Sometimes when I’m surrounded by all the eager young faces in agriculture, I feel so old. I lament “how will I ever keep up with them?” But then I stop and think how fortunate I am to be involved in an industry that values both the eager young faces and some not so young ones. The thing both groups have in common is the eagerness to learn and in my case – continuing to learn.

This summer I have been blessed with several continued learning opportunities. The first was a trip to the OIE meeting in Paris, France. This year I am serving as president-elect of the US Animal Health Association and therefore, was part of the USDA delegation to this international meeting concerning world-wide animal health issues. During the six day meeting, other delegates were amazed that I was a “real” farmer. Most of the delegates were government or industry officials. The very talented people I met were from all over the world. The sights were awesome both inside and outside of the meeting. The food was unbelievable and varied. The most important learning for me was realizing the world is pretty darn small and if there is an animal disease or issue somewhere in the world, we as US farmers need to be aware of it and pay attention to how it might affect us.

The second trip was back to France, Lyon this time, to explore the vaccine world. It was very humbling for this Iowa farm girl to be standing near the location of early pioneers working on vaccines knowing they can save both people and animals. We met with scientists, manufacturing specialists and logistics specialists to understand how foot and mouth disease vaccine would be produced and transported in case of an outbreak. It was a great trip with lots of learning, not to mention the unbelievable experiences of being in France – great scenery, food, and culture. Even the cafeteria at a production facility was very good.

Last week, I attended the Ag Media Summit, another learning opportunity. Organizers put together a great conference with terrific breakout sessions each day. The young talent at this meeting was enough to blow my mind and the way they interacted with everyone was fun to watch. Of course, seeing old friends in the ag communications industry was wonderful. Again, it’s a pretty small world we work in and the friends we make last a lifetime.

I’m very appreciative of the team here at HMG – Ann, Katie and Jen – for keeping all the plates spinning while I’ve been taking advantage of these opportunities. Yes, I tired from the flights and drives but wow – the learning opportunities have been amazing.