Do you miss attending meetings or actively participating in membership organizations? I do. For 15 years, I’ve served on community boards and in membership organizations, primarily rooted in raising kids, small business, agriculture and faith-based initiatives. The meetings, conferences, outreach efforts, fundraising campaigns and even some of the services came to a halt almost a year ago when COVID-19 changed life as we knew it.

Through it all, though, I’ve continued to pay my dues to a few select membership organizations or participated as my time and opportunities allowed.

For example, when I was asked to speak at a virtual annual conference for California Women for Agriculture in January, I said yes. A decade ago, I participated in the membership organization when I worked with a California agriculture client. I said yes to the women of California agriculture who continue to be treasured friends with shared values and interests. I said yes because I need to push myself to participate and speak on topics important to me.

To read more of Katie Pinke's Pinke Post columns, click here.

I’ve written close to 300 Agweek columns, and somewhere along the line I wrote that membership organizations in agriculture were losing ground and relevancy for a next generation. Would I renew my membership dues? At the time, I wasn’t sure. I received pushback from several who disagreed with me, many of whom were older than me, but I also received a flood of messages from young people who agreed with me. I learned I wasn’t alone in my struggle. Membership organizations need to shift to stay poignant, relevant and meaningful.

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Katie Pinke, right, meets up with her father and Aneta, N.D., farmer Fred Lukens at Big Iron in West Fargo, N.D., in September 2017. (Contributed photo)
Katie Pinke, right, meets up with her father and Aneta, N.D., farmer Fred Lukens at Big Iron in West Fargo, N.D., in September 2017. (Contributed photo)
Fast forward to 2021. I’d like to think I’m wiser than when I first wrote about my membership conundrum. The pandemic, as well as my role on an agriculture news team reporting and producing digital, print and broadcast media every week, has taught me the importance of membership organizations. I realize their need and value more than ever in my life.

We all crave community. We all have a need to belong. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, we all need to believe in a cause greater than ourselves.

Church membership doesn’t gain me a ticket to heaven, but I believe it is important for the spiritual health of our community and the need for shared beliefs and fellowship. Is there a perfect church? Never. We’re flawed and human. Online church filled a void, but it isn’t the future for me. I believe churches need people in pews, active in ministries, in fellowship with one another and reaching others in their community, region, country and world.

I feel the same about civic and agriculture organizations. They are important for the health of a community and the individuals with shared beliefs. Virtual meetings and conferences fill a need during a global health pandemic — and I realize the virtual aspect won’t disappear post-pandemic. However, when it’s safe for us to gather again in groups, I hope we do.

Pay your membership dues or simply show up when you're able to the organizations of choice. Decide who and what is of value to you, your family, your business or your farm or ranch. Don’t join because your dad or mom belonged to the same group. Join an organization that wants your participation and presence, not just your dues. Join to make a difference — and share your skills and voice.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.