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Throughout my academic and professional careers, I have beenblessed with leadership opportunities.

I am not sure if that is because I am a good leader or a goodvolunteer, but either way, the experiences have left a lasting impression onme. 

My most recent and current leadership endeavor is being a part ofthe Kansas Agriculture and Leadership program, more affectionately known asKARL. For the past two years, 30 individuals, including myself, haveexperienced the state of Kansas.From community colleges to the Kansas Cosmosphere, from prisons to packingplants, we have covered a wide spectrum of topics and issues facing ourstate.  

Every time a session is concluded, I think, "We really need toshare that message and educate people about what is really going on." And hereis the problem: I share the message with people just like me. I tell my family,friends and co-workers about the problems that plague our industry and ruralway of life. Of course, they mostly concur and then share the message with otherlike-minded individuals.

This is where we hit the wall: The message never gets to thosewho need to hear it.

So how do we spread the word to educate about the agricultureindustry and rural lifestyle to those who really need to hear it? I think wehave to make ourselves really uncomfortable.We need to attend meetings in more urban areas, "Like" pages that may have anopposite view than ours, participate in organizations that differ from those wenormally are involved in, subscribe to publications that include our oppositionand - most importantly - don't keep doing the same thing! 

The forces that are detrimental to us, and even the number ofpeople who just don't understand about agriculture, are getting larger whileour voice seems to be getting quieter. I always ask the clients I work with forenvironmental issues, "Do you want to be proactive or reactive?"

There are two ways to handle issues, and if we continue to bereactive we will continue to lose our footing. 

I challenge all of you who are passionate about agriculture andrural life to put yourself out there, try something different and beuncomfortable. If we do, I think we can start to gain some traction and beproactive rather than waiting for the opposition to tell us what we are going toreact to next.

Mandy Fox, who graduatedwith a degree in agronomy from Kansas State Universityand received a master's degree in soil science from Texas A&M, is an independentenvironmental consultant. She works with feedlots, dairies and swine operationsto achieve environmental compliance with states and the EPA. She and herhusband, Trent, have four children and live in Fox's hometown of Hays.

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