When I was elected president of Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) earlier this month, it was an incredible honor and a very humbling experience. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to adequately express my gratitude for those who supported my candidacy, but I’m excited to work with our members to advance KFB’s mission to strengthen agriculture through advocacy, education and service.

I have considered myself a farmer ever since my first ride on the combine, which was long before I was able to operate one by myself. From that formative experience, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life caring for the land, tending crops and livestock and raising my family.

About the time I was able to safely operate equipment on my own, I discovered FFA. It helped me better understand the world of agriculture extends far beyond the farm gate. My FFA adviser helped me discover my lifelong passion of promoting agriculture, both as a business and as a way of life.

After marrying my wife, Dana, I became a Farm Bureau member for the first time because I had to have insurance. I quickly learned the value of a membership went well beyond protecting our home, cars and farm. We thought we were buying protection from financial loss, but we had actually purchased comprehensive coverage securing our way of life.

As I began seeking out ways to advocate for agriculture, the Wilson County Farm Bureau stood out as a place where I could really make an impact for the industry and my community. My work there gave me the confidence to expand my leadership through civic groups, the local school board, a bank board, Kansas Farm Bureau committees and eventually representing southeast Kansas on KFB’s board of directors before serving in the Kansas House.

The support of my wife and our four children has been instrumental in allowing me to spend time away from the farm pursuing these opportunities. I have no doubt they will continue to support and counsel me as I take on this new endeavor. I use “we” to acknowledge all the help I’ve received from friends and family that’s helped me succeed over the years.

A big difference now is “we” extends to every border of Kansas. I am no longer a member of a local board, a district board or the Kansas House, all of which represented a part of the whole. I’m now tasked with helping ensure farms and ranches across the state – from Lenexa to Liberal and Bird City to Baxter Springs – prosper.

The challenges you face on the farm, the issues you see in your schools and the obstacles you notice in your community aren’t just yours, they’re mine too. We must view these as opportunities rather than barriers. I have no doubt Kansas Farm Bureau can solve the most vexing matters facing agriculture today because I’ve experienced firsthand how the organization’s grassroots structure keeps us at the forefront of what matters.

Of all the titles I’ve held, farmer is still the one I’m most proud of. I’ve come a long way from that first combine ride, but I’ve had plenty of help along the way. I’ll continue to rely on farmers and ranchers across the state to make sure KFB is successful as we tackle issues like water, taxes, regulation and more. Together we will represent all of agriculture.