By Kim Iczkowski, Wisconsin FSA Public Affairs and Outreach Coordinator
The Experience to Lead
In 2008, Terri Wilfert was made aware of an opportunity to serve as an advisor on her local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committee. After doing more research, she learned local county committees are a critical component of the day-to-day operations of FSA and decided to inquire about the position.
“I felt with my background growing up in the dairy industry, and being involved in vegetable production now, I had a lot to offer the committee,” Wilfert said.
Wilfert and her husband, David, farm just under 700 acres in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, a county sitting along the Lake Michigan shore. The Wilferts produce corn, soybeans, and winter wheat, as well as carrots for processing, and a variety of fresh market vegetables, including strawberries, pumpkins, sweet corn, peas, and more. During the growing season, the family operates a market on their farm seven days a week, where they see over 1000 customers each weekend and sell everything, as Wilfert says, “from asparagus to zucchini.”
Committed to Serving
Wilfert served as the appointed minority advisor to the committee from 2008-2010. County committee advisors are appointed to the committee to represent the interests of underserved producers.
In 2010, her Local Administrative Area (LAA) was up for election, so she decided to run to serve as an elected committee member. Wilfert was elected by her peers and has served on the committee ever since. She has held the title of chairperson for the past three years.
County committee members are a direct link between the agricultural community and USDA. Farmers on the committee help deliver FSA farm programs at the local level, help decide the kind of programs their counties will offer and work to make FSA agricultural programs serve the needs of local producers.
Learning through Service
“It has been a really great experience,” Wilfert said. “Serving on the county committee has helped me gain a better understanding of how FSA programs work and how they can help my local ag community.”
Wilfert said she has learned more about the various types of agriculture operations in Wisconsin during her time on the committee and encourages anyone interested in serving to give it a shot.
“Our state has such diverse agriculture, and it goes down to the county-level,” she said. “It is so important to have farmers willing to serve on their county committees to share their experiences and offer different perspectives so committees can make informed decisions.”