Animal Ag Engage

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I am a voice for agriculture and I am learning to speak up

Dallas Dooley is a 2016 College Aggies Online competitor from New Mexico State University and winner of the week three challenge: Introduction Blog Post. Visit her blog to read more.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” I have never been one to stand around and watch idly as my dreams surpass me, so naturally it made sense for me to join College Aggies Online and seize this amazing opportunity to spread truth about the industry that I love. You may have seen me posting more than usual on social media. I have started using hashtags, cool graphics and facts about livestock. But what is this #CAO16, and why do I use it so much?

transparent-caoWhat does CAO stand for?

First off, CAO is short for College Aggies Online. We are a bunch of passionate agriculture students and groups from across the U.S. Though we may not always be on the same side of the stadium come Saturday, we stand hand in hand when it comes to loving agriculture.

What is my role in #CAO16?

As a 2016 competitor, my role in College Aggies Online is to create social media posts that reflect common misconceptions in the agricultural industries. Some of these hot topics include hormones, antibiotic use and animal welfare. Each week for 9 weeks, there is a different animal theme. Via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and my blog, I tell Ag’s story one post at a time.

Who am I?

Who am I? Who am I? *begin terrible Eddy Murphy impression of Mushu from Mulan* I am the generous, the gregarious, the indispensable Dallas Dooley. I grew up on a small family farm where we raised everything but wages. After I left for college at New Mexico State University, my mom started a horse rescue called Phoenix Equine. She is a firm believer that bad things happen to good people, and she gives all horses a second chance at life and service. If you ask me, her compassion extends to more than just horses which is why our farm looks more like a petting zoo than a business. However, my mother’s compassion is the trait I am most proud to have inherited. It allows me to step back and gives me time to try and understand when someone shares an opinion different than my own.

Growing up on a farm taught me how to love and care for animals, though I was not always so good with the ones that could talk back (aka humans). After leaving the farm and going to a university that was several hours removed from my friends, family and animals, I started to get really involved to fill the void of farm chores. As a result, my social skills began to blossom. Years later, I am able to carry on a conversation with a brick wall if necessary, but I can still sympathize with agriculturalists who struggle with talking to people not directly related to the farm. I am a voice for agriculture and through College Aggies Online, I am learning to speak up.

Time flies when you are having fun. Being a competitor in #CAO16 is no different. We are already at the end of week 5! If you are having a great time keeping up with all of our posts, don’t fret because we still have four weeks to go. Don’t forget to check back in with me for next week’s theme: Dairy Cows.

Follow Dallas on Twitter and Instagram!


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8 Reasons to Celebrate FFA

12063584_10205154888819727_4930963141184318554_n“I believe in the future of agriculture…”

I vividly remember reciting these words over and over in my head during my first course in agricultural education. This iconic line is the first phrase in the FFA Creed. It is a line that FFA members, past and present, can recite without hesitation because of its symbolism and the bond that ties us all together. From the first time I recited the FFA Creed to earning my American FFA Degree six years later; this organization has truly helped me become the person I am today.

If you are not familiar with FFA, here some of the basics of the organization that has touched the lives of thousands of students.

  • It was founded by 33 students in 1928 as ‘Future Farmers of America.’
  • Although it once stood for that, it is now referred to as The National FFA Organization to better accommodate the growing diversity of its members.
  • It is the largest student-led organization in the world with 649,355 members who are a part of 7,859 chapters.
  • The mission of The National FFA Organization is: “FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education”

The FFA Motto: Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.

Check out The National FFA Organization for more information!

This week happens to be an e10292278_869204976434761_2988694273467545930_nxtra special one for The National FFA Organization. On Wednesday October, 19 FFA will kick off its 89th National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis. It is a gathering of over 63,000 members and guests, who are there to learn, lead, grow and celebrate the accomplishments of members and chapters across the country. While I am very envious of everyone at convention right now, I am ecstatic to share with you all eight reasons why we should always Celebrate FFA!

  1. A Rich History – Whenever a member zips up the golden zipper of a blue corduroy jacket, there is a sense of pride that overfills them. Being a part of a tradition that dates back to 1928 is something to be proud of. FFA was founded on the belief in the future of agriculture and that will never change. It is the bond that ties present and past members together.
  2. Personal Development – In high school, I was a shy, timid freshman. It was not until I found my place in the FFA that I truly developed into the person I am today. FFA is helping students to find their purpose. It may be in agriculture, it may not be, but regardless of your goals and aspirations, FFA will help you grow into someone who will make a difference.
  3. Lifelong Friends – Some of the most impactful relationships I have are because of my time in the FFA. I have friends from all over the country! When you graduate from FFA, the relationships do not become a thing of the past. The relationships will hold true because of the experiences you shared in the FFA.
  4. Opportunity to Travel – FFA can take you across the world!

    FFA State Officers have the opportunity to participate in an international experience. This photo was taken in South Africa.

    On the local level, chapters will travel throughout their counties to state convention and to camps and conferences competing in contests, participating in service projects and gaining valuable leadership experiences. National FFA Convention is a great way for members to travel and meet people from all over. Each summer, FFA also hosts Washington Leadership Conference in D.C. This conference focuses on learning how to take action in your community and serve other people. Through my experiences in the FFA I have been all over the state of Minnesota, Washington D.C., about eight different states and even to South Africa. These were all unforgettable experiences that would have never been possible without the help of FFA.

  5. Scholarships – Each year, The National FFA Organization will give away $2.2 million in scholarships. How great is it that individuals and companies believe so highly in the future of agriculture that will donate this much to the education of students!
  6. 14469617_1287549081279258_348064421540300413_nCareer Preparation – In the FFA, there are Career Development Events (CDEs) and Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs) that are helping students prepare for future career endeavors in many agricultural pathways. At the national level there are 24 CDEs that all you to
    compete individually or with a team in areas ranging from marketing/communications to dairy cattle evaluation and parliamentary procedure to agricultural mechanics. Contests start at the local level and if you do well enough you can compete at state and national conventions. CDEs help give students real-life experiences in dif
    ferent career endeavors, not to mention they are a blast to be a part of!
  7. Advocates for Agriculture – FFA members everywhere are helping to bridge the gap between production agriculture and consumers. FFA members are the future veterinarians, scientists, farmers, animal nutritionists, Congressmen, teachers and so much more. They are going to make a positive difference in the agricultural community regardless of where the future will take them.
  8. Becoming a Part of Something Bigger – In my opinion, this is the best reason to celebrate FFA. FFA members are selfless. Chapters across the country participate in countless numbers of service projects and literacy events. Members are working hard to combat some of the biggest global challenges, including hunger. When FFA members put on that iconic corduroy jacket, there is nothing they cannot do.

At the Alliance, we are so fortunate that some of us had the opportunity to be a part of The National FFA Organization. Everyday lives are being positively impacted because of this organization and its members. I am forever thankful for the opportunities and experiences I have had through the FFA and I know thousands of other people feel the same way. This organization is helping students become lifelong advocates for agriculture.

Happy National Convention, FFA! Best of luck to the members and chapters competing in contests. Enjoy convention and all it has to offer, but remember you can always Celebrate FFA!

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14 things I bet you didn’t know about pig farming

Oink you glad it’s Porktober? Not only is it finally starting to feel like fall with pumpkin spice everything hitting the stores, but it is also Pork Month! Farmers are dedicated to caring for their pigs so we can enjoy bacon next to our eggs every month of the year. Here are a few things to know about pig farming because bacon doesn’t magically appear on our plates (although that would be awesome!).october-is

