Four years ago, I was asked to become a contributor to this column and had no idea that this would become a regular part of my world. I also didn’t realize how much fun it would be to share experiences and thoughts about farming, rural life, community and the lessons that have formed my values.

It hasn’t always been easy — balancing deadlines with a busy schedule, and the sometimes daunting task of coming up with something every month worth writing about that hasn’t already been done.

The most surprising part of this experience has been hearing about the impact of the column. I don’t think I have written a column yet that didn’t generate fan mail, a note from a friend or a conversation about how the column struck a note with a reader.

However, the biggest impact has been planting a seed that grew into a great program. In one of my first columns, I wrote about hosting an etiquette dinner for our collegiate Farm Bureau students to help them understand a prepare to follow etiquette in the working world.

After the column was published, I received an email from Beth Gaines, executive director of the Kansas FFA Foundation. She inquired if I would be willing to hold an etiquette dinner for the newly elected Kansas FFA Officers to help them better prepare for the business meals they would be attending during their year of service.

Plans for the etiquette dinner soon turned into a day of training focused on helping the student officers to prepare for all aspects of the business meetings and visits with sponsors or supporters in the year ahead. With the support of several businesses in the Pratt area, we put together an event that has become an annual training for the newly elected officers.

Most of the students come into the training far ahead of their peers as polished public speakers and great conversationalists. But these 18 and 19 year olds will be facing CEOs and elected officials; they will be expected to rattle off important facts, eloquently sharing personal examples of how FFA is impacting the future of agriculture and have the confidence to handle any situation they encounter. 

We train the students to prepare to lead conversations with powerful adults, to emotionally connect over common values with stakeholders and how to make sure to balance great conversation with a purposeful meeting. These are skills that a lot of adults don’t even possess; skills that will be valuable beyond their time in FFA setting many on the path to become CEOs and elected officials themselves.

Every time I hear someone talk about the lack of interpersonal skills in young people or how that they are too dependent on technology, I shake my head know it isn’t true. Here is a group of students who defy those expectations. The difference is that this group of students has been equipped to do the hard things. As someone who personally benefited from the same types of trainings, I am grateful to be the person teaching and coaching a new generation of leaders.

We often don’t see the impact we are making quickly or clearly. In this case, I am lucky to see how the words from this column sparked an idea that led to actions and outcomes making a group of people better prepared to help those around them.

Sharing my thoughts and experiences with all of you has been a joy. I hope my words continue to inspires great ideas and each of you to share your experiences and skills with the world around you.