Lindsey Liebig

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE SACRAMENTO COUNTY FARM BUREAU

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the AgSnacc Podcast where we take a look at careers in agriculture and the journey toward those careers. I’m your host, Erin Gorter, and we hope you enjoy this tasty AgSnacc. 

Erin Gorter:   

Alright well, we're here today with Lindsay Liebig, the executive director of the Sacramento County Farm Bureau. How are you today Lindsay? 

 

Lindsey Liebig:  

I'm good. How are you doing? 

 

Erin Gorter:   

Good, good. So, we usually start off here with just a general description of what you do, what does the typical day look like in the life of an Executive Director of a County Farm Bureau? 

 

Lindsey Liebig:  

Yeah, so I'm, I've been the Executive Director here at Sacramento County for almost three years now. One of the best things I love about my job is that every day is completely different. There are days that could be in the office all day long, just working in my office on the computer, there could be days that we're out in the field working with members on a farm, doing something regarding, what's going on their farm, there could be days that I am down at the Capitol, working with legislators, attending meetings, hearings, those types of things. And there could be a day where I'm doing all three of those simultaneously at the same time. So that's one of the things I really love about this job is that you get a little bit of everything. You get to experience not only a traditional office setting, but you get to work with farmers and ranchers, you get to get to know them, see what they're doing and producing on their farm or ranch. And then you also get to work in the government space and really look at you know, what's happening regarding government laws, rules, any of those, you know, regulatory things that happen in Sacramento. So, we get to deal with a lot of different things on a lot of different levels and no days the same, which is my favorite part. 

 

Erin Gorter:  

Very good. And we kind of like to get an idea of where everyone like came from. So, do you want to give us a little bit of background information on what your high school experience was like, what were you involved in? Sports, extracurriculars, what type of classes you took, etc.  

 

Lindsey Liebig:  

So, I grew up in Galt, CA and went to Galt high school, I was one of those students that was told when I was coming into high school that I can either choose to go the academic route, or the Ag route and that I could not do both in any sort of the honors, you know, AP realm. And so, my first two years, in high school, I really focused on academics, I was in AP honors classes, all those things. It wasn't until my sister who's four years younger, broke her leg playing softball, and she had a sheep project for 4-H. And I got heavily involved in helping her out with that 4-H project and saw that all the way through our county fair, which happens to be during the school year in May. And it was there that I thought that I was really missing out on something and not being a part of the whole FFA experience. So, I went to one of our Ag teachers who's now a regional supervisor, Hugh Mooney and I said, you know, how do I get involved in this and how do I do both. And I got into Galt FFA as a junior and, did quite a bit in FFA in two years that I wished I would have known I could have done in all four years. And so, really, in high school, I feel like my high school is kind of split into two parts. I really focused like I said early on, on academics. I was a cheerleader involved in those things. But then in my last two years in FFA I was involved in parley pro, job interview, we did farm records, marketing co-ops, and did all of those things. I didn't take advantage of any of the officer opportunities just because I come into FFA so late. One of the biggest regrets I have if I were to do all over again, I would have taken those routes, whether it was a chapter officer, sectional, regional, those types of things, but try to really make the most of the CDE events and in doing those things while I was in high school. It was there that that whole two years, you know, completely turned. I think my whole way of thinking around I think at that point, I was looking at multiple different schools looking at something business wise at one time, I wanted to be a lobbyist and a lawyer. And I decided that, you know, Ag was the path I really wanted to go, my family was involved in it, it was just something that became just a true passion. And so, I only applied to Cal Poly and got accepted under Ag business and I knew that was where I was going to go. I just had this, you know, feeling that that was what was meant to be and that was where I was going to go. And so, I went to Cal Poly and majored in agricultural business and just kind of focused my efforts, you know, on from there. Still at Cal Poly, I thought I would go more the more ag policy route, you know, looking at working in government, or you know, even in the legal sector and you know, things like that. But when I graduated in 2008, things really took a sharp decline economy wise, and there wasn't a lot of different jobs available. And so I started my master's program and worked at Cal Poly and stayed in San Luis for a little bit, until a job at Sacramento County Farm Bureau happened to open up, it was a kind of right opportunity at the right time and I applied for the job kind of on a whim and got the job as a program coordinator, and moved from San Luis, where I'd been living for eight years and move back to my home area and kind of jumped right into the job scene and left Cal Poly for the first time. 

