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Listening, learning, leading
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Most people in agriculture know this time of year is meeting season. Everyone from seed and chemical companies to producer groups and government agriculture groups take advantage of this “down” period to educate, inform, and listen. Some meetings are designed to inform those attending while some are designed to listen to those attending. The best meetings do both. Several of these opportunities have occurred here at Barton recently.
 Over the last weekend of January members of the Collegiate Farm Bureau were afforded the opportunity by the Barton County Farm Bureau to attend the Annual Young Farmer and Rancher Conference in Manhattan. Thanks to that generosity, students were exposed to the next generation of leaders for Kansas agriculture. In addition they listened to agricultural leaders from Kansas and around the country. Finally, a series of programs designed especially for Collegiate Farm Bureau members from colleges around the state helped equip them with ways to spread the news of what agriculture is and does. These speakers demonstrated the efficacy of social media in helping the general public connect with the agricultural world and helping combat the myths and misconceptions constantly in the media regarding the production of food, fiber, and fuel. One session focused on the opportunities available to grow in leadership skills and experience. Perhaps most importantly, the conference not only demonstrated the importance of networking in the industry but allowed them a chance to start making connections.
 The second meeting occurred this past Thursday at the college. Twice yearly the advisory board for the agriculture program meets. This group consists of area ag business leaders, producers, and high school teachers and administrators. These meetings are not only vital for the mission of the program but help increase the awareness of the institution regarding the challenges and opportunities facing the agriculture industry. It allows the college to present what is being done, what we are thinking of doing, and how we can do it better. It allows the board members to express concerns, bring opportunities to the attention of the college, and evaluate what we are doing and what could be done better. The new Beef Cattle Production Certificate program is a result of their input. The input of the colleges various advisory boards helped the college develop the Essential Skills initiative to help students acquire the “soft” work skills employers value.
 When commentators speak regarding the changes in agriculture over the last fifty years they mention technology, pesticides, new varieties and other readily apparent items. What we sometimes fail to remember is that one of the biggest changes is the increasing organizational, leadership, and communication skills nurtured over the last half century.
 Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.