Lamb: Many reasons caused the transition from farm to office
By Don Lamb, Director
Indiana State Department of Agriculture
Farmers have one of the greatest jobs in the world: Sowing seeds and tending a growing crop, family traditions, working side by side with those you love, no CEO or board of directors to answer to, spending each day out and about on God’s green earth.
So, why would I leave my family farm to drive, every day, 40 miles to downtown Indianapolis, sit in an office with windows that don’t open, in a suit, to report to the Governor, Lt. Governor and 6.8 million Hoosiers?
Well … I’ll tell you why.
As director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) I get to understand and fight for foreign trade like I never have before. I get to work alongside diplomats from across the globe and other “me’s” of nearly each state. I travel across Indiana and experience every asset of agriculture that I have the honor of advocating for. I have had the opportunity to meet regularly with many of the movers and shakers in the Indiana agriculture space and discuss solutions to the issues facing our industry. I spent every single day of the Great Indiana State Fair inside the historic Normandy barn and around the fairgrounds as we put agriculture on the center stage.
I have connected with folks I haven’t seen in years and, along with our ISDA staff, work each day to truly make Indiana agriculture the best it can be.
But that doesn’t come without challenges. Leaving our family farming operation was hard, it was truly a family decision that all of us prayed over. Getting a call from the former director of ISDA seeking my opinion of the role, then later receiving a call from Gov. Eric Holcomb and meeting with him was a surreal experience.
Of course, I wanted to say “YES!” right away, but I quickly began logistically thinking of how I would leave my day-to-day duties on the farm. We made the decision as a family that I would take on this role, and we thought through, along with my family and talented employees, what was needed for the farm to continue with my absence. At the time I truly thought I could do both, part time farmer and full-time state employee. However, I’ve learned over the last year, my hours spent in the tractor and combine have become fewer and farther between. I have learned that balancing two careers is difficult and at times, something has to give. So, for me, at this stage of my life, that’s farming.
But, at the same time, I get to experience so much beyond my own knowledge of corn, soybeans and wheat. Last week I was at the Shipshewana Livestock Auction and at an agritourism destination learning how we can better support them. Before that I was in Wyoming meeting all the other state departments of agriculture and learning from them.
Next month I will travel to the U.K. to work on getting our safe, American products into their markets. But I couldn’t do any of this without my family’s support and the support of our ISDA staff.
The ISDA staff are some of the most dedicated, hardworking people I have ever known; and sadly as a farmer, I didn’t know they existed or what their function was.
They fight for policies that support agriculture, they walk fields and consult with farmers and landowners to help implement meaningful soil conservation practices. They solicit and administer federal grants for funds that trickle down to the farm level. They are cultivating Indiana’s next generation of agriculturists through the Indiana FFA Association and so much more.
Without this role, I never would have known who they are or what they do. I am incredibly proud of the work they do each day. I want to shout from the rooftops all they do for Indiana agriculture.
That’s why I left my farm for an office in downtown Indianapolis. It’s why I wear a suit each day and it’s why I happily answer to any of the 6.8 million people who live in our great state and the producers who feed and fuel them. I am certain one day I will be back on the farm and back in the cab; but for now, it is my greatest honor to serve Indiana agriculture.