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Commentary: Share your story; you never know where it will go

Issue Date: February 26, 2020
By Jenny Holtermann
Kern County farmer Jenny Holtermann shakes hands with President Trump during the president’s visit to Bakersfield. Holtermann was one of three farmers who spoke during the event about the importance of agricultural water supplies.
Photo/Alex Hovrath, Bakersfield Californian

We are commonly told that the relationships we build will make us stronger in our endeavors. After last week, I couldn't agree more.

President Trump came to Bakersfield to discuss water policies (see story), and I was one of the farmers the president called upon to speak. An evolution of relationships led to my being able to share my story.

For years, I have been engaged in Farm Bureau at various levels. Through my experiences, I have had numerous opportunities to discuss policy with elected officials. All of these meetings were policy-focused and always with a room full of other farmers, staff or board members.

Last October, as part of my American Farm Bureau Partners in Advocacy Leadership class, we went to Washington, D.C., intending to build relationships. I had met with my congressmen and their staff before, but this time meetings focused on relationships with staff, not talking policy.

In my meetings, I spoke with staff about my farm, our struggles and how I wanted to help protect and advocate for agriculture at the federal level. Being one on one with staff enabled me to truly leave an impression and understand key decision-makers I could interact with at home and in D.C.

The week before the president arrived in Bakersfield, I was reminded of those meetings. Congressional staff remembered my story and asked if I would be willing to share it with President Trump and a national audience during the water announcement.

A president hadn't been to Bakersfield in quite some time and it was uncertain where or when the event would take place. It was a process like no other I had been through before. Arriving on the day, I still wasn't sure if the president would call my name to come on stage. As I stood in the crowd, surrounded by Secret Service, local elected officials and congressional staff, it began to feel very real.

About 20 minutes into the president's remarks, he said my name and introduced me to the crowd. I made my way up the stage, shook the president's hand and had the opportunity of a lifetime to share my farm story and the necessity of water to continue our family farm.

As family farmers, it is not too often we have a national platform to share our story. I thank the president for the extraordinary opportunity and Farm Bureau for providing me the tools to be an agvocate for agriculture.

Given the opportunity, farmers can and do share our stories, whether at the coffee shop, a local Rotary meeting, or the state or national Capitols. When you are given a chance to share your story, I hope you do. You may think your story is ordinary or nothing special, but you make your story unique—and only you can share it.

Just by making your struggles known and sharing a little insight into your farm, you might have the opportunity to share more. Start with one person who is willing to listen. We all have a story to tell. You never know who is listening and where they might invite you next.

(Jenny Holtermann farms in Wasco and represents Kern and Kings counties on the CFBF Board of Directors.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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