  1. There are five common types of pig farms. Today’s pig farms usually specialize in a certain period of the pigs’ life cycle. The five types of pig farms are: farrow-to-finish, farrow-to-nursery, farrow-to-wean, wean-to-finish and finishing. There are 67,000 total pig farms in the United States!twitter-pig-care
  2. Modern pig farms help farmers care for their pigs. Animal care is the number one priority for all farmers and modern farming systems allow farmers to embrace technology that allows them to take better care of their pigs. Temperature control, automatic water and feed dispensers and protection from predators are a few examples!
  3. Pig barn floors a designed to keep things clean. Floors in pig barns are slatted to allow farmers to easily hose and clean up after the pigs!
  4. All pigs are raised without added hormones! Some packaging labels claim that their pigs are raised without hormones, but ALL pigs are raised without added hormones. It is illegal to use added hormones in pig farming!hormones-twitter
  5. Pig farmers use less water, land and energy than ever before! Pig farmers live on or near the land that they farm, so they understand the importance of environmental stewardship. Between 1959-2009, pig farmers decreased land use by 78 percent and water use by 41 percent!pig-sustainability-twitter
  6. An adult female pig is called a sow. And a baby pig is a piglet; a young female pig that has not given birth is a gilt, a male pig is a boar and if castrated, barrow.
  7. Farrowing stalls help protect piglets. Farrowing stalls allow farmers to help in the birth process and reduce the number of piglets accidentally laid on or stepped on by the sow.farrowing-twitter
  8. Piglets are born with needle-teeth that are trimmed after birth. Farmers have learned more than a few things over the years, and one of them is to trim piglet teeth to prevent injuries to other piglets and the sow!
  9. Heating lamps are used to keep piglets warm. Heating lamps help keep piglets warm in the farrowing stall while keeping the sow cool.heating-lamp-tw
  10. Pig farmers work closely with veterinarians to ensure their animals receive the best care. Farmers and veterinarians learn from each other on how to improve and best take care of their animals. Farmers work with veterinarians to have animal care and health management plans on each farm.
  11. Pigs’ ears are used for identification. The left ear identifies the pig number within its litter and the right ear signals the litter number.
  12. Pigs eat a nutritionally-balanced diet every day. Pigs eat a grain-based diet of corn and soybean meal with wheat, barley, vitamins and minerals.
  13. Pig farmers are on social media! That’s right, pig farmers are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram just like everyone else! Some farmers are very active on social media sharing their farm story and pig farmers are no exception. If you search the hashtag “#RealPigFarming” you can follow along with them and learn more about pig farming!
  14. Americans love pork! Ok, I bet you did know that – BUT maybe you didn’t know you can satisfy your pumpkin and pork craze at the same time! Here are few pumpkin-themed pork recipes for you to enjoy:

Happy Pork Month!

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Using Snapchat to share agriculture’s story

The Animal Agriculture Alliance engages food chain influencers and promotes consumer choice by helping them better understand modern animal agriculture. Social media is one way we share information and facts about how farmers and ranchers care for their animals and help feed families.  We are active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and now Snapchat! Our username is animalag.

Snapchat is one of the newest social media channels with more than 100 million users. We are excited to use this new platform to make sure animal agriculture’s voice is heard and to reach even more people who may not be familiar with how delicious meat, milk and eggs get to their plates. Basically, the app allows users to take short videos and pictures to share with followers, but the content only remains visible for 24 hours.

The Alliance will use Snapchat to take our followers on farm tours and conferences we attend throughout the year, meet farmers and share trivia facts. Recently, our director of communications attended the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture annual conference in Nebraska and shared photos and videos from the conference where she had the opportunity to tour a dairy farm and a cow/calf beef farm.snapchat
Starting in the next few weeks, the Alliance will start Trivia Tuesdays and Thursdays on Snapchat about animal care, sustainability, meat matters and fun facts about pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys and all the other barnyard animals!

If you’re on Snapchat, here are a few other accounts to follow:

  • Gilmerdairy – Will Gilmer, Alabama dairy farmer
  • Hilljay45 – Jay Hill, New Mexico farmer
  • Nationalffa – National FFA
  • Realpigfarming – Real Pig Farming
  • Cristencclark – Cristen Clark, Food & Swine
  • Hmiller361 – Hannah Miller, social media guru on agriculture
  • Aggrad – Ag Grad, a career resource for college students and recent grads

For how to effectively use each social media platform to promote agriculture, check out the Alliance’s social media guide, The Power of Social Media in Agriculture: A Guide to Social Media Success.


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Growing up the Farmer’s Daughter

Some children grow up in the suburbs, others in the big city, some live in large mansions, others in small apartment buildings, but I believe I had the best place of all tpicture-in-front-of-barno grow up. Where would that be you might ask? My family’s dairy farm. Our farm is proudly located in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (Minnesota) and has been there for four generations. Each and every day on the dairy is something very special to me. There are triumphs and challenges, but I could not be more thankful to have been raised with agriculture in my roots. Here are three of the most important life lessons I learned growing up as the farmer’s daughter.

