Rural America is vastly different from how it was in the early 1990s, but one constant has been the Center for Rural Affairs’ core values. They have been upheld and have remained strong since their inception.
That’s why, for nearly 30 years, Keith Mahaney has lent his voice to the Center for Rural Affairs Board of Directors.
“At that time, there were a lot of changes going on in farming, and the Center was speaking out about things that needed to be said,” Keith remarked. “That was the point when I wanted to get involved—I was asked to be on the Board, and I accepted.”
Nearly three decades later, Keith continues to stand up for rural America.
“A lot of the core issues have evolved some, but they’re still there, they’re still present,” he said. “The Center has always tried to protect the farm bill, rural areas, family health and values—it’s those values that have kept me involved this whole time.”
Over the years, the Board has discussed different topics and held meetings in a variety of ways. Initially, Keith says, it felt more like being at camp, with everyone together, lodging and gathering in the same area. Today, modern technology provides for video conference meetings when needed, and allows for people to join in from all over, rather than everyone in a single room.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the feeling Keith gets after each meeting.
“I always came back from a Board meeting totally invigorated,” he said. “The meetings are a really unique experience, and great to be involved in. I come home totally charged up because of the work the Center is doing.”
In addition to being excited by the Center’s work, Keith has been passionate about farming his entire life. He’s made a career in agriculture, raising livestock and growing primarily corn, beans, and alfalfa over the years.
“Farming is the only thing I ever wanted to do,” he said. “I don’t think you can be a farmer without wanting it that much. It’s just too tough a life—there’s too much sacrifice, too many hours, and yet, I’ve never minded the work. Working long days like that, I still never minded it. It was never a chore.”
Keith sees different aspects of the Center’s work through various committees he’s served on over the years. And, though his life’s passion and trade has been in agriculture, he feels strongly about all the issues the Center focuses on.
“What they’ve done with their lending program, beginning farmer work, inclusion work, health issues—that’s all so necessary,” Keith said. “There’s been a lot of things that affect all of our daily lives that the Center has been involved in.”
He also has every confidence the Center will continue doing that necessary work well into the future, another reason he remains on the Board.
“The Center has always been a think tank, and has tried to be ahead of the curve,” Keith said. “I value the quality of the individuals involved and the friendships I’ve made through the Board. Those are the memories that mean the most. It’s been a great ride.”
Feature photo: Keith Mahaney (center) attends a board meeting in September 2019 in West Point, Nebraska. | Photo by Rhea Landholm