My Best Decision

A few years back I wrote about “the best $10 I ever spent,” regarding the events that transpired to bring me to work at the Center for Rural Affairs the first time.

In 1996, I paid $10.00 to join a new Iowa organization focusing on the environmental nightmares and loss of family farm hog production that accompany concentrated, industrial livestock production. Since the Center for Rural Affairs was managing their mailing list, I started receiving the Center’s newsletter too.

I have often said it was the best $10.00 I ever spent because later that year I received a job announcement from the Center. Eventually I was hired for that position as an organizer working on corporate farming issues and livestock market reforms. 

So, spending that $10 was a pretty good decision. And responding to a call from Chuck Hassebrook to return to the Center for Rural Affairs in 2005 was a pretty good decision too. Recently, however, I had cause to reflect on the best decision I’ve made during my affiliation with the Center for Rural Affairs. Neither of those decisions made the cut.

photo of Elisha's awardIt was not really that challenging to choose my best decision. It is quite obvious. I hired Elisha Smith to serve as Media and Outreach Associate. I made that decision over 10 years ago in December of 2005. I have never regretted it. Far from it, very few days pass by when I am not thankful, or even boastful, of having made that decision.

Elisha is a lot different than I am. I’m loud, noisy, outspoken - take your pick of descriptors. As a consequence, few people question my passion for the work we do here at the Center for Rural Affairs. They may question my sanity, or my intelligence, but not my passion.

On the other hand, Elisha is more reserved, which causes me to wonder if, perhaps, people both inside and outside the Center might fail to recognize her deep and abiding commitment to our work. I don’t know if that is true. To me her dedication and passion seem obvious. But, I suspect that to others it is somewhat hidden.

Elisha has had tens of thousands of words published and broadcast all across America. Hard-hitting words and analysis of the issues of the day and how they impact family farmers, ranchers, and everyone who calls rural and small-town America home. 

Moreover, it isn’t just her productivity that is remarkable. She writes well, with purpose, and always in a voice that emanates from a lifetime of Nebraska farm and ranch experience, from the ranch she grew up on to the farm she and her family call home today. Elisha, as much as anyone here, does not just talk the Center talk, she walks the walk.

And please, don’t take my word for the quality of her work. Read for yourself:

All that said, the thing I find most impressive about Elisha is that she gets the job done, even when the job changes. Especially when the job changes. When I or others here at the Center present her with a new idea, or challenge her with a new, lofty goal, she finds a way to get it all done. She applies hard work, baling wire, duct tape, and whatever else it takes, in true farm and ranch fashion, to make our media team work and run smoothly.

Elisha Smith does all this because she knows, understands, and cares about the mission and vision of the Center for Rural Affairs. She is a profile of undaunted courage, because she has the courage of her convictions, her love of family, and an unfailing respect for and dedication to all of rural and small-town America. Elisha is a constant, albeit quiet, reminder of the best parts of rural America, the parts most worthy of fighting to preserve. Would that we could all be a little more like her.

Congratulations on 10 years of service to the Center for Rural Affairs, Elisha. Keep the faith, and keep fighting.

Image: Elisha Smith's 10-Year Outstanding Service Award is on display in her office, with her favorite cow looking on proudly from his canvas.