Saturday, December 6, 2014

Never Forget Your Roots

It’s hard to believe in two weeks I will have completed my third semester of graduate school – seems like just yesterday I packed up my belongings and moved to Kansas. I guess it’s true what they say, time flies when you’re having fun!

With graduation peering around the corner, a growing number of people have started asking me what I will do after I graduate. The truth is I still don’t have a solid answer to that question. I’m learning not to place limits on what I can do or where life can take me.

Over the last several years I have had the amazing opportunity to travel and experience life in a variety of places including Milwaukee, Nicaragua, Manhattan, Brazil and, most recently, Ireland. While life has taken me to these places for a variety of reasons and for different lengths of time, I always take a piece of home with me wherever I go. The lessons I learned growing up have helped prepare me for a future that has no limits.

Thinking about the future can be nerve-wracking and brings with it all sorts of uncertainties, but I know that wherever life takes me my roots will always be planted firmly on the beautiful North Dakota farm where I was raised. No amount of miles can take those lessons away.

If I could offer one piece of advice to you it would be this- dream as big as you want but never forget your roots. The lessons you’ve learned along the way will give you a strong foundation to be successful wherever your dreams take you.

“There’s no forgetting my humble beginnings; where I’m going, God only knows” – Small Town Soul by Gwen Sebastian

P.S. Next week I’m launching a three-part blog series called Sustainability – A Global Buzzword to highlight my recent trip to Ireland. Be sure to check it out!

Until next time,

Saturday, May 3, 2014

It's About the Journey

Today I was prepared to be productive and finalize the second chapter of my thesis. Unfortunately, after eight hours of reading books and numerous articles all I have to show for my efforts is two lousy paragraphs and a messy desk.

As I was packing things up, discouraged and frustrated, I was reminded of this quote:

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow. -Mary Anne Radmacher

Life is full of days where things don't go as planned, but that shouldn't get in the way of you accomplishing your goals. Don't let a setback deter you from chasing your dreams. Life is about the journey just as much as it is about the destination, and I can assure you the journey will be filled with potholes, traffic jams, dead-ends, and detours along the way. But all of the experiences build character, and I promise the destination will be worth every curve ball thrown your way.

If you've experienced a frustrating day, week, month, or year, don't give up. Take heart knowing that tomorrow is a chance to try again. Don't lose sight of the destination, but remember to appreciate the lessons learned along the way.

Despite feeling defeated and frustrated, I can assure you that I will be back to work on chapter two again tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Living Life Intentionally

It seems like I'm asked about my plans after graduate school on a fairly regular basis. And to be honest, I don't know the answer to that question. There are so many things that I want to do that I can't pinpoint one specific thing.

People say your 20s are supposed to be the time of your life - time for you to figure out who you are, what you want to be when you "grow up" and a chance for you to establish your own beliefs. I'm only 23 so I don't know a lot about being a 20-something, but here's what I do know. While my 20s may be a chance for me to figure out who I want to be and what I want to do with my life, I refuse to let these years pass by without carefully considering the decisions I make. I want to live my 20s intentionally, with clear goals of what I hope to learn in the next seven years. I want to take advantage of these "golden" years, knowing that the choices I make will have a powerful impact on determining who I am and what I will contribute to this world.

Are you a 20-something who is trying to figure out what to do with your life? That's great! I encourage you to consider what you are passionate about, what motivates you and what you want to be remembered for. I challenge you to be intentional with the choices you make, the organizations you're involved in, internships and jobs you apply for, and even the people you spend time with. The choices we make during this time will have a profound impact on our future - personally and professionally. Don't let these years pass you by without letting them mold you into the person you are meant to be.

So while I don't know what I want to do after I graduate yet, I can assure you that I've set some goals for things I want to accomplish and learn before I turn 30. I am also planning to make more intentional decisions regarding my future. I hope you'll join me on my journey and make your 20s some of the best years of your life!

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." -Henry David Thoreau

Until next time,

Friday, January 24, 2014

2013- A Year Filled with Change

Let me begin by apologizing for neglecting my blog. I hope when you read this post you understand why I haven't written a post for a long time. My goal for 2014 is to blog at least once a month (I'm hoping it's more than that though!)

