February 17 will mark 6 months since I joined ICA as the communications director. And a lot has happened in that time.
I now know more about cattle than I ever dreamed possible. I grew up on an acreage in central Iowa, and my husband grew up showing cattle, but I'm the first to admit - I knew little to nothing about the animals and the industry when I started this job. Now, after editing six issues of the Iowa Cattleman magazine and sitting in on numerous educational sessions offered by ICA, I think I'm ready for my very own cow-calf herd.
I've met cattle producers from every area of our state. And I've been so impressed by their dedication to the industry, to their farms, to the land and to their livestock. There seem to be innate qualities of selflessness and respect that are passed from generation to generation when one's sole purpose is to care for another living creature. And those qualities are alive and well in Iowa's cattle industry.
I've learned that cattle production is more than just cowboys and grass. Even though the appearance of a cow-calf operation hasn't changed much over the years, the technology and genetics that lead to a healthy, productive herd are outstanding. And changes in cattle facilities, which have environmental benefits as well as animal welfare benefits, are advancing as quickly as any other industry.
I've had a personal transformation, as well. I was a stay at home mom for almost 5 years, working just 10 hours a week for the Iowa Turkey Federation while raising my two young sons. And the transition to full time hasn't always been easy. Working full time has forced me to get organized, and it's forced my husband and children to become a little more self-reliant, which is not necessarily a bad thing. :)
When I look back at my first six months here, I count my blessings. "New" can be scary, and I was more than a little nervous back in August. I wasn't sure if I'd made the right decision, wasn't sure if this position was really a good fit for me, and wasn't sure how my family would adjust to my new schedule.
But I think it's safe to say that my fears were unfounded. My position here combines two of my passions - writing and agriculture - and allows me to be creative while working to improve farming in the state of Iowa. My coworkers here at ICA are great, and their dedication to the needs of Iowa's cattle producers is unmatched. I am continually amazed by their focus on the mission of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association and the way they ask for and respond to feedback from Iowa cattlemen.
Our members and leaders are top-notch, making a difference here in Iowa and across the country. As I slowly meet more of them and get to know them, I realize more and more that the ICA network is more than a membership association - it's a family. And I'm proud to be part of it.
Katie Olthoff is the communications director for the Iowa Cattlemen's Association.