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Jonathan Knutson presides over a North American Agricultural Journalists meeting.

To my surprise and honor ...

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thirteen years ago, I joined North American Agricultural Journalists, or NAAJ, the professional group for U.S. and Canadian ag journalists. It looked like a good way to improve at what I do for a living.

At the same time, I entered a story in the group's annual writing contest. Much to my surprise and honor, the story, on the Farmers Union restaurant in Washington, D.C., took first place in the features category. I read the stories that won second and third place, as well as honorable mention, and they were really good. That made coming out on top even more satisfying.

Through the years, my appreciation for NAAJ grew beyond that fairly limited and self-centered outlook. Oh, I've had the good fortune to win more annual writing awards, including first place in columns this year. But as time passed I increasingly recognized — and took advantage of — the professional opportunities NAAJ provides: talking with talented ag journalists nationwide and meeting top policy-makers, among other things.

Four years ago, to my surprise and honor, I was asked to be NAAJ regional vice president for the Midwest region, our largest in terms of membership. I accepted enthusiastically.

Apparently I didn't mess up too badly in that role. Two years ago, to my surprise and honor, I was asked to be NAAJ national vice president, a one-year post that traditionally continues with a one-year stint as national VP. I accepted enthusiastically.

Apparently I didn't mess up too badly as national VP, either. I was asked to continue as NAAJ national president, which again I accepted enthusiastically.

I'm writing this at our annual convention in Washington, with my one-year presidential gig just ended. It's been a good year; I've learned a little more about agriculture, ag journalism, journalism in general and how the world works. I hope the combination will help me to better serve Agweek readers.

I'm transitioning to a new role in NAAJ: I'll be among a small group of former presidents who will select future officers of our group. So someday I'll have the pleasure of contacting members to offer him or her a leadership position.

Here's where I thank Agweek for picking up the cost of attending the NAAJ annual conventions and allowing me the latitude to serve as an officer.

Enough (or maybe far too much) about me. Let's wrap up with what really matters: Agweek readers. Many of you serve in county, state and national organizations that in some way promote and strengthen agriculture and rural communities. Congratulations and thanks; you're doing good and necessary work

For those of you who aren't, please explore opportunities to get involved. We all have different strengths and personalities, we all have varying amounts of free time. Decide for yourself what's a good fit for your situation — and then go for it.

Based on my own experiences, I think you'll find the time and effort well spent.