Change is the word that I would use to describe 2013. Let me tell you why:
  • K-State Graduate Student- Last spring I began to consider furthering my education with an online master's program. However, as I began to look more deeply in to graduate programs and visit with various faculty members, I realized that completing my degree on-campus would provide me with a greater learning opportunity. I received my letter of acceptance in the mail, but took a couple of weeks to think and pray about my decision. Going back to school would mean leaving the farm, my family and friends, and I would have to leave a job that I really enjoyed. I decided to take a giant leap of faith and moved to Manhattan, Kansas on August 18th. I just started my second semester towards a master's degree in agricultural communications at Kansas State University!

    For someone who rushed to complete my bachelor's degree in three years, most people are shocked that I went back to school. But in all honesty, I'm enjoying my time back in the classroom. I am being pushed and challenged more than ever before, and I'm loving it! The faculty and other graduate students in the program make it a great place to be. Living 12 hours from the farm has been extremely difficult, but I am thankful for supportive friends and family who continually encourage and support me.
    Special thanks to Scott Stebner for taking this photo!
  • Said Goodbye to RRFN- One of the major drawbacks to deciding to go to school in Kansas was having to leave a job that I enjoyed and say goodbye to the incredible Red River Farm Network team. I started interning for RRFN during the summer of 2010, and I will forever be grateful to Don and Mike for agreeing to take a chance and hire me. During my time as an intern and full-time employee I had the incredible opportunity to "Report Agriculture's Business" on a daily business. I am thankful for the support of Mike, Don, Randy, Jay and Karen as I made this difficult decision. The lessons I learned during my time at RRFN are ones I will never forget.

    First year at Big Iron with RRFN.
  • Promoted to Aunt- Perhaps the most exciting change this past year happened on November 26, when I became an aunt for the first time! The Topp team grew to 7 when Jackson arrived, and we couldn't be happier. I am so excited to teach Jackson as he grows, and I can already envision him out in the field and in the calving barn with his dad, grandpa and uncle. Being 12 hours away is even more difficult now that he is here, but I am so thankful for frequent picture updates and FaceTime. I spent every spare second with Jackson when I was home for Christmas break, and I can hardly wait to spend the entire summer with him. 
    So blessed to be Jackson's aunt
As you can see, the last few months have been busy and I've been trying to adjust to life as a college student again. January is often a time to reflect on the previous year and look forward to a new year filled with opportunities. Change can be a scary thing, but I speak from firsthand experience when I say it's worth it! In 2014 I encourage you to take chances, try something new, travel somewhere you have never been- I promise you won't regret it!

Making a big life CHANGE is pretty scary. But, know what's even scarier? Regret.

Until next time,


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Attack Your Fears

Fears -- we all have them. When we were younger it was fear of the dark or of the monsters our older siblings told us were hiding under the bed. As we mature we become unafraid of the dark and can go to sleep without checking for those monsters under the bed. While those fears may subside, as we mature, we develop new fears. Scared to be alone or scared to fail, scared to audition for the local talent show or scared to apply for the perfect job.

Regardless of the magnitude of our fears, the truth is they hold us back. But why do we let them? And what keeps us from overcoming them?

Here's a little secret- I'm scared of failure. I'm sure it's no surprise that, for this perfectionist, one of my fears is failure. But if I let my fear of failure get in the way of pursuing my dreams, what good is that? What will life be like in 10 or 20 years if I don't push my fear aside and pursue my greatest desires? I know that I don't want to wake up one morning realizing that my life is only mediocre, realizing that my life could have been extraordinary if I could have overcome my fear of failure.

What about you? What dreams have you pushed to the side, because your fears have got in the way? Do you, like me, find yourself wondering 'what if'?

  • What if you applied for your dream job? 
  • What if you went back to school? 
  • What if you went on your dream vacation or started your own business?  
  • What if you stopped wondering and faced your fear head on?

Whatever your fear, I challenge you to face it. Or, as someone recently challenged me, attack your fear.

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. -Eleanor Roosevelt

Attack your fear and stop asking what if. Don't let your fears keep you from living the life you imagined.

Until next week,

Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't Forget the Big Picture

Meeting season is coming to a close and for the first time in over two months I will spend the entire week in the office! I'll be honest, meeting season was a little overwhelming at times, but there's no question I loved the opportunity I had to visit with individuals about what's going on in agriculture. I kept hearing the same message over and over again...this is an exciting time to be in the agriculture industry, and I couldn't agree more!

