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To stay relevant, never stop learning

Continuing education should be a priority, no matter how much we think we know

Near press time for this issue of of Today’s Farmer, I had the opportunity to attend the 48th Governor’s Conference on Agriculture. (Look for coverage in the March TF.) The jam-packed schedule covered many different issues and opportunities facing farmers and agribusinesses like MFA. One particular session that piqued my interest, however, was a panel of Missouri cabinet members discussing “The Missouri Way,” a new management training program for government leaders.

I hadn’t heard about this program until now, and I admit I never really thought about the fact that our government officials might need training for their roles. But it makes sense. Many of our leaders are tapped for their positions out of the private sector with no previous background in public service. A program like The Missouri Way has never existed before in our state, and the goal is to train 1,000 managers and key leaders by the end of this year. Designed to ensure state leaders have the skills they need to best serve our citizens, the training sessions address problem-solving, team performance and leadership challenges.
It’s encouraging to know that the folks running our state government have recognized the need for continuing education and are committed to developing their skills. At MFA, training and education are also top priorities for both our employees and our members. All across our company, you can find employees who have made the commitment to further their training and education—not because they have to, but because they want to. Like the state government program, I guess you could call this “The MFA Way.”

Just last month, our annual Winter Agronomy Meeting provided employees with in-depth training on topics ranging from weed control and cover crops to conservation practices and precision agriculture. That meeting was followed by our Winter Buyer’s Market, featuring a wide range of products available through the MFA system.

Those events are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to educational opportunities offered by MFA at every level. Some training is required; some is volunteer. Some sessions are conducted in person; some are completed online. In fact, MFA employees have collectively completed more than 14,700 courses through the online “MFA University” training portal since its launch in 2017.

At MFA’s 2018 annual meeting, Board Chairman Wayne Nichols pointed out all the different educational opportunities the directors receive: board meetings, an interregional director exchange, director orientation and an annual legislative conference. “As a board,” Nichols said, “we have to put in the time to understand how things are evolving.”

Those who attended the annual meeting demonstrated a commitment to learning more about their cooperative and their industry. Many MFA employees also attend industry conferences and belong to professional organizations related to their roles in the company. For example, I and several of my coworkers belong to the Cooperative Communicators Association and the American Agricultural Editors Association. These groups hold annual conferences specifically geared toward those working for co-ops and ag media.

“Never stop learning” must be a mantra for today’s farmers, too. Agriculture is in an unprecedented technology boom that requires continual learning. The only way to keep up is to study changing trends and how they can help keep our farms productive, efficient and profitable. Learning keeps us relevant in this ever-changing industry.

For farmers, winter is a good time to gather information before the busy spring season hits. There are multiple opportunities to attend meetings and conventions, read magazines and literature, do online research and talk to neighbors and consultants. The experts at your local MFA are a good place to start. MFA not only offers opportunities for employee education, but also for our farmers, too. Field days, producer meetings, farm tours and training sessions are held all year long throughout MFA territory.

Learning is continual process—no matter how old we are, how long we’ve been doing our jobs or how much we think we know. I’ve been in agricultural communications for more than 20 years, and I’m still learning every day. But I know I can do better. How about you? Whether you’ve been farming for five years or 50 years, there are always new skills to learn, new techniques to adopt and new perspectives to consider. As the great basketball coach John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” And in a business such as agriculture, you can never learn too much.
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