I sure had fun in the dairy booth last week at the fair. It’s always nice catching up with our producers and it didn’t hurt that I was surrounded by one of my favorite foods, ice cream.
After going to the fair, I thought my time would be better utilized in the office to get caught up on paperwork, but instead, one of the program technicians and I drove to Lake County to the 50th annual field day organized by the Nursery Growers of Lake County. What a great opportunity and group of people who put this event on and all who attended.
True confession: We both had heard of Lake County, but neither of us had visited there. (We were just relieved it wasn’t during their snow season — we heard they measure their snow in feet, not inches.)
Lake County is the smallest county in the state, but it is one of the highest ranked counties in Ohio in terms of income from agriculture because of its nurseries and produce farms. Interestingly, it is right next door to the largest county in Ohio, Ashtabula County.
When we arrived, we asked at least four people where our booth was and everyone gave us an answer toward a different direction. Finally, we arrived at our booth and would like to thank the gentlemen who helped us with our pop-up tent to keep us out of the sun, to all the workers and organizers of the event and to all the attendees who stopped at our FSA booth to see what we were about.
Some of the attendees had no need of our programs and/or services, so to some visitors, instead of talking about rules, regulations and deadlines, we took this opportunity to get the word out on what the Farm Service Agency does within USDA.
Most people think “meat inspectors or farmers” when they see USDA. When you tell them what percent agriculture is of the USDA budget, most people are shocked and they would start asking questions about FSA and its programs and customers.
They may not remember our names or even where they heard this, but I truly believe they will have an understanding of the importance of agriculture and the small amount agriculture represents in the USDA budget.
The People’s Agency
Over the years, we have built relationships with our farmers. We have listened to a wife who just lost her husband and didn’t know how to complete the government paperwork, or to the customer who just found out they had cancer or the farmer that is selling the dairy and making a transition to grain farming.
I believe FSA’s employees not only help customers understand the programs we administer, but they also care about their customers.
Often I have said, “I am from the government and I am here to help.” Most people chuckle when they hear that phrase, but I will then repeat, “I am here and I am here to help.”
That sincerity can be found by all FSA employees across the nation. As government workers, we tend to focus on procedure, guidelines and deadlines we have to adhere to, and as customers of a government office, you may focus on getting in and getting out.
I wanted to take a moment and remind us all that it’s OK to take the time to listen to that person that you come into contact with. Put down your phone, put away your agenda, put away your problems and listen to that person sitting across from you.
Next week, I’ll be off my soap box and will be talking about the COC election that is coming up.
That’s all for now,