Family, youth and agriculture — a trio of passions for Diane Slater

Diane Slater has shown a passion for agriculture and the youth of Missouri, but above all else, a connection to family.

Growing up on a small farm outside of Auxvasse, Missouri, Slater had an early interest in agriculture. Helping her dad with cattle and taking care of chickens, calves and lambs, she learned the lesson of responsibility at a young age, but this only skims the surface of the character behind this Missouri Native.

Today, Slater has a very social personality, but this was not always the case.

“When I was younger I was very quiet, very shy,” Slater said.

As a child Slater did not possess the same confidence she has today. At the end of high school, she decided to become involved in agriculture thanks in part to joining FFA. She recalls an experience in grade school, when she was chosen to participate in a math competition. Her nerves got the best of her and she sat out that day, but the apprehension would soon change due to the guidance of key people in her life.

“In FFA she was on the farm management team,” said Janice Rothermich, Slater’s mother. “Her FFA adviser, Jim Graham, really pushed her. She ended up placing fifth in the nation in farm management … As a parent you try to instill that, but sometimes it takes an outside voice.”

Slater began school at the University of Missouri with three credit hours of agricultural economics already under her belt thanks to her success in FFA. Four years later, Slater graduated with her degree in general agriculture with emphasis in agricultural journalism, hotel restaurant management and agricultural economics. With such a diverse degree, she was well suited for the position of director of communications, which she has held for 12 years, with the Missouri Pork Association. Her responsibilities include member communications, media relations, webpage maintenance, producer education, pork promotion and more.

“I don’t think one word encompasses Diane,” said Zelta McBee, office manager for the Missouri Pork Association. “If I relate it to work, I would say reliable.”

McBee has worked for MPA for over three years and has witnessed first-hand the effort that Slater puts into her work.

“I think the most fun is working and interacting with the farmers,” Slater said. “They are down to earth. I think they share more of the values that I have.”

In her job, Slater loves the variety and busyness it offers. Working at MPA is brings with it an up tempo pace that Slater has developed a knack for.

“Some may not like it, I do,” Slater said. “It keeps me busy, I don’t like to sit around and do nothing. When I stay busy, time goes by faster.”     

It is easy to see what Slater has done for the youth in agriculture in the state of Missouri. Boosting awareness for agriculture and educating the future leaders in the field.

“She’s a team player, and is always willing to help me out when I need it,” McBee said. “We have built a great working relationship as well as friendship.”

Slater has been a major supporter of the MPA Youth Show Pig Circuit. Helping to develop and expand the program that has now become a place for youth in agriculture to come together and compete at dozens of swine shows across the state.

“You constantly have to look at what you are doing, especially with what we do here,” Slater said. “Sometimes you’ll have a program you’ve been doing for a couple years and think it works but then you have to step back and think: Are we having any more impact? Do we need to change? You always have to look back and evaluate.”

Being able to balance home life and work is not always easy. Both Slater and Rothermich say it has challenges, but ones that can be overcame.

“I am an accountant and am very organized – Diane takes after me in that respect,” Rothermich said. “You learn to be organized so that you will have time later.”

Away from the office, it is easy to see the type of character Slater possesses. Having a family of her own as well as growing up with a sister and a brother, Slater has strong family ties.

“It was tradition to go to Dale’s [Slater’s father] parent’s house for Christmas Eve,” said Rothermich. “Dale’s mom would always make beef salad… Now that it’s at our house, Diane keeps the tradition going by making beef salad on Christmas Eve.”

According to Rothermich, tradition is an important piece of Slater’s personality.           

“I think it’s just a family bond,” Rothermich said. “She [Slater] loved the farm and loved to go hunting, there is so much more you can do on the farm.”

Agriculture has opened the door to many opportunities for Slater. Today, she enjoys what she does for the swine industry and youth of Missouri, but at the same time is well connected to her family and to her Missouri roots.