The cows come first. Always.

Regardless of the day or time, cow care is the top priority for my family. In my home, we do not eat supper or lunch until the cows have received their’s. We don’t clean our home, until the cow barn is taken care of. We don’t go to the doctor until the veterinarian came to check on our cows. Everyone in my family knows and fully understands that the cows come first. Farmers just like my dad, work tirelessly everyday of the year to make sure that their animals are well cared for. Imagine getting a call from your boss at 2:30 a.m. telling you to get to work right away. Most of us would question their sanity and then roll back over in bed. That is not the case for farmers. If my dad knows a cow will be calving in the middle of the night, I can guarantee you he will be up monitoring the birthing process ensuring the cow and newborn calf are well and healthy. There is no such thing as a ‘day off’ in my family.

There is always something to learn.

There are just some things that cannot be taught in the classroom. Thankfully, I have learned many life lessons on the farm. Work ethic, growing from mistakes and failure, and the importance of advocating for what you love are all proficiencies I have learned from the dairy. When you have to be up at sunrise and do not get to bed until way after sunset, you begin to be appreciative for the fact that you have a job that makes time go by in the blink of an eye. When you spend a countless number of hours preparing the land and planting your crops in the spring only to watch a hail storm destroy everything, you begin to be thankful for the fact that no people or animals were hurt. When you read and hear about organizations trying to destroy your livelihood by spreading misinformation, you begin to find the courage within yourself to stand up for what you believe in. I am a better person because of the trials and tribulations, victories and accomplishments I have had on the farm.

Family is forever. kylas-family

It is definitely not a ‘normal’ thing to have to work with your parents, grandparents, and siblings every day, but truthfully, I would not have it any other way. Each day, my family and I wake up knowing that we are taking care of cows that are producing wholesome, nutritious milk and are feeding the world. Being able to lean on your family in times of success and defeat is something I will never take for granted. We support one another in all aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to the farm.

Farming is a family affair. We farmers love what we do and are thankful for the opportunity to work alongside some of our closest friends and family. Just because a farm is large, does not make it a “factory farm” instead of a family farm. Ninety-seven percent of farms in America ar
e family-owned. Just as a person from town or a large city may want to go back to the family business, children of farmers want to do the same. With more family members wanting to continue their agricultural legacy and tradition, it is important that the farm expands in order to support multiple generations. Regardless of the size of the farm, animal care is going to be our top priority.

Do you see whfamily-farms-for-blogy life on the dairy farm has meant so much to me? I would not be the person I am today without the life lessons learned and the family who helped to raise me on the farm. I can assure you that I am not the only one who has ever felt this way. People all across the country are thankful to have been raised in agriculture and are passionate about producing our world’s food and fiber. Being an actual farmer may not be in my career aspirations, but I know that agriculture will be in my future. After all, I will always be the farmer’s daughter. 

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The Alliance Taught Me The Importance of “Why?”

Day One

With any internship, the first day is always the most nerve racking. When starting, there is an expected level of anticipation for traditional intern responsibilities, followed by acceptance because that is the circle of life in the work place. On day one I expected to be picking up coffee, taking clothes to the dry cleaners and answering phones and taking messages. But after day one I quickly learned these were not the tasks I would be responsible for.

I was fortunate enough to play a crucial role in the Alliance this summer; I was able to participate in a number of tasks. I attended two animal rights conferences, drafted several blogs, created social media content, connected with interns working in all aspects of the industry, and tracked media outlets to remain current on industry trends. And while the work load never let up I learned an invaluable lesson this summer. I learned the importance of “Why?”

Understanding the Importance of “Why?”

The need to communicate agricultural practices is at a high. Consumers have become more concerned about where their food is coming from. They want to know the practices that producers use and if these practices line up with their lifestyle, and so they ask the question, “why?” Why farmers implement certain practices, why do companies process food the way they do, why are certain ingredients used, the list is long but the question is the same.

