POLO, Ill. — People in rural areas tend to look at life in a unique way.

“I think that’s a good thing,” said Andrew McCrea during a presentation at the Ag Summit hosted by Forreston State Bank.

McCrea, who farms with his dad in northwest Missouri, where they grow corn, soybeans and raise cattle, talked about what sets extraordinary people apart.

“Whether it its individuals, farms, banks or large companies, the balance between personal and purposeful is usually very important,” he said.

Being personal means becoming a person that others enjoy being around.

“That doesn’t mean you have to tell jokes,” said McCrea, a radio and TV broadcaster who produces American Countryside radio program. “It means a person that generally looks for the best even in the most difficult situations.”

This important quality also can be achieved by companies such as Southwest Airlines.

“From 1972 to 2002, Southwest returned the most money to investors than any publicly traded company because they were different than other airlines,” McCrea said. “Instead of flying to a hub, they decided to fly from point to point to get people to places quicker.”

And, he said, the company focused on doing things in a fun way.

“Employees could wear shorts to work,” he said. “And they became personal and purposeful in what they did.”

It also is important to live with perspective, McCrea said.

“This means getting outside of what we know to be able to see through someone else’s eye,” he said.

“Try to make everyone a VIP by understanding their values, interest and purpose,” he advised.

“Why is an important question to ask, but for the most part why is a question that looks backward,” he said. “Why not is a question that usually looks forward, so if you’re not asking as many why nots as whys, you begin to lose focus on the future.”

In 1980, the average age of people living in rural areas, small towns and big cities were all about the same, McCrea said.

“Since 1980, the country got older as a whole, but the folks in rural America are much older because there aren’t as many young people around,” he said.

The population in the United States is growing; however, the growth rate has slowed, McCrea said. And, he said, the growth rate varies between large metro areas, rural areas and small towns.

“In 2016, for rural populations, there were barely more births than deaths,” he said. “And in 2019, for the first time, there will be more deaths than births in rural America.”

Therefore, McCrea said, to change these trends it is important to sometimes do things a little differently.

“We’ve got to tell our story to the future generations,” he stressed.

His hometown, King City, Missouri, a community of 1,000 people, is working to accomplish this goal. During the high school graduation, each student receives a mailbox with his or her name on the outside and a special gift inside.

“Each mailbox contains a thumb drive that features people who graduated from our high school and made their lives in our community,” McCrea said.

And during the ceremony, he said, the high school principal also has a message for all the community members.

“Our principal says that every other person in the gym has to do everything they can to make our town a place where the kids want to put their mailbox,” he said.

It also may mean farm operations will need to make some changes.

“On our farm, we’ve got cover crops and sometimes we fly them on,” McCrea said. “A few years ago, we went to 15-inch corn, which works well.”

McCrea encourages farmers to look at their operation and see what works.

“It doesn’t mean you always have to change. We still ride horseback when working with our cattle,” he said. “So, we still do some things that we’ve been doing for a century.”

Wrangler Jeans now is working with cotton farmers to track cotton that was grown on specific farms, McCrea said.

“This year, Wrangler is going to sell Mississippi Jeans, Alabama Jeans and Texas Jeans and you will be able to trace them back to the farmer,” he said.

McCrea is the author of several books about life and leadership based on the stories featured on his American Countryside radio program. For more information about books written by McCrea, go to: andrewmccrea.com.

Martha Blum can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 117, or marthablum@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Blum.

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