Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SRM Spotlight: Tate Lantz, South Dakota Section

By Julia Workman, SRM Outreach Intern

South Dakota native Tate Lantz is a fan of the producer forums that were held at the Denver Annual Meeting last year. Their value is “a no brainer,” he says, adding that these forums were “at least as well attended as any of the others.” He believes that reaching out in this way to producer-oriented groups and landowners will go a long way toward making these members feel more comfortable in a Society that he believes has moved more toward academia since he joined over twelve years ago.

Tate grew up on a ranch in central South Dakota, raising both cattle and crops. Even after graduating from South Dakota State University and ending up with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), he still enjoys being able to go home and work on the family ranch. Now a Rangeland Management Specialist with the NRCS Rapid City Field Office, Tate also enjoys skiing and snowboarding and, he laughs, “I seem to hunt more than my wife likes!” Tate joined SRM when he first went to work with the NRCS in 1998; he recently finished his term on the South Dakota Section SRM Board of Directors and is also the current Awards Committee Co-Chair for his Section.

The NRCS, Tate says, encouraged him to get involved in SRM by helping new employees to attend conferences and other events. However, it is the connections he has made that have kept him a member of the Society. “You can’t get these benefits anywhere else,” he remarks. The people he has met and the ability to contact them with questions have been instrumental in his career. He adds that SRM has improved younger members’ opportunities to open those lines of communication. When Tate was first starting his career, he says, “you’d just start a conversation when you were sitting next to a guy at the bar.” Now, programs like the Tapping the Top Mixer at Annual Meetings make building relationships a lot easier.

Tate recommends that young members attend the International Meetings and talk to people while there. He adds that younger members should simply introduce themselves if they want to learn more about a topic of discussion between other members, saying that “most will let you right in” to the conversation. The whole meeting, he believes, is a great place to foster relationships between generations. He suggests that older members get to know one or two younger people and stay in contact with them to mentor to them through their careers. He also counsels younger members to actively seek out experienced members and take them on as mentors to coach them through their careers. “It would be nice [for these members] to have… a go-to person,” he explains.

Such connections are especially important in these transitional times. Tate comments that even locally, he sees more NRCS professionals retiring than are starting with the agency. This will be an issue down the road as access to fewer employees places more stress on projects and the workforce. However, it also means that there will be a lot of job openings and opportunities for professionals. Tate observes that SRM seems to be doing well at getting and keeping young people involved, and suggests that it help keep these members abreast of new job opportunities.

Tate’s vision for SRM involves more diversity. He says the different groups— “the producer, the rancher, the hunter, the birdwatcher, and the [academic]—they all need to be involved.” He wants the Society to maintain its activity in rangeland management and hopes that events such as the Annual Meeting will move closer to “the heart of real-life ranching” so that landowners would be better able to attend. Tate believes that the Society will continue to thrive by better incorporating land managers and producers into its ever-changing face.

No comments: