Knowledge is power at New Century Farmer

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By Steph Kasper

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”

This famous quotation from George Washington rings true to many of us with our roots intertwined in agriculture. As agriculturalists, we strive for better knowledge and innovations that improve our efficiency and the quality of our products. However, we must realize that the ability to gain knowledge doesn’t come to those who do not seek it. Growing up on a dairy farm instilled in me the ability to find knowledge, whether it was through doing, listening, watching or classroom learning. I was always thirsty for more knowledge. The concept of learning is something we are born with, yet the thirst for knowledge is something we acquire, and often times that happens without us knowing it. I believe that agriculturalists have a strong yearning for lifelong learning.

As I applied for the New Century Farmer conference, I hadn’t put into perspective the past learning experiences I had and how those experiences had continuously increased my passion for agriculture through learning. Once I had been accepted to attend the conference, I began to wonder what the weeklong conference had in store for me and the other participants. I knew about the conference because my older brother attended in 2006, and it had always been a goal of mine to attend. Although the participants had heard of the conference through many different facets, we all were attending for a similar reason: to learn about agriculture. And that we did!

As the conference progressed, we were able to meet with other conference attendees, discuss our farming operations and interact with presenters and facilitators. Something that I learned: Everyone had a different story, a different farming operation and different innovations they were putting to use each day on their farms. Even though many joked they were “getting out of making hay,” we all knew that being a participant at the conference would bring us back to our home farms as more knowledgeable individuals. 

One of the greatest attributes of this conference, aside from further developing our agricultural knowledge and passions, was networking. Each day we would sit by someone new during the day sessions, meet new presenters and be exposed to new topics and participate in discussions.

Upon acceptance to the conference, I may not have reflected on my past learning experiences, but at the conference we reflected each day. Some reflections were geared toward our farming operations and some toward our individual goals yet all made up for a large part of our overall learning while at the conference. I went home with high aspirations, as I accomplished some of my goals I had made during our daily reflections, as I’m sure many other participants did.

I honestly never knew. I never knew that I would learn so much from each participant I met and got the chance to know. I never knew that I would develop so many goals, challenges and aspirations for my family dairy farm. I never knew that I was so passionate about learning…until I went to the NCF conference.

There is also something special that you will find you never knew, but to in order to find out what that is, you’ll need to apply for the conference. Seek knowledge and share your own with NCF participants. As farmers, we know that it is great, as George Washington said, to be home on the farm; first we must seek more knowledge to take home to our farms and become even more valuable assets. It is amazing how much you will learn from this conference, and I absolutely look forward to attending as an NCF alumni.

Steph Kasper is a senior agricultural education-leadership and communications major at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.

 New Century Farmer is sponsored by DuPont Pioneer, CASE IH, CSX, Farm Credit and media partner Successful Farming as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. Applications for the 2014 conference will go live in December. For more information about the program, contact Ryan Amaral, ramaral@ffa.org.