years and knows just about everyone. The event turned into a huge success in a large part to the rainy day outside, over 50 people attended. My mom just naturally took that role and ran with it, I’m very excited for her. She’s going to be a great youth director, and has a direct in with the school, my dad!

Now I’m going to show a picture of the event, and the girl in the yellow shirt is someone I  knew from my teenage years in Herreid. Her uncle John and I were in the same class, and when I left she was probably 4. Now she’s taller than I am and much older than she used to be. Ahh the reality that I’m not as young as I used to be, time flies so quickly.

NDFU also had a group of farmers and ranchers go on the fly-in. The group included two of the TAG state board members, Adam and Jen. From what I hear they had a great time, which makes me super happy. Adam and Jen work very hard for the organization and deserved a good time trip. Now it wasn’t all play, they did lobbying on the hill for farmers, ranchers and rural communities, mainly focusing on the need to pass a farm bill in 2012. They were also there as the Discovery space shuttle came to the Air and Space Museum, and board member Wes Neiderman snapped this photo. How cool to be a part of history!


So at NDFU while things pick up for farmers and ranchers, we are moving right along. We are taking all gathered info and compiling into a plan for the future, starting with Measure 2 events near you. A plan to be proactive, a plan to ignite grassroots efforts, and a plan centered around you. While it might not be anytime soon, I’ll see you on the road!



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It’s almost April?

What happened to March? It’s gone. Apparently, I’ve been busy traveling. It has been a great month, starting in DC and ending with my first weekend off this month, I intend to relax as much as possible.

I got the chance to travel across the state from Hettinger to Park River, and many spots in between. Let’s start with the week after DC. The Monday after I returned I got in the car and headed down to a shop talk in Hettinger. Now I had been playing phone tag with Bruce Hagen from down there in Adams County for some time and was thrilled to meet him, after months, in person. We had a great discussion down there. Talking about Meausre 2, the HSUS petition (that is now a measure) and the upcoming Farm Bill.

The shop talk participants

The sun sets on Hettinger

So that night I left Hettinger and stayed in Bismarck. Got up the next morning and began the journey to New Rockford where I got to meet with a Regional TAG group. What a hoot they were, by the end of the meeting they wanted to make flasks with their name on them. I don’t know if that will happen, but the energy of the young members is refreshing and much welcomed. The next day I traveled to McKlusky to meet with another Regional TAG member, where I got to meet the famous Wyatt ( my friend Denise Brown’s grandson), he was not a fan of me. Very unsure of this person coming out to his farm, who he had never seen before. He is as cute as Denise says he is, and very much protective of his mother. It was a great day meeting, and a perfect opportunity to meet Wyatt.

The cows were basking in the sun on that day in Sheridan County.

The following week I ventured the long trail to Valley City. HA! I meet with Yolanda and her Regional TAG people. We got to eat at the Pizza Corner, now I love that pizza, but it’s always better when you go to the restaurant. I just can’t figure it out. It was delicious. Also, I headed down to Berlin and met with some of the most wonderful people, the Just’s. They are so welcoming, sincere and honest. I can’t say enough good things about this family.  I first got a chance to meet Christoff and Kelli through the FUE program, and now I was hoping to get them on board with regional TAG. Well if time would’ve let me I’d have stayed there all day and visited. However, life makes demands. I so look forward to working with them in the future.

On Friday of that week I got to head up to Park River for the annual Walsh County Casino Night. This is quite the event. Games, door prizes, rolette wheels, and Scott and Faith making sure that no one was thirsty. The steak was incredible, hit the spot after a long week of traveling. I always clear my calendar for this one, because it’s always worth it. I got a chance to meet some new people and connect with (now) old friends. The worst part of the whole event was driving. I decided I was going to try and get all the way home. The fog was thick the entire way home, luckily I’ve taken this trail a time or two and made it back all in one piece.

The next day I headed out to Burleigh County, near Menoken, for a shop talk at Val and Randy Rybergs. Now these two I had met at a shop talk a year before, now not only had they attended TAG events, got selected to go on a fly-in and won a trip to Vegas, they were hosting their own shop talk. That’s the beauty of these events, you never know who you will meet that will make all of the difference in NDFU. Even a few insurance agents came out to join us at this shop talk, what a great discussion we had. Denise even brought Wyatt, who is still leary of me, but it’s getting better now. Also, I got to talk politics with Arlene, she is one of my favorites. We could talk for days.

