In the aftermath of an election you’ve probably heard someone remark, “If you didn’t vote, don’t complain.” You may have even said it yourself. The notion is that if you’re not doing what you can to affect an outcome, you shouldn’t criticize.
So as the new year kicks off, besides resolving to get more exercise or check off an important item from your “to-do” list, why not decide to get more involved in strengthening Florida agriculture?
No matter the size of your operation, you can make a difference. It takes time and effort, but the investment pays dividends.
Industry groups like FFVA provide a voice
Start by getting involved in an industry organization. An association or trade group leverages the strength of its membership to advocate for agriculture and accomplish things that producers could not do on their own.
Yes, individual growers make a positive difference in many ways for their companies and communities. But the broader and more critical the issue, the louder the voice must be to be effective.
Collectively, growers and allied industries can help to shape agriculture policy at the local, state and federal levels.
Membership in an agriculture organization and participation as a volunteer leader are significant ways to give back to the industry.
FFVA members say there is strength in numbers.
“I can’t imagine a farmer or agricultural business today not being involved in FFVA. The value in being part of FFVA is enormous in that the communication and level of expertise exceeds any other organization that’s out there,” said Keith Mixon, FFVA chairman and president of Dole Berry Company LLC. “They can act on our behalf in a bigger, broader way than we can as an individual company.”
Work with elected leaders
Establish a relationship with your elected officials, whether it’s a county commissioner, a state representative or a congressman. Elected leaders welcome the chance to get to know their constituents.
You can help educate them on agriculture’s economic strength, the jobs it creates, and the role growers play in preserving natural resources. You also have the opportunity to tell them how their decisions affect your business.
Meet with them at their district offices to introduce yourself and offer to be a resource on agriculture-related issues. That sets the stage for a good working relationship.
The result? When a hot-button issue arises, you’ve already made a connection and you’re not picking up the phone for the first time to urge support or defeat of a piece of legislation.
Finally, be sure to thank them when they’ve worked on a bill or ordinance that would benefit agriculture—or when they’ve worked to defeat one that would be to its detriment.
Look for leaders of tomorrow
Another way to help ensure the future strength of the industry is to identify and mentor young leaders.
Maybe there’s a standout young employee in your organization who has a lot of potential. Challenge him or her and provide opportunities to learn.
FFVA recognizes the importance of cultivating leadership potential with its Emerging Leader Development Program.
Now in its second year, the yearlong program selects a dozen or so young people from a variety of industry sectors and areas of the state. They get an in-depth look at critical issues facing the industry.
Class members visit legislators and state officials in Tallahassee during the legislative session. They also tour a variety of production areas in Florida and California to learn about crops and ag businesses other than their own.
They graduate from the program equipped to be better advocates for Florida specialty crop agriculture.
There’s nothing wrong with shedding a few pounds in the new year or tackling projects you’ve put off. But consider following the lead of so many by getting involved.
For more information about becoming a member of FFVA, visit ffva.com and click on “Membership,” or call (321) 214-5200.
Lisa Lochridge is the director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland. She can be reached at (321) 214-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.