If there’s a humorous way to tackle serious matters in agriculture, Mark Mayfield is on it.
Mayfield is scheduled to be a keynote presenter at the 2021 Tri-State Grain Growers Convention, Nov. 30-Dec. 3, at the Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, Wash. Growers can register for the convention at wawg.org/convention/registration/.
Mayfield is known for his comedy, but the topic he’ll be addressing is anything but funny. It’s one few farmers like to talk about, but need to.
“It’s the unrecognized thing that we don’t talk about much, the difficulty that exists in agriculture, not just from an economic standpoint, but also from a mental health standpoint,” he explained. “It’s an issue I became interested in that combined two of my priorities. I’ve always talked about agricultural challenges, agricultural demands and agricultural changes, and now I’m combining that with stress management and mental health.”
Mental health is an important part of making an agricultural operation successful, Mayfield said. His presentation will talk about the significant challenges of agriculture in terms of growers’ involvement in government, civic responsibility and increased technology and mirroring it with the mental state that takes its toll on producers in this country.
“It’s a subject we’ve kicked under the rug and kicked down the road for a long time,” he added. “It’s a very serious, heavy subject, but it’ll be presented in a very lighthearted and humorous, yet still respectful, way. It will be fun. I’m too much of an idiot not to share some of my moments in life that make people laugh.”
Mayfield has been involved with agriculture his entire life. He was raised on a hog and cattle operation, served as national president of the FFA, taught high school agriculture and lobbied for agriculture in Washington, D.C. He’s a familiar face at the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention, having emceed in the past. He said as an emcee, his job is to add a little levity between serious topics rather than addressing those heavy topics himself.
“I could brush on that (heavy) content as an emcee. I could kind of suggest that this is something we need to do, but as a keynoter, I can get more into the subject matter. I can show that I’ve got more in my quiver than just one arrow,” he explained. “I like doing both. In most instances, I do both, but in this instance, just doing a keynote takes pressure off being emcee. I have more time. In addition to having fun, I can pass along some meat.”
Mayfield hopes growers will take away from his presentation the fact they need a financial, spiritual, emotional and technical team, and they need to lean on that team when times are tough. Today’s ag producers are much more than just farmers. They are animal scientists, geneticists, chemists, IT specialists, just to name a few, and they have to be more active in promoting agriculture than ever before. As Mayfield said, “there are some scary people out there who have no clue what agriculture is about and would just as soon go back to bucolic little 500-square-foot garden plots” that they think will feed the world.
“I’m excited about coming back,” he said. “I know these are extremely challenging times. One thing about agriculture, we are the most resilient group of people on the planet, and we will get through it. I’m not going to tell them anything they don’t know, but I’m going to remind them of some stuff they need to be reminded about. Even though I’m not a Washington wheat grower, I’m from Kansas. I’ve got a good handle on that. These are my folks.”