Sometimes as I travel across the state I just have to pull over and take a picture. This state is just so beautiful. These are some “happy” cows in Burleigh county.

This past week I began winding down my intense traveling season for this year with a trip to Elgin. I think I’ve been to Our Place Cafe at least three times, thank goodness Matt Neiderman was there to help me this time with the menu and specials. However, he told me next time I plan a meeting there I should make it for a Monday, as that is Knephla soup day, sounds like a great plan to me. Jane and I met with Linda Koepplin and Matt. It was actually pretty cool because as we were meeting with them, Kathy, who serves on the Grant County board, came to the cafe and stopped to say hello, and a shop talk attendee from the year before just happen to stop in the cafe that day for lunch. I remembered him as the kid on the end of the table who busted out the hard alcohol. My oh my the people you meet along the way! It was a fun time. Here’s the Farmers Union elevator in Elgin.

Jane and I then headed to visit Shane in New Salem, along with Salem Sue. Pie and ice cream in the afternoon to top off a great day.

The week finished off with Terri’s regional TAG group coming to Jamestown last night. This group was a riot. I walked in the room and they were laughing, having a good time and acting as if they were old friends. Now a few of them have met each other before, or at least been at the same event. As I sat back and watched them interact, I realized what a good thing this Tomorrow’s Ag Generation program is going to build. Lifelong friendships with people who share the same passions. They thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and began talking about event ideas. That’s my dream for TAG, young farmers and ranchers making connections and having a unified voice to stand up for agriculture. Building friendships, creating awareness and speaking out. Last night I felt that happening in that room. It’s a big step forward, that I am very excited to be a small part of, and it’s just the beginning.

Spring’s right around the corner, along with heavy planting and spraying. While it won’t be nearly as often, I’ll see you on the road.

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Take It All In

Last week, all week, I was in our nation’s Capitol with my RLND classmates. To be honest with you I wasn’t looking forward to the trip, as I had to help plan the trip and have been talking about it for two months. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The trip proved to be an incredible way to bond with my classmates, as well as, visit old friends.  Now I lived in DC for a brief stint of only three months, about 5 years ago, and it was fun to come back.

The first day we arrived and went on the Old Town Trolley to visit all of the monuments. Normally I would’ve been bored to death with this, I’ve seen them all, more than several times. But I was PUMPED to see the MLK memorial, something new and fantastic. If you’re ever in DC definitely check out this one. 


The following three days were jam packed with meetings. We met with the USDA, Department of Ed., National League of Cities and the ND Delegation. That was very fun, as we had a chance to see Dakota. We also got to be hearing crashers in the Senate Ag hearing, their main focus that day was local foods and feeding America that way. The hearing was run by none other than Debbie Stabenow Democrat from Michigan. On a NDFU Fly-In that I attended in 2006 I had the pleasure of meeting her. She is well versed in agriculture as Michigan surprisingly has quite an extensive agriculture community.  It was interesting discussion and Sec. Vilsack was testifying, all in all good educational material.


On Friday we had a chance for some free time. The group toured the White House, and then we were on our own. I went and met up with a friend at the Dubliner. Then that evening the RLND group went to Capitol Steps, a comedy skit designed around political mishaps. They make fun of both political parties, if you are into politics at all and looking for a great show I’d highly recommend it. That evening went and met up with friend that I hadn’t seen in five years! We spent the night reminiscing and creating new memories.

The thing that struck me the most was how much people don’t know about government. I call my representative and senator quite often, try to every week. I had no idea people didn’t know they could do that. Or how farmers and ranchers have national organizations working in DC on their behalf everyday, they’re there and they work hard for you! So get involved, pick up the phone, because while it’s great to go to DC and see the ropes, it’s even better to offer your input from back home. Because back home is what counts!

Shop talk tonight in Hettinger and Regional TAG meetings tomorrow. I’ll see you on the road!

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Building and Building

This past month has been about building across North Dakota Farmers Union. Many programs are finally starting to come together, after a year of hard work. I know in retrospect it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve got a long way to go, but after a good year it feels like we’re making some great progress. The WILD program proved to be incredibly fruitful, Rhonda has decided to join TAG. She will be an incredible asset to the team. Brick by brick it will all fall into place, it is going to take a lot more time, a few more roadblocks and some bumps, but I think we can build it. It’s the members along the way and young leaders that you meet that make it all worth it.

