Proud to serve the farmers
When Mary Anderson first applied for a job at the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS, now known as the Farm Service Agency, or FSA) office in Detroit Lakes, it was supposed to be a temporary position.
"There was a 90-day position available, and I was six months pregnant with my son, so I thought it would be a good fit for me, working for three months before he was born," Anderson recalls.
Fast forward 32½ years, and you can still find Anderson working at the FSA office every weekday, Monday through Friday -- at least until Jan. 2. After that, you'll have to go to the farm near Westbury where she and husband Arthur have spent the past 25 years together.
"It feels like the right time for me to move on and start the next chapter (of life)," she says. "I'm so fortunate, at 58 years old, to be able to retire and still be able to do some of the things I want to do with my life."
Not that she isn't going to miss her job. "I can say I have been very fortunate to have enjoyed my job, or I certainly would not have been here for 32 years," Anderson says. "This is the best group of people to work with... It has truly been a fun place to work.
"I have worked some long, hard hours over the years, but I have worked with great staffs, not only in our office, but our sister agencies of NRCS and SWCD... I will truly miss my coworkers in this building, as I will miss the daily associations with the farmers."
It was the agricultural aspect of her work that appealed most to Anderson in the beginning.
"I was born and raised on a farm, and I married a farmer," she says. "I have always had such empathy for the farmers. They work so hard. I have been very proud to help serve them, and likewise I have always been proud of our farmers."
Anderson's job has changed quite a bit through the years -- especially in the area of technology.
"You just learn to roll with those changes and try to move forward and adapt -- and of course maintain a little sense of humor with your co-workers about those changes, or we'd all have gone crazy," she says.
In fact, Anderson adapted well enough to changes at the agency over the years that she was asked to help train other FSA workers at agencies in neighboring counties.
"I got to do some traveling, and received a lot of training in human resource skills, time management, maintaining positive attitude and adapting to change," she says. "It was very rewarding and self-fulfilling, as well as providing some good tools for anybody to use, even in everyday life."
But the job was not without its frustrations. "Farming is one of the few industries where they produce a commodity and can't set the price for it themselves," Anderson says.
"You know most agriculture producers would probably prefer not to participate in the federal farm programs, but when you produce a commodity, whether it is grain, livestock or milk, you are subject to selling your product at the market prices...farmers, being the eternal optimists, always think the price will increase, so they wait to sell and end up selling on the down side of the market. Our agency is there to offer some price support protection and some benefits from participating in federal farm programs."
As much as she has enjoyed her work, Anderson feels it is time to move on.
"I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life," she says. "I have eight beautiful grandchildren to spend some time with, plus I love my lawn and garden work and I will actually be able to do it on my time instead of trying to fit it all in. You know, I have worked since I was 18 -- I think it's time to play!"
To say goodbye, Anderson's co-workers have planned an open house retirement party for this Tuesday, Dec. 16, from 1 to 3 p.m. The public is invited.