For some people, staying active is a way of life, and it often means that good things are getting accomplished. That seems to be the case with Marshall area agricultural educator Paul Lanoue, who was recently elected to a one-year term on the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Board of Directors as the Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) committee chairman during the 94th Annual Conference in Bloomington.
Lanoue has been in an agricultural leadership position for much of his life. Currently, Lanoue is a Marshall area farm business management instructor for Minnesota West Community and Technical College. He and his wife Ruth, who is also a committee member for the YF&R organization in Lyon Country, farm with their family on a grain and beef farm.
Prior to serving as a farm business management instructor for the past year and a half, Lanoue was extremely active at the high school level, spending two years at Blue Earth and six years at Marshall High School, as the ag teacher and FFA adviser at both institutions.
"I'm incredibly excited to have the opportunity to bring my experience that I have with my job working with farmers in different capacities and my prior knowledge and experience with FFA and working with youth," Lanoue said. "It'll be incredibly beneficial, I think, as I begin serving as the YF&R chair."
Lanoue pointed out that for the past two years, he and his wife have been the Southwest Minnesota (District III) representatives on the YF&R committee. On the third year, he said, the committee members are eligible to serve as chair of that committee.
"I applied and was accepted," Lanoue said. "As the chair, I'm also given a place on the MFBF board."
And Lanoue, who seems to thrive on staying active, is ready to get busy making a difference.
"The MFBF did have some new initiatives that were just approved," Lanoue said. "It was all in the works before I got there, but one of the initiatives is to reach out more at the collegiate and high school level. As a former ag teacher and working in a community and technical college, I could be a liaison with a knowledgeable base."
MFBF is the largest general farm organization in the state, with a strong focus on farmers, families and food. For more than 90 years, officially since 1919, MFBF has been working to preserve, promote and strengthen American agriculture. The organization has grown to include nearly 30,000 members currently in the 78 country and regional Farm Bureaus in Minnesota. Under the guidance of MFBF, the YF&R program introduces farmers ages 18-35 to the Farm Bureau organization, giving them education, leadership development and fellowship opportunities.
"They re-did the strategic plan," Lanoue said. "There's a few different initiatives, but collegiate and FFA are two of the focus groups. We're looking at enhancing the leadership opportunities for them. We believe in the future of ag and want to support those who are pursuing an ag career. We want them to know ag is a viable option for generations to come."
During Lanoue's one-year term, which officially began at the annual conference recently, he will have the opportunity to attend a number of agricultural-related conferences, including the American Farm Bureau Federation Conference Jan. 13-16 in Nashville, Tenn., the 2013 MFBF Leadership Conference Jan. 25-27 in Bloomington and the AFBF YF&R Conference Feb. 8-11 in Phoenix, Ariz.
"I'll be busy," Lanoue said. "But I've been working with my farmers, getting them information, and I'm prepared to do both. I'm working on efficiency with my job.
"With Farm Bureau, we want to engage the consumer with solid discussion about food production, safety and so on. Myself being an educator, and with farming as well, I have that role and niche as a promoter and a producer at the same time."
Lanoue mentioned that one of the changes that has already been implemented is the process in which MFBF conducts its leadership and training for members. Formerly known as the Promotion and Education Conference and the Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference, which were run simultaneously, MFBF opted to combine them. This year's theme is "Your Voice. Our Future."
"It's a new endeavor, a new format," Lanoue said. "But I think, with my flexibility and understanding on how to run events like that, it'll go very well."
Other opportunities for Lanoue to learn, teach, advocate and network will follow. He'll likely travel to Washington, D.C. in addition to playing host to YF&R committee members this summer.
"It's a chance to be an advocate and for other committee members to learn more about ag in our area," he said. "Just like I don't necessarily know a lot about wolves, and the issues they might have with wolves on their land, they might not know about our issues. This way, everyone has a greater understanding of ag in the whole state."