 

Erin Gorter:   

That's crazy. Worked at the same place the whole time. Crazy, Crazy. So how was education and work life viewed in your household when you were growing up? And did that influence your career path in any way? 

 

Lindsey Liebig:   

Absolutely. Education was always very important. Neither of my parents went to a four-year college. So it wasn't that we were mandated to go to school or anything like that. It wasn't an expectation that college was going to be there. But it was definitely encouraged. Both my sister I were very, you know, academically driven and so it was never, it was just, I don't know if it was necessarily expected but, it was just kind of like, that's what we were going to do. We just knew that was the career path we were on that both of us were going to go to, you know, a four-year school. And so, parents supported us wholeheartedly and then doing whatever we needed to do to get to that level, my sister also attended Cal Poly. And so, it really was something that you know, education was always encouraged, we were always, you know, expected to perform well, and whatever we were chosen to do, but that just had to be whatever we wanted to do in that space. And so, education was very encouraged. As far as anything post bachelor's education, that was again, really all on our own. That was not anything that was, you know, forced or expected or anything, it was more of like as much as you want to achieve family was there to support you and encourage you along the way. Both my sister and I pursued graduate degrees and I'm going on to pursue a doctorate degree and other professional degrees as well. 

 

Erin Gorter:  

Very good. And so, I think you mentioned earlier that your favorite part about your job is it's kind of like different every day and you enjoy that change. What is the most challenging part about your job? 

 

Lindsey Liebig:   

I think the most challenging part is that, you know, Farm Bureau is a nonprofit organization. So, what that means is that, you know, we are really membership dues based. And so, we rely on voluntary contributions from farmers and ranchers that they are wanting to contribute their money to the work that we're doing. And so, we're very much dependent on the industry. When we have bad years, it's a lot harder for farmers to pay things that aren't necessarily an actual hard bill for what they must produce their crops and so we can be a little bit money dependent based on kind of the industry going along. And so that's a hard conversation to have with farmers. And when you talk with the farmer, and they're like, "we really liked the work you're doing, we know you're standing up for us, we just can't pay you this year, because prices were bad, or we didn't have a good market" you know, or this type of thing. So, working with farmers in that capacity is difficult because you feel for them, we're here doing our job because we want to make their life better, and we want to make their jobs easier. And so, you know, really having to work through some of those financial hardships is difficult. And then, seeing farms consolidate and seeing businesses go out of business because of different market pressures is sad to see as well. So, I say that the mission of my job every day is to keep farming and ranching a vital part of Sacramento County and that's what we want to protect every day. 

 

Erin Gorter:   

Very good and so inspiring those farmers and ranchers, we're also kind of in the business of producing, managing and marketing the distribution of food. What is your favorite agricultural commodity? 

 

Lindsey Liebig:   

I would say my favorite agricultural commodity... that's a hard question. I think my favorite agricultural commodity would be, I mean, all the different like protein sources we have right at our fingertips. I mean, we have locally raised chicken and beef and fish and, you know, pork all right around us. I mean, we're very fortunate in this state. Really wherever you go, that you have access to all these different, you know, proteins and fruits and vegetables. I mean, other people don't have that. And so, I think it's something we can sometimes take for granted, you know, having all those fresh sources around us, but I would say just all those different protein sources 

 

Erin Gorter:  

Fantastic. Do you have any internship or volunteer opportunities? And maybe not you specifically, but can you think of other internships or volunteer opportunities for high school students if they wanted to get involved and learn more about what you do for a living? 

 

Lindsey Liebig:   

Yeah, absolutely. We do offer internships in our office, we are a small office in Sacramento County, but we do have a summer internship for a college student. But we've also worked with our local high schools around us for using ROP students using others that are just looking for volunteer opportunities, service opportunities. We work closely with a lot of the high schools to help facilitate some of those things. So, if a student's looking for communication experience, or marketing experience, or, you know, some of those things, we've really tried to formulate opportunities as well, for them to be able to work in our office in some capacity. Sometimes that'll include social media, that will include marketing, graphic design, but it can also include video production, working with farmers out in the field, pictures, photography, so we kind of run the gamut. We work very closely with a lot of the FFA chapters in our area, and really try to create opportunities based on the needs that they have and providing some hands-on learning opportunities for their students. Additionally, any of the government meetings that we have, or any of those things, we always offer those to our FFA students as well. So, if you have students that are really interested in learning about policy or wanting to get more involved in that, they can attend our meetings, listen, ask questions, and be a part of that so they can learn through that opportunity area, too. And we've had a lot of our senior agricultural econ, or government or leadership classes, take advantage of some of those things as well. So, we really try to make ourselves available and help, you know, meet our FFA chapters where they're at and provide opportunities based on what the students are really looking for. 

