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Warping young minds

By Jennifer M. Latzke

I am not a role model.

Please do not model life choices after me. Please consider me a cautionary tale. The fact that I’ve had any “success” at all is more attributed to luck, perseverance and tenacity than it is to any skill.

I mean it. I am not a role model.

Which is why, when my college classmate called me up to see if I’d speak in front of his Introduction to Ag Communications class at K-State, my first inkling was to tell him no. Despite his warnings to the contrary, I know that even in 40 short minutes I could warp their fragile little egos and have them screaming for the ag business department.

But I said yes. And here’s why.

Someone has to tell them what no one told me. And that is: There is no hip musical video montage between graduation and success at a career. It’s a lot of work, a lot of sacrifices and a lot of long hours. You have to repeat the interview-writing-editing process either weekly or monthly. If you’re lucky you might get a shiny award. And, if you’re really lucky, a reader might give you a pat on the back and recognize your name.

So, why do it?

Simply put, love.

It’s a love for the countryside and little one-stop-sign communities with cafes that serve the best cup of coffee for 50 cents. It’s a love for the people who choose each and every day to get up and feed livestock before going to their 8 to 5 job in town, and then come home to more fieldwork until long after dark. It’s a love for small town Friday nights where the whole county can be found in the stadium stands. It’s the smell of fall leaves, spring rains, winter snows and summer harvests.

What other career lets you sit on the tailgate of a pickup truck in the turn row of a cotton field and interview a farmer as the sun sets? What other job takes you to livestock shows, farm machinery shows and all manners of fairs and expos? Where else could your average day include riding a combine or traipsing through a feedlot pen or climbing a windmill all for the perfect shot?

And that’s what I’ll tell them. That they can’t be effective ag communicators if they don’t have a real passion for the people and the places that they cover.

You see, this job, it’s more than a paycheck. It’s a responsibility to the readers.

Someone will clip their work and frame it, proof that a quiet, unassuming father was once featured in a national magazine. Someone will share a link to their story over social media where it will have a wider audience than the choir. Someone will be inspired to try something new on his farm or ranch because of the research project they featured.

That policy or economics story they think is boring and pedantic will inspire someone to create a solution to a problem. Those pictures of the same kids and the same livestock in front of the same banners at the same fair will get clipped and added to record books. Those people they interview? Who knew they could become their friends?

Covering agriculture isn’t a fallback career path. It’s a calling. And it’s a pretty rewarding one at that, if they’re willing to put in the work.

So, here’s hoping I inspire their minds more than I warp.

Besides, they have to take statistics courses if they major in ag business.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

Date: 10/7/2013

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