Wheat ambassador finds an opportunity to advocate in an unexpected place
By Lacey Miller
I have never been to Olympia before, so Olympia Days was something I will never forget. What made my experience worthwhile was that I was not there just to sightsee, but I was given this extraordinary opportunity to help make a difference in the wheat industry. Every year, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) takes this advocacy trip to work for our industry. By being an ambassador, I was lucky enough to help this year.
We got to meet with many legislators and talk to them about our agriculture industry. This is a side of agriculture I had personally never seen. WAWG had a good-sized group who traveled to Olympia to help advocate for our industry and talk about the problems that are impacting it. One topic we discussed was the potential removal of the lower Snake River dams. Before my trip, I knew only a small part about how it would affect the wheat industry (importing and exporting), but there are ways it would impact everyone, such as increasing our carbon footprint. We also brought up upcoming bills we supported and noted ones we had concerns about. As a young adult about to enter the real world, being able to experience this was amazing.
Sen. Mark Schoesler took Evan (the other ambassador) and I to lunch in the dining room reserved for legislators. While I’ve know the senator as simply a farmer from my hometown, it was eye opening to see what he does with the rest of his time. We got to hear legislators voting and stand on the Senate floor. That was definitely a huge highlight of the trip for me.
The Washington Wheat Ambassador Program not only allows young kids to get to know a different side of our industry, but exposes them to new experiences. When visiting with legislators, they were always excited to see young faces in the room. Most asked us about our future plans, our background and tried to get a sense of who we are. Seeing young people take an interest in the future says a lot to them and says a lot about our industry. I am honored to be able to be one of the young people advocating for our industry. Meeting with the legislators, even for a short amount of time, goes a long way. It shows our dedication and passion for our industry.
One the biggest highlights of my trip actually happened on the plane rides. Now I know that this sounds crazy or boring…and no it wasn’t sleeping. On both of the plane rides from Spokane to Seattle and Seattle back to Spokane, I sat next to two of the sweetest people I have ever met.
On the first plane ride, it was a older lady who was traveling to California to see her family. From the moment we boarded to the moment we left, we talked about our lives. When she asked what I was traveling for, I explained that I was the Washington Wheat Ambassador and that we were on our way to Olympia. She, like most, had no idea what our trip was about and wanted to know more. From explaining what WAWG’s mission was on this trip, to life on my family’s farm, to our faith in God, we covered it all. Without even realizing it, I was advocating for our industry in another way.
On our plane ride home, I sat next to another lady who was fairly new to Eastern Washington. She and her husband had moved to Spokane about a year ago. Ironically enough, she was coming home from visiting family in California. This conversation was somewhat comical because how much of agriculture was unknown to her. One question she asked me went something like, “So on the news, I keep seeing this thing called the Palouse. Is that a town or a place?” Needless to say, she now knows where Colfax and Pullman are and what the rolling hills of the Palouse region are with the help of lovely visual aids I drew. With that being said, I loved talking to her. She enjoyed learning about the area, and it opened my eyes to a different experience as well.
Some people really don’t know what GMO stands for, or where our small farming communities are. Without this trip, I would have never been exposed to this situation or lifestyle. You don’t have to travel to the Capitol to advocate for our industry; it can happen wherever you go. Sometimes we think of those who aren’t experienced with agriculture as “small minded,” and some people can be. But if those of us involved in the industry can help them learn, then we can help resolve the problem.
From the plane rides, meeting with legislators, to learning more about myself and our industry, I loved every bit of my trip to Olympia. Overall, WAWG did an amazing job of representing our industry and advocating for it. The trip was an amazing experience that I was blessed to have, and I can’t thank WAWG enough for this amazing opportunity.