I’m a new member of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, and a new farmer. I’ve been growing vegetables going on three years; first in Madison and now near Stevens Point. I haven’t had much personal exposure to local politics of any sort, unless you count paying sales tax and visiting one city council meeting in a high school government class. The Wisconsin Farmers Union annual convention changed that by offering an up close look at personal political involvement. In particular, the Groundswell seminar encouraged me to engage with the political process, and reminded me that I have something to add to how my community and my state are run.
The Groundswell seminar was a fascinating glimpse into the functioning of local government. The chance to speak to people personally involved in their county and city governments was inspiring, especially because the presenters were more like me than not. Some were my around my age, all were farmers, and all came to government not because they had years of political experience, but because they wanted to help shape their communities. Their examples showed me that I don’t have to wait years to get involved with local politics; they made it clear that I can, and should, start today.
The seminars weren’t the only highlights of the convention: the policy discussion was an exciting opportunity to engage with the union’s lobbying efforts, and the chance to meet other young farmers that I can coordinate with is always worthwhile. That being said, the convention’s political dimension strikes me as its most important, and it has influenced me the most since I returned home. Since then I have signed up to attend the Farmers Union lobby day on February 21st, I’m following our upcoming state and county elections more closely, and I’m attending my next town board meeting. All these actions had their beginning at convention, and were inspired by the discussions that took place there.
So how would I sum up my experience at convention? More than anything else, it was a crash course in political engagement. It offered the tools and information that we can use to play an active part in our communities. Most importantly, it reminded me that I started farming not just because I love to work with my hands, but also because I want to work to improve my community.