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Giving back doesn’t mean giving it all — prioritize yourself too

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In a world of being busy constantly, it’s easy to put off the volunteer commitments. In the farming world, there is always something to work on or something to do on the farm. There isn’t enough time in the day to get it all done.

Not long ago, our local Jackson Heights FFA alumni hosted its annual tractor drive. It’s our only fundraiser of the year so that we can support the members throughout the year. The community definitely shows up to support us. We’re so grateful!

I loved FFA throughout high school, so when an alumni chapter was discussed shortly after I graduated, I jumped at the opportunity to be involved. While meeting attendance isn’t high, we know that if we ever need something, people will be there in a flash.

My parents were always involved in the farm organizations and they pushed my sisters and I to be involved in all the things in school — and once we graduated to be involved in community organizations. Recently, I’ve really taken a step back. Instead of always saying yes, I evaluate.

Just like you, I have a million things going on. I farm and ranch with my husband. He is the energizer bunny to a T. We can work and work and work and the work is still never done. The few days I get him to quit early, I cherish that time.

kelsey matt pagel kansas farmers

It was so engrained in me growing up just to say yes to organizations and volunteering. After a bad experience on a committee that I volunteered for, I put the brakes on. I finished my commitment and got off the board. I said no to future positions. Currently, I’m involved in two things: FFA alumni and Kansas CommonGround. Within both of those organizations, I’m not just a warm body. My opinions and ideas are discussed. Things are not just done because that’s the way it’s always been done. New ideas are created, discussed and acted upon. Things get implemented.

Do I think I’ll be on these boards forever? Nope. And I don’t believe I should be. I believe new ideas need to be created, new blood brought in, new directions with changing times. I believe in all generations needing to be present on boards. I think the more diversity, the better. It means the outcome might not go your way all the time, but it should mean the organization is necessary and changing with the times.

My husband also had a bad experience on a board and is burnt out on volunteering. I’m sure lots of you are too. It’s always the same people saying yes and doing the work.

I encourage you to evaluate what is important. Choose the organizations you want to be a part of and move forward. Say no to the rest. Some organizations have simply lost their necessity. Times have changed, and so must they.

I’ll conclude with this. We had 30 drivers show up to our drive. For our little community, that’s a lot. We had 30 people say I’m taking an afternoon of my time, using my own fuel and equipment to support this organization. We had dozens of other people show up for lunch. To me that says, the FFA is an organization our community wants to support.

Your time is valuable. You need to understand that. You need to set boundaries and only do the things that are important to you with the precious “free” time you have.

Your time is valuable. You need to understand that. You need to set boundaries and only do the things that are important to you with the precious “free” time you have. Understand that even if you don’t take the time to show up to the meetings, showing up to dinners and drives and the activities these organizations put on is so important. Each of us have a voice that we use whether we know it or not. We choose what we support or don’t support by where we show up. Everybody understands life is hard and time is short. We understand go time is go time in the farming world. If us ag people aren’t showing up, our story is being told for us. The organizations will slowly fade. I encourage you to say yes to the things you’re passionate about and no to the things that aren’t.

Taking the time to support the organizations in their activities if you don’t want to sit on boards is so appreciated. Because of our community choosing to show up, we can support the FFA members where the school can’t or won’t. We can give these kids a little extra. We can make things happen for them, that may not of. Thank you for choosing to show up for these members and tell them they are important!


Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.

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