I was walking through a major hardware store several weeks ago. It is not unusual for someone to stop and talk to me about Farmers Union.

This particular individual said, “Hey, you are that Farmers Union guy.” When I get this response there are many thoughts that race through my mind. I never know what the next question will be. It could be positive, negative or someone that simply recognized me from the Union Farmer.

In this case, it was someone who recognized me from my picture in the Union Farmer. I asked the individual if he had read something that he liked or maybe disliked. I got an answer that I was not expecting. He simply said, “I really only look at the classifieds in the back and I am not really into that political stuff.”

Currently, I am fortunate to be “the Farmers Union guy,” as far as a picture in the Union Farmer goes, but this statement is very inaccurate. In Farmers Union, all of our members are the “Farmers Union guy or gal.” This is what makes North Dakota Farmers Union great and successful. Our members participate and get involved in society.

I can appreciate many individuals who find it convenient to try and avoid politics, as it can be challenging and disappointing. The theory that by ignoring this responsibility in a democracy means you are not part of the system of government is not true. In fact, by ignoring or maybe even not voting, you are supporting the prevailing side. This is OK if you agree with their positions but if not, you simply are empowering them as they assume you agree by not being vocal on the issues you find important.

The United States is a system of self-government which simply is a system in which the citizens of a country (or smaller political unit, such as a state) rule themselves and control their own affairs. We do select, by vote, representatives that make decisions for us in the larger setting. It is this process that we call political, and it is essential that each of us participate or we lose the concept of self-government.

Farmers Union is similar to our self-government. Those who show up and participate determine the policies and the actions that our organization works toward. I, as the current Farmers Union guy, strive to effectively achieve these policies and actions. This means working with the board and members, hiring an effective staff, developing projects, designing activities, representing the membership, overseeing our many businesses, and making the best day-to-day decisions for the greatest impact.

I take this responsibility with great honor, and I am proud to represent our membership as the Farmers Union guy. With that said, I know all members of this organization are the Farmers Union guys and gals.

I welcome any chance I may have to visit with people about Farmers Union. I was told by previous presidents that you never are not the president of Farmers Union. It is a 24/7 position.  So, if you approach me and want to discuss Farmers Union, please be prepared to have me encourage you to take the time to participate in our organization and in society.

— NDFU President Mark Watne