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Pleased to meet you

It’s been a long time since I was the new kid.

You know the feeling—terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. The butterflies in your belly are amped-up on adrenaline. There’s fear of the unknown, desire to be accepted and excitement of entering uncharted territory.

So allow me properly introduce myself as your Today’s Farmer editor. It’s just good manners when you’re new.

First of all, it’s important that you know I come from a farm background, born and raised in Tennessee, where my dad and brother produce beef cattle and row crops along with sweet corn for farmers markets. When you meet me, you’ll know I’m “not from around here.” (I’ve heard that a lot already.) The southern accent is hard to hide.

My upbringing on the farm cultivated a love of agriculture that continued into my career. Straight from college in 1996, I joined Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, where I was editor and manager of the communications department. That position allowed me to learn about many different types of production agriculture operations, practices and products. I understand farmers, their families and their way of life.

Now, here’s where my story takes a twist, and you’ll understand why being “new” is new to me. I spent more than 20 years at TFC, in the same job in the same town in the same state. I knew the people. I knew the places. I knew the projects and publications and plans. My car could practically drive on auto-pilot from my driveway to the office, where I would park in nearly the same spot every day.

I was comfortable.

In a comfort zone, however, nothing grows. Potential and passion are smothered by doubts and worries and “what ifs?” We know this all too well in agriculture. It’s comfortable to do what you’ve always done rather than risk failure with something new and different. Trying to break through the comfort zone is like trying to smash through a brick wall. But it can be done. I know. I did it.

A new chapter in my life began last October when I married Jason Jenkins, a resident of Holts Summit, Mo. Three years before, I lost my first husband in a carbon-monoxide poisoning accident that almost took my life as well. That traumatic experience made me realize that I should live with purpose in all aspects of my life. Our time on this earth is too short for regrets.

I’ve often said that Jason and I were meant to be. Both communicators, we were professional colleagues and friends long before we became husband and wife. After a couple months of long-distance marriage, I resigned from TFC in December so our daughter, Carly, 7, and I could join Jason and our other two children, Aiden, 8, and Ashlyn, 6, in Missouri. We packed up 18 years of accumulation in my home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and made the 500-mile move in time to spend our first Christmas together as a family under one roof. We’re just getting started, but I see a great life ahead of us.

On Jan. 23, I joined the staff of MFA’s Communications Department, and I can’t help but believe it is also meant to be. From the moment I walked into the Columbia home office, I knew the job would suit this Tennessee farm girl perfectly. I’ve found it to be the best of both worlds. There are new challenges and opportunities, but there’s also familiarity in what I’m doing. My role here allows me to share my passion for the agricultural industry, its people, their stories and the cooperative way of doing business.

I have the privilege of working with farmers—hands down, the best folks in the world—as well as an incredibly talented MFA staff. I’ve known several of them for years through TFC-MFA connections and my involvement in the Cooperative Communicators Association. The ones I didn’t know feel like longtime colleagues already.

Yes, leaving Tennessee behind has been bittersweet. Most of my family and friends are there, and that’s been a tough transition. I’ve always lived close enough to visit whenever we wanted. We’re making trips back there as much as possible, and they promise to come let us show off the Show-Me State to them soon.

So that’s me. The new girl. Pleased to meet you. I’m looking forward to getting to know you as I travel across MFA country and tell your stories through these pages. It already feels like home here.

That’s the thing about “new.” It doesn’t stay new for long.

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