On Feb. 15th Judi and Jeff Hintz had a shop talk near Tappen. What a crew! They were all very sharp and on their feet, and well informed. Great discussion about concerns regarding Measure 2, zoning and various other subjects led me to stay an extra hour than I typically do. Time flies when you are having great disucssion. Plus let’s face it I could talk about those things all the time.

Also this shop talk was a first time in another way. I had two people join the organization that evening. I owe that in a large part to Judi who spoke about why she joined the organization and became involved. Nothing is more honest then hearing someone you trust give their testimony.

The most rewarding part was one of the people that joined the organization that evening ended up coming on the TAG getaway retreat on Sat. Feb. 18th in Fargo. Judi and Jeff came too. We had 30 growers and ranchers from across North Dakota come for a one day getaway. They got a chance to tour IAP in Casselton with Scott Sinner, hear a marketing seminar from NDSU Marketing Specialist Frayne Olson and then enjoyed dinner and a comedy show. The best part for me was to see the members enjoying the trip and building new friendships. The connections are what counts and they were started that night. It was also a fun time to see all of my friends! I got a chance to hang out with the many incredible people I have met along this farmers union journey, it’s the members that make this job so worthwhile. Working for the family farmers and ranchers in rural communities, who I think maintain a very unique and special way of life in this country. Thanks for all that you do!

Here’s to you! I look forward to working with all of you in the future.

See you on the road!!

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Nothing can describe how wonderful this week has been, but WILD. WILD is NDFU’s new women’s program, Women In Leadership Development. Well it’s not very new, Jane Opdahl and Vivian Hernandez spearheaded the project beginning in the early part of last year. I remember the very beginning meeting in Bismarck, over lunch discussing logistics, how it’s going to run and what we’d like to see in the future. Those ladies have taken an idea and made it an incredible program.

We started out this week in Minot at the Taube Museum. What a beautiful place, never even knew that was there. I got to see one of my TAG members Jen Teigen, always go great to see Jen! Another wonderful young lady that showed up was Monica Norby, just saw the ad in the Union Farmer and came because she wants to get more involved in Farmers Union, we made friends quickly. We had delicious food, from a local caterer, even better! It was a young couple, she is originally from Minot. They  met in cullinary school and always dreamed of having their own restaurant. They finally built it and got all of the finishing touches done, two days before the Minot flood. The flood wiped it out entirely. She then shared how they have pressed on and hope to open another restaurant someday, persistency is key.


We then had our keynote speaker, Liz Johnson the National Director of Rural Leadership for the White House project. She was very encouraging of women to not only get more involved in leadership roles, but to take note and recognize how much they are a leader in everyday life. Women are under-represented across the board, business, politics, nonprofits, you name it, the national average for women leadership is 17%. North Dakota is 46th out of the 50 states for women in leadership, c’mon ladies we can do better than that!

Jane then told her story. Jane is one of the very few female elected officials in ND, as she holds a city council position in her local community. Jane was a great inspiration, and gave everyone a message, if I can do it why not you?


The Jamestown event kicked off at the Jamestown College campus by listening to Myra Watts, who is the director of the character in leadership program for JC.  She brought with her two young ladies who are about to complete the program, oddly enough I knew both of them. Mallory had been the NDFU intern last summer and her and I went shopping for decor in Bismarck together and Megan had been awarded an AAUW scholarship to attend the conference in DC and being on the board I had seen her presentation. Awesome!

The two young woman got to say a few words, but the message that stood out to me was remember how you influence others. Whether you enter a group with a smile or a frown, you are influencing others. Thanks for the reminder ladies, JC is very lucky to have you two leaders on their campus.

I also got to meet a very vivacious young woman named Rhonda, she too had just saw the ad in the Union Farmer and decided to come. She looked about two years older than me, turns out she is a mother of four, her oldest being 14, and I will never forget her comment over supper, “Man, it’s nice to have a hot meal.” The things I take for granted being childless, HA! She emailed me immediately the next day and is trying to schedule a shop talk and come to a young producers event I’ve got going. WOW! I am very excited to see the things she will accomplish going forward.

Liz made everyone stand up and introduce themselves, where they were from and how they led. Well through this little exercise we found out that we had Mrs. ND in the room, how cool. When I said I lead by listening everyone thought that was a great joke, which it was, but it is something I’m trying to work on.