 

Erin Gorter:   

Awesome. So, thinking on your own career, if you could go back into high school, little 15-year-old Lindsey sitting there, what would you tell yourself? 

 

Lindsey Liebig:   

I would tell myself to you know, make as many friendships as you can, both not only within your own High School, but also within your FFA section and region and throughout the state. You know, they say that the agricultural industry is the largest industry in California, but it's also a very tight knit community. I rely on a lot of my business relationships with a lot of friends that I made in high school and college through FFA, you know, we work together and a lot of different capacities. So, it's very important that you make your long-lasting friendships with people from all over the area, because you will use those as you move on through, you know, college and into your professional life. 

 

Erin Gorter:   

Sage advice. What do you think will change in the next 20 years in your profession? 

 

Lindsey Liebig:   

I think what will change is we've seen a lot of rapid change here within the last nine months, we've seen you know, the ability to connect on a virtual platform as many of our students are seeing that and how they can accomplish some of those virtual things through some of the modifications we've had to do for COVID. The business and Professional spaces have done the same. It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of the meetings that I used to attend in person stay in a virtual format. It's actually more financially feasible so it's cheaper for organizations to do it's easier because you're not having to travel and do that and I see a lot of those things, so I see a lot more computer work in the future. I don't see computers replacing the ability to network in person and meet people and really form those handshake deals or relationships that the ag industry was built on. But I see people being a little bit more strategic about their time and if they can connect somewhere virtually and do that in a quicker fashion, I see that happening. And then I see you know, those in-person meetings or events, probably being a little more meaningful because you are getting to do something in person and do that. But, you know, as far as you know, moving forward, I think within the Farm Bureau space in the next 20 years, we're really going to be in a true educational mindset, continuously reminding people, why we have agriculture, why food needs to be grown locally, why we need to have a domestic food supply, meaning that we need to produce food within this state and within this country. And really, you know, why farmers and ranchers love what they do. So, I think it's going to take groups like Farm Bureau and others to just continue that educational message about why agriculture is so important in our everyday lives. 

 

Erin Gorter:   

What seed would you like to plant for anyone else who is interested in pursuing a career in your field? 

 

Lindsey Liebig: 

Really what I look at my career as is I am kind of a, a middleman between farmers and, government or regulators or people that work for, you know, state agencies or things. And so, I would say that anybody that really wants to be able to give a voice to farmers that maybe don't have time, or don't want to speak for themselves or don't want to put themselves out there, you know, I like being able to be a voice for people like my grandpa and my uncle that spent our whole lives working on the farm but didn't have time to necessarily go to all the meetings or talk about all the problems and everything going on. So, I think that, you know, my job is a great one for people that are passionate about the industry, it's a great job for people that really want to market and promote and talk about the industry without necessarily feeling like they need to be a production farmer or a researcher or things like that. I get to do policy, marketing, education, public relations, communications, you get to do a little bit of everything. So, if you really like to be involved in a lot of things and you like to, you know, be able to kind of touch a lot of different areas without having to really focus in on one then my job's a great one to be able to do that because you get a taste of a little bit of a lot of things and you get to work with a lot of people that are just, you know, good, down-to-earth people that inspire me every day. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Awesome. Thank you, Lindsay, for visiting with us today. And again, this is Lindsay Liebig, the Executive Director of the Sacramento County Farm Bureau. So, thank you, Lindsay. 

 

Lindsey Liebig:  

Thank you. 

Thank you for listening to this AgSnacc, a production of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in collaboration with the South Coast Region Agricultural Education Consortium. For more information, please visit our website at www.agsnacc.com. That’s www.a-g-s-n-a-c-c.com