I was recently in a conversation with a group of people discussing challenges and opportunities that exist today. It is always easy to think we are living in the toughest time ever and question our ability to find the best way for society to move forward. With that said, generally, we do move forward when faced with challenges. From those challenges, opportunities often arise that make us better.

Why is that important? Well, as leader of an organization focused on representing grassroots efforts and the success of agriculture and rural communities, it is optimism that keeps us effective. In fact, in challenging times, it is organizations like ours that step up to keep us moving forward.

All of us have weathered tough times in our lives. One of mine was early in my farming career. It was the 1980s when interest rates were extremely high and profits on the farm, if any, were low. It was a struggle just to survive. Then I found Farmers Union. It was an organization where I could participate and find people with similar ideas and challenges. It was an organization that took the time to listen to me and the challenges I and others faced, and actively sought solutions – solutions that were legislatively, educationally and economically focused. Farmers Union fought for legislative solutions and borrower rights, added value to our commodities, and enhanced farm bill legislation.

It is easy to stand on the sidelines and not participate. Sometimes, it is hard to participate and take on the responsibilities of being a member or a leader. I look at it this way. The people who participate set the agenda and direction. The lack of participation is to accept outcomes without any input into the process.

I chose in the early 1980s to participate. I found the value to my farm and life was dramatically enhanced by my involvement in Farmers Union. The knowledge I gained and numerous events I was able to participate in has given my family success in our lives. The legislative representation, youth and adult education, cooperative businesses and other efforts have made my life easier and more successful.

We all know that challenges and opportunities come and go. We are aware that we have good times and bad. Being part of a membership organization, as I chose to do, helped us through tough times. It also created an environment for us to take advantage of numerous opportunities. In today’s complex society, we need participation by all. It is how we move forward.

You will find a home in North Dakota Farmers Union, if you choose to become a member and participate. We are creating tools that make it much easier to participate and communicate with the organization. Check out our newly released app! Your family will enjoy all the opportunities that our organization creates. It really comes down to you and your desire to participate. What I can promise is your voice will be heard and you will have an opportunity with other members to set the direction and future of our organization for the better.

— NDFU President Mark Watne