Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone = Growth

Susan - growth blog

One of my biggest questions – will Germany’s mountains compare to this?

In one week, I will be embarking on one of my biggest adventures to date. I will be traveling from my hills here in West Virginia to Germany and Belgium.  In June, I was notified that I was one of four Americans selected to receive a McCloy Fellowship in Agriculture for a three week intensive study of German agriculture and policy.

In June, those three weeks seemed so far away I thought they would never come. Now, one week away from departure, I am alternating from excitement to anxiety to nervousness.  And at times, borderline panic!

I am reminded of a message I heard many years ago at an FFA Convention – that true growth involves stepping out of your comfort zone. If you want to grow, you have to push yourself to stretch in new directions that might scare or intimidate you.

While I am excited beyond belief to represent the United States as a McCloy, this trip is definitely a little out of my normal comfort zone. But my feelings are completely normal for the growth that will inevitably result.  I can’t wait to come back with a new knowledge and perspective of agriculture to help me be a better farmer and leader.

I have a feeling that when my three weeks are over, I will even be a bit sad to leave; no matter how apprehensive I am feeling right now! If you would like to follow along with the McCloy Fellows on our adventure, check out our blog at

Ice Cream and Agriculture

I always enjoy the State Fair of West Virginia, but probably not for any of the reasons one would think.  Last year, for instance, I didn’t see a single concert, ride any rides, buy a cinnamon bun, or even spend much time in the barns.  No, my State Fair enjoyment centers solely on ice cream.  You see, for the last several years, I have helped a local Ruritan Club sell ice cream in their stand beside the dairy barn.

I like selling ice cream for three main reasons.  First of all, rarely do mean or rude people eat ice cream.  (Perhaps I should include a disclaimer here that this statement is not scientifically proven!)  And, in my experience, if a customer starts out mean or rude when they order, by the time they get an oversized, hand dipped cone of Rocky Road or Moosetracks or Butter Pecan, their rudeness melts away.  My favorite customers are the kids whose eyes light up like its Christmas morning when I hand them a cone.  The second reason I like selling ice cream is the sampling.  After all, a shift lasts between 6 and 7 hours.  A person has to eat something during that time and plus, when a customer asks for a recommendation on ice cream flavors, I need to be able to honestly tell them!

And the third reason is the questions I get to answer.  Being located so near the cattle barns, I’ve answered questions like “What cow in the barn did this ice cream come from?”  “Does the chocolate ice cream come from a brown cow?”  “Is this ice cream made from milk?”  Sometimes the questions can be a little crazy, but it is one more way I can help promote agriculture.  People are often intimidated when they think about being an advocate for this industry, but if you can incorporate it into something you’re already doing, it makes it a lot easier!  Good luck!

You gotta make hay while the sun shines!

Summer is truly my favorite time of the entire year.  The cows are contentedly grazing in the mountain pastures, calves are growing, the corn is stretching higher and higher towards the sun, and life is taking a somewhat slower pace than it does in the winter months.

Scenic hay field. Photo by Susan Wilkins.

Scenic hay field. Photo by Susan Wilkins.

But even while baling hay on a gorgeous sunny day, farmers are inevitably thinking about and planning for the winter season.  As we make hay, I know my dad and brother are mentally calculating how many bales it will take to winter our cows and how many more they will need to make before summer’s end.

For now though, we’ll enjoy the sunshine and warmth and pray for the rain that ensures our crops will continue to grow.

From my farm to yours – happy Summertime!