My name is Mark Lambert and besides posting stories here frequently I serve as Senior Communications Manager for the National Corn Growers Association. You notice I said “serving” not working. I make the distinction because nothing I enjoy so much should ever be called work.
I have been in communications and public relations for the corn growers association at the state or national level for more than 20 years. Prior to that I was an agriculture-business writer for the Peoria Journal Star. I graduated college with no intent of working in Ag but I got offered an interesting challenge in my first job out of college…..help start a statewide Ag publication called Illinois AgriNews that was devoted to covering the state’s largest industry.
The job allowed me to learn the craft of journalism from photography and layout to headline writing and copy editing. It also allowed me to empathize with people and realize that everyone has a story to tell. I never looked back. I have to admit the job was also attractive because my girlfriend was too and she wasn’t moving to Texas where I had my other job offer.
Funny thing, when I graduated there were few journalists out there who understood anything about farming or seemed to want to learn. And likewise there were few farmers out there who wanted anything to do with telling the story of Ag. (Boy is that changing and thankfully so).
Having grown up in McLean County (Illinois), the largest corn production county in the nation I had a special appreciation from the beginning for farmers, their work and social ethic, and the small town environment that really revolved around the pursuit of growing food, feed and fiber and raising livestock. The fuel part – ethanol – came much later.
But what kept me in agriculture all these years are the special people. Folks that say what they mean and mean what they say; believe in hard work and expect it in others as the natural order of things. Often complicated people who epitomize the term rugged individualist, but still manage to carve out time to become pillars of their community by building churches, serving on school boards, etc…. And much later in life I would find out how much time they spend volunteering to keep organizations like Farm Bureau and commodity groups like Corn Growers vital.
Today, I find myself in the same career position I have always been in and that is acting as a megaphone for farmers. Convincing them they have an important story to tell and then trusting me enough to do so fairly and in a meaningful way; a way people – even those miles distant from farming – want to hear. As a journalist I worked hard to bring perspective, objectivity and balance to everything I covered, something today’s media might want to rediscover.
I still attempt to bring that same honesty and relevance to what I do but granted it is with a very heavy farmer slant. No apologies on that count. One of the joys of gaining maturity is attaining a certain experience in life that ripens into full-blown passion.
Finding mine may have been easier that it is for some because agriculture has a great story to tell and it has never been so critical. A very loud and over-privileged minority in our society today seem bent on shackling our most productive industry, telling the rest of us what to eat, how to raise livestock and even operate an entrepreneurial agricultural system that is the envy of the rest of the world. If we allow this squeaky wheel element to steer our destiny, especially in something as crucial as our food production system, then the future could be grim.
It may have been alright years ago to let others like me tell your story, but now that is just a start. If you are farming today it is your turn to step up and tell the public about how and why you farm. Society respects and trusts you and needs to get the unvarnished truth about modern family farms direct from the source.
There are many people out there like myself who are taking on a new role of becoming facilitators. We are here to help you by providing the tools; training and sometimes even the courage to tell your story, but you have to take the first step by getting involved. If your not sure how drop me a line and I will see if I can help. Lambert@ncga.com