I had the chance to visit with a rancher in South Dakota who shared some of the struggles he experienced with last years drought and heard about changes his operation has undergone as a result. Despite the challenges, he is optimistic that it's a great time to be in the livestock industry.

I visited with several North Dakota farmers who expressed their excitement about the coming year. Despite the challenges they faced with dry conditions last year, every farmer I visited with was optimistic about the future of the agriculture industry. Whether it's the technological advancements that are on the horizon or the immense opportunities for young people to pursue careers in agriculture, our farmers and ranchers are passionate about this industry.

I was privileged to meet a renowned speaker and futurist, who's excitement and passion for the future of agriculture are contagious. There's no question that it is a great time to be a farmer but this individual is certain that things for the agriculture industry will get even better!

I had the opportunity to visit with a agvocate who reminded me of the importance of sharing agriculture's story. Her passion for our industry and willingness to tell her story to others is truly inspiring me to look at ways that I can become a better agvocate.

There are some days when I forget the big picture. I get a little rundown and forget that being a part of agriculture is about more than a single person. As individuals in agriculture we all play a vital role in producing the food and resources our growing world needs and sharing agriculture's story.

So yes life has been a little hectic, but I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet individuals who are passionate about this industry. Life is busy and the future of the ag industry is bright...what more could a girl ask for?!

P.S. Tomorrow is National Agriculture Day. A day dedicated to recognizing the hard working men and women in the agriculture industry and a day that presents us with a great opportunity to visit with others about the contributions America's farmers and ranchers make around the world. I challenge you to thank a farmer or rancher AND find a way to tell agriculture's story to someone who might not know where their food comes from.
Happy National Ag Day!!

Until next week,

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sustainability- Agriculture's Buzz Word

Sustainability. A word that we are certainly hearing a lot more about. But what is sustainability? I think we can all agree that sustainability in agriculture is important, the challenge lies in determining a definition for this buzz word and taking a proactive approach at showing consumers that farmers and ranchers have always practiced sustainability.

I was privileged to attend the Bayer CropScience Sustainability in Agriculture Executive Course last month, and I came away from that course both excited and challenged. Growing up involved in agriculture I have had the opportunity to see sustainability in action from a very young age. Farmers and ranchers have always practiced sustainability; they work with the land and livestock and do their best to provide safe, delicious and affordable food to consumers while conserving the land and resources. And they do all of this despite many criticisms and increasing regulations. With the population expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050, there's no question that farmers are more sustainable today than they have ever been.

I want to share some of my key takeaways from the Sustainability course. It is my hope that these challenge you and get you thinking about sustainability and how we spread agriculture's sustainability message.

  • There isn't a clear definition for sustainability. We, as an industry, need to define sustainability before someone else does. If we don't take a proactive approach to sustainability, someone else will inaccurately define this critical term.
  • Growers don't necessarily want to use insecticides, pesticides, etc., because it's an added input cost. They only use these crop protection products when necessary. Consumers need to understand that producers don't overload on crop's expensive.
  • Don't put "sustainability" in a box. It's a strategy, a lifestyle really. We have to understand that sustainability has changed. What were considered sustainable practices for my grandfather's generation might not be the same as the practices my dad and brothers use on our operation today. We have to constantly be thinking of the future and how we can continue to conserve the land and resources.
  • Sustainability is a moving target. It has changed over generations and continues to change at a rapid pace. Again, we need to be thinking about future generations.
  • Sustainability is the ability to endure. If farmers and ranchers weren't sustainable we would not have the cheapest food source in the entire world. Sustainability is the peace of mind that when we go to the grocery store there will be food to feed our families with.
Although there's not a set definition for sustainability, I think we can all agree that sustainability is doing our best to produce the safest food possible using practices that will ensure the land is available for generations to come. Obviously agriculture has to be sustainable. If farmers and ranchers don't take care of the land, they don't have a job and their families won't have food to eat or clothes to wear. While we know that our industry is sustainable, we cannot assume consumers know that. We need to be flamboyantly transparent. We need to show consumers that we are acting in the best interest of our land and livestock, as well as, in the best interest of consumers and future generations.

"When people say you have a problem, throw open the door and show them you don't." -Temple Grandin