If you want to stay on the farm, you have to get off of the farm.

Often, that’s easier said than done. With chores, family, bills, repairs and all the other draws of life, it’s easy to not get involved in any other organizations. But if you don’t get off the farm, you may not have one to stay on.

Here are my three reasons why you need to get off the farm.

1. Opportunities abound.

If you don’t attend meetings, you’ll never find out about the new open-space funds available until after they have been awarded to someone else. My father had the foresight to get involved with 4-H, the historical society, the county commissioners, the fair board, the Department of Wildlife and others. Because he knew the people and they trusted him, he became part of the solution for the ever-expanding subdivisions near his farm. He afforded them open space — which gave him the opportunity to safeguard and nurture the environment as only a farmer can do — as well as provide quality of life for area residents. He made money and they got their park-like space. But none of this would have ever happened if he had stayed at home on the farm.

2. Learn new stuff.

We get so busy with our everyday chores and life that we don’t get exposed to new ideas. For the last 15 years, our dairy-tour group (organized through leadership at Colorado StateUniversity) has traveled to half of the states in the U.S., visited Mexico, Germany and the Netherlands. This has allowed us to gain first-hand knowledge of what’s happening in other regions, including their issues and strategies used for overcoming the array of constantly changing obstacles that agriculture faces. It’s also a great opportunity for a little R&D.  (In the marketing world, this stands for Research and Development, but in our world, it means to “Rob and Duplicate” the best ideas.) Learning new methods and adopting new technology gives you the best opportunity to keep your farm. The world is changing whether we want it to or not.

3. Rules get made.

How about a setback of three miles between your dairy and its nearest neighbor? Imagine the cash resources required to buy that many acres for a new dairy to meet this requirement. Local zoning and planning commissions routinely hear that agriculture is a nuisance — with potential for dust, water pollution, flies, noise, slow-moving vehicles, runoff and so on. They often respond to these squeaky-wheel complaints by passing rules that you or your children may have to live with in the future. Only by being at the meetings and telling agriculture’s side of the story can we minimize the adoption of rules that force agriculture out of the area, or even out of the country. It may seem easier at the time to skip the dreaded politics and just milk the cows, but the country is run by those who show up. Will it be you?

It’s your future

There will always be other people who show up at meetings, get the funding, adopt the latest technology and make up new rules that are favorable to them and not you. If you want your agricultural business to have a future, it’s up to you to step up, become involved and create something better.

It’s pretty hard to know what’s out there that you could use to make a better life or business unless you get up and seek it. So, if you want to stay on the farm, you have to get off it.

Mary Kraft dairies with her husband, Chris, near Fort Morgan, Colo.