July 20, 2023
In late June, I traveled with the Cotton Foundation’s Multi-Commodity Education Program to visit farms in southeast Idaho. The tour was sponsored by John Deere and hosted by the Idaho Grain Producers Association and the Idaho Barley Commission.
The Multi-Commodity Education Program is a tour that sets out to provide participants with a view of agricultural areas outside of the Cotton Belt to see how they are managing change, technology and policy in their regions.
When I was invited to join the tour, it took no time to decide if I could go to Idaho in June.
I am familiar with the kind of opportunity this tour provides because I helped set up similar tours with the National Cotton Council when I worked for them. I was involved with organizing the Producer Information Exchange Tours when they came to the West.
I was involved with about 18 PIE tours in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. I also helped with a few legislative tours and Western visits for NCC’s Leadership Class. We had great times on those tours. There was a lot of condensed learning and I got to meet many great people and have managed to keep in contact with a great many of them.
Those relationships are so valuable to me, and I appreciate the amazing people I have come to know.
But the learning and relationship building is only part of what those tours provided. The real thrills were the adventures that took place during those trips.
I’ve never had a disaster, but cancelled flights, missing participants, illness, late buses or buses without air conditioning have been known to happen. I’ve never had a bad trip – I tend to make the most of a situation.
I once bribed the husband of a hotel manager to haul two loads of hungry Midsoutherners to a restaurant in a packed, old Cutlass Supreme with no shocks and a patched-up muffler. It was a hilarious ride.
A bus driver in Corpus Christi provided a rundown to a captive audience of cotton farmers on everything you could ever know about the Tejano singer Selena including a visit to her grave site. We once sat in a bus on the side of the road while the bus driver berated and cursed a highway patrolman for being a tool of the system.
I’ve stood in an insect rearing lab while staffers of some of the most powerful men in congress cowered in fear of a tiny pink bollworm larvae. Then there were the majestic helicopter tours of the river systems of Arizona.
But the best part is always the people, even the guy who at every stop asked, “Now Brent, where would your labor live?”
If you have the opportunity, join one of the tours offered by your commodity groups. It may be one of the best things you get to do.
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