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Dakota Farmer

There’s always room to learn

Young Dakota Living: Embrace a growth mindset and become a “lifelong learner.”

Sarah McNaughton

January 26, 2024

3 Min Read
student desk and chair
NO CLASSROOM REQUIRED: Learn beyond a formal education program by attending crop production webinars, reviewing new research from universities or taking advantage of online learning resources.Glasshouse Images/Getty Images

After slamming a textbook closed studying for finals during my undergraduate degree at North Dakota State University, I declared to my study group, “Once I graduate, I’m never going back to school!” Of course, ultimately, I changed my mind and went back for more. Why? Because I discovered that I really liked to learn.

I heard the concept of being a “lifelong learner” during my time as a county Extension agent, and that mindset is something I have kept with me ever since. Being a lifelong learner means you continue to learn new skills and subjects long after completing a formal education program. Do you know which industry is home to a multitude of people who bring this mindset to their lives? Agriculture, of course.

Lifelong learners tend to have these habits:

  • embrace a growth mindset

  • welcome new challenges

  • nurture their passions

  • remain curious

  • read often

  • pursue learning with intention

Of course, these can all be accomplished by finding a new hobby, trying out a new farm management practice, attending a university’s continuing education seminar or webinar, or simply reading a good book on a new topic.

Challenges in learning

You might have seen or heard our latest offering from Farm Progress, the FP Next podcast that launched in January. As an avid podcast listener, I knew the value and educational opportunity podcasts bring, and put a plan together to start one.

Way more learning and critical thinking went into the creation of this podcast than I expected. Researching the right equipment, finding the best software program and troubleshooting problems along the way were all things I didn’t know would be needed to learn first. That doesn’t even include the time relearning how to produce and edit audio.

Without having a growth mindset and having already decided that I was up for the challenge and the learning to accompany it, there probably would have been a lot more frustrations along the way. Having a brief stint in farm broadcasting and having a great co-host — Curt Arens, editor of Nebraska Farmer — I probably wouldn’t be having as much fun learning the ropes.

Even without the podcast, those of us in agriculture are always learning the next thing, a new practice or the latest tech. I learn something new almost every time I interview for a story and definitely every time I visit a farm. (Also, be sure to listen in to our latest podcast here FP Next Podcast.)

Maybe you want to start off your new year by making a few learning goals for yourself throughout the year. Examples include finding a conference near you that has an interesting breakout session, attending an online webinar from a land-grant university on precision agriculture, or checking out a holistic grazing school. In this day and age, you can find a plethora of information at the touch of a button online. YouTube videos and tutorials, research articles, and more can be found on any topic at any time.

This year, I have goals to complete LinkedIn learning courses alongside professional development education, and attend a few conferences to both improve my journalism skills and my agriculture knowledge. What do you want to learn in 2024?

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About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton of Bismarck, N.D., has been editor of Dakota Farmer since 2021. Before working at Farm Progress, she was an NDSU 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D. Prior to that, she was a farm and ranch reporter at KFGO Radio in Fargo.

McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and a master’s in Extension education and youth development.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, as a member of North Dakota Agri-Women, Agriculture Communicators Network Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

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