January 14, 2013 | Jackie Roembke

Navigating the New Year

Knowledge, guidance lies in past experiences

After almost a decade on the job, I can say with certainty, the last month of each year is a always a blur. Back-to-back issues, relentless deadlines, business travel, planning meetings — it all comes raining down in December. However, for me, it is also one of the most valuable times of the year because I find myself especially connected to Feed & Grain readers, who, to be honest, make it all worthwhile. 

Earlier this week I attended the National Grain & Feed Association’s (NGFA) 41st Annual Country Elevator Conference and Trade Show, held in Omaha, NE. Though very topically diverse, the conference sessions mirrored my December reality with a common theme: “Let the past guide you.” 

Reading my coverage of the event, you may wonder how I came to this conclusion, but to me the connection was obvious. Reading between the lines during the presentations on financial reform, historic weather patterns, and quality control systems, dealing with unfavorable conditions — drought, volatility, the stresses of risk and uncertainty — the ability to cope, strategize and persevere comes from lessons learned from past experiences, either your own or by seeking guidance from those in the agribusiness community who have been there before. It’s that sense of community, the shared experiences, that get us through.

Working the Feed & Grain booth at the trade show, I had the chance to speak to a number of our readers and took time to ask them about the information they hoped to glean from the sessions and bring back to their businesses; about the last year; the management challenges that keep them up at night; and what they would like to read about in the magazine, etc. It may seem like idle chatter, but this one-on-one time is invaluable to me, someone who sits as a spectator on the sidelines of a robust, complex and, oftentimes, nuanced industry.

Meanwhile, in my free time, I have been cold-calling subscribers at random in hopes of tracking the developing trends the magazine should cover in 2013. While this exercise is meant to gather industry insight, I am often floored by the participants’ willingness to share their knowledge and the sincerity I encounter when they elaborate on the challenges they face; to describe the decades of change that have come up around them; and to frankly discuss what they feel the future holds for their business and themselves.

To those of you who have taken the time to chat, you have my gratitude for the keen guidance you have provided; and on that note, to any of you who have considered sending in a story idea or sharing an experience you think may be helpful to one of your peers, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly. After all, I’m here to serve you.

Here’s to the ag community! May we all learn and grow from the year to come.

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