North Carolina has perhaps the best-organized farmer community in the United States. The state is home to dozens of commodity boards and grower associations. Farmers are able to volunteer their time and leadership skills for these boards and associations as well as serve on elected and appointed county, state and federal boards and commissions. Volunteering takes time away from farm and family, which is a negative, but volunteering is the primary way that a farmer participates in guiding his or her checkoff investments, commodity boards, and agricultural policy organizations. The benefits are great to the community and the individual. Service on the boards and organizations promotes lifelong leadership skills that the farmer can employ at home, on the farm and in the community.
Farmers can volunteer a couple of ways. First, serve on the board of the association for one of your commodities. The commodity boards are always looking for capable volunteer leaders, and they are responsible for awarding checkoff or assessment funds for the research and marketing projects to benefit that commodity. Second, take part in the field days and the consumer and educational events sponsored by your commodity associations and agricultural organizations. Your checkoff dollars often support these events. Remember too that some activities cannot be paid for with your checkoff dollars. If you are volunteering to work for an agricultural policy organization, then it is very unlikely that the group will be using checkoff funds for those activities. Fundraising and membership dues are often the only way these activities are supported.
Third, become a member of the commodity groups for the products that you grow. Your membership is important to these groups to help support their advocacy activities, and they genuinely want to hear from you. There are a few thousand farmers per commodity in North Carolina and maintaining an active membership in that population is very important for commodity groups.
Check out the commodity associations and look for organizations and events in your area to seek out volunteer opportunities. Your service is always greatly appreciated.