So all of you WILD women out there go to facebook and find our “Women In Leadership Development” page, like us and learn about events coming to you. I cannot tell you how positive of a week I’ve had! I feel empowered, inspired and ready to conquer the world, and I’m going to!! And YOU can too!

HOPE to see all of you WILD women on the road!


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On Monday night I was down in Hettinger County in Lefor doing a shop talk. Now I LOVE shop talks, it’s a chance to listen to people, meet new faces, visit with familiar faces and just relax and have fun with NDFU members. I always come away from them feeling so refreshed about all of the work NDFU does for its members. This shop talk was exceptional. My co-worker Pam Musland and I went together because Curtis and Michele Wax had so many people we had to split the group in two, what an awesome problem to have. Pam and I had great discussion on the way home, leaving me enthusiastic about the upcoming year.

Last night I watched the movie “Bobby”. If you can’t already guess it was about Robert Kennedy and had 22 characters who were all intertwined with the event, mostly people who were around the hotel that day and the movie went through their lives and shed some incredible light on how life was back then. I cried a lot during that movie, it’s like the event happened that evening. RFK was such an inspiration to so many people, he stood for equality and peace, a message we could use today. The way the movie portrayed the event the viewer can’t help but think, what if? One particualr character Dwayne, was an African-American organizer for RFK and the quote I remember from his mouth hours before it happened was, “Now that someone assassinated the King, Bobby is our only hope.” While the story of the characters is fiction, that very well could’ve been the spirit and thought of many people during that time period. Unfortunately, this hatred and violence still spreads like a wildfire today with the recent tragedy that happened to Rep. Giffords and the other innocent victims that day.

However, at the very end of the movie they had one of RFK’s speeches about how we must press on for equality, peace and an America to be proud of. I couldn’t agree more, a person can be killed, but an idea can never die.

As I went to bed that evening I was finishing up my book for my RLND class and at the very end of the book they had the Paradoxical Commandments. How very fitting. Here they are:

1. People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered. Love them anyway.

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.

7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for underdogs anyway.

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.

10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth (or shot). Give the world the best you have anyway.


Tonight I’m off to Wapheton to meet with Richland  county members then off to Fargo for RLND the rest of the week. Remember do good anyway for an idea can NEVER die!

See you on the road


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January in Jamestown

Other than a three day trip to Las Vegas for work January has been all about Jamestown. It has been a real treat. It began in the very first week of the new year that the RLND class was in Jamestown, we toured Cavendish, Goodrich, NDFU (of course!) and the new Regional Medical Center. It was so great to “show off” my hometown. Mayor Anderson even stopped in to welcome the group. I remember feeling so enthusiastic to tour places that are part of my hometown and grateful to live in such a wonderful town in North Dakota.

This past week NDFU was host of a Precision Ag Action Summit. Wow, what an educational opportunity. The panelists and speakers talked of great things coming down the line in agriculture, mapping, technology, tracking your farm on your phone, GPS  guidance technologies and many other topics.

Precision agriculture uses satellite images and GPS information to determine the proper applications of farm chemicals, seeds and fertilizers for each portion of a field. It is an evolving science.

My favorite speaker was Lowell Catlett, Futurist and Dean of the College of Agriculture at New Mexico State University, who kept saying “This technology will blow your doors off.” He also did a great job of bridging generational gaps, demonstrating how technology can be embraced at any age.

Carla Edinger, Matthew Leiphon and I had the pleasure of registering all of the participants, overall nearly 250 people attended the event.
The best part was having to run around the building and find more chairs. As an organizer of events I ALWAYS love having that problem.
Then on Monday afternoon Senator Conrad stopped by to talk about the upcoming Farm Bill and the budget crisis in Washington, and how it will affect the future of agriculture.
Overall the event was a great opportunity to meet new people and be educated about the technology possibilities in agriculture. After the Precision Ag Summit, the NDFU Board of Governors began. It was essentially meeting week this past week. What a great opportunity to catch up with the NDFU county presidents and get feedback from them about the event and discuss possibilities for NDFU in the future.
Now it’s off to Minot tomorrow for the first in the many series of shop talks. I am very excited, this is my favorite time of year. Back to the grassroots, to hear, listen and learn. Getting out and visiting with members is the most fun that I have all year.
I’ll see you on the road, probably sooner than later.


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