Today all the information that consumers need is at their fingertips. At the click of a button on their phones, laptops, tablets and more, consumers can search for answers to their questions and find them. But there are two sides to every story. This saying is almost cliché because we have heard it uttered so many times, but for the animal agriculture community it could not be truer. A large part of the mission of the Alliance is to protect, to understand who is outputting misleading information with an ulterior motive because no one likes to be the target.

Communication Builds Community

With information coming from multiple sources, why shouldn’t it come from the farmers and ranchers as well, with unbeatable force? By sharing this information consumers are able to build trust by relating their needs to practices and trust leads to continued business transactions. It is commonly said that the biggest problem with communication is that we do not listen to understand; we listen to reply. By understanding the meaning behind “Why?” farmers and ranchers can be reiterating the mutual values they hold with consumers. Communication will lead to community.

A fellow intern this summer quoted, “A customer does not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The animal agriculture community emphasizes animal care every day and this is just one answer to many questions that consumers hold. There is an abundance of information available, but is it the right information? This summer I have asked a lot of questions and I have answered just as many, but most importantly I have learned to understand the importance of “Why?”

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A Flashback to ’15 – College Aggies, Activists and Online Engagement

Jennifer Weinberg, 2015 College Aggies Online (CAO) second place individual winner, grew up on a beef cattle ranch in New Jersey. In 2015, she graduated from George Washington University with a degree in Political Communications. Her goal is to defend the rights of farmers in the court of law and public opinion by fusing together her love for agriculture with her current and future knowledge of law. 

Beef CattleBeing a part of the College Aggies Online program provided me the opportunity to do exactly what I love to do more than most everything else- talk about cattle and agriculture. Entering the competition taught me one thing- engagement defending agriculture on social media has never been needed more, or in higher demand. Opponents of agriculture have taken to the seas of social media in their attempts to end meat consumption. To their credit- they are good at it – “it” being using vast emotionally-engaging propaganda to drive a wedge of mistrust between shoppers and farmers. It’s time that the agricultural community mounts a force online to disrupt this and the CAO program was exactly that driving force for me.

Growing up on a small family-owned beef cattle farm gives me something in common with many other farmers, as 97 percent of U.S. farms are family owned, and I got to share my reality through creating various graphics and posts that I shared on social media platforms. Without the CAO program, activists would be able to continue telling their completely one-sided story of agriculture. Through the various seminars and tasks handed to us in each of the nine weeks of the program, we gained knowledge and encouragement that helped us learn to be heard.

In this however, being heard is not simply enough. The College Aggies program helped me see that not only was it important to be engaged with the PQA Plusonline world, but sharing my story had to do more than simply show a glimpse into my life; it had to do its part to combat the very negative framing that has been pushed forth about agriculture in America. Due to the changing tides of technology, it is no secret that information is spread almost instantly online. Not only is it a quick mode of information transfer, it’s efficient in changing how people form opinions and adapt behaviors. For instance, a Facebook post by an activist group that contorts the pig-preferred, safe usage of gestation crates for sows into an evil tortuous prison cell degrading the value of life, if seen by an individual who unknowingly takes it to be an expression of reality, can cause such an emotionally-formed opinion that they decide to stop eating pork products or even, stop eating meat all together. This decision has a significant effect on the market of supply and demand for pig farmers. This effect grows as more people change their eating and consumption habits, and activist engagement on social media is designed to do exactly that. One of the best parts of the CAO program was that learning how to combat this while avoiding the negativity of anti-agriculturalists.

450 poundsAvoiding this negativity was not hard because I drew on the experiences I have with agriculture. I was not aware before the program to the degree in which in both central New Jersey, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, and in the nation’s capital where I went to college, the average person’s conception of American agriculture is plagued with illusions of animals in pain and suffering by the hand of “heartless farmers”. This simply is not true, but before CAO I did not know what I could do about it.

By being a part of the College Aggies Online program I was able to learn how to effectively combat this online by balancing my conveyance of the facts with emotionally salient materials that shoppers want to see. In other words, I got to share my story of what farming ACTUALLY looks like through informative posts that show the lighter, meaningful relationship that farmers share with their livestock. I am forever grateful for the Animal Agriculture Alliance for providing me the opportunity to learn how to express my story through social media and other mediums like on the “Future Problem Solvers” Panel at the 2016 Summit that allowed my voice to be heard. That’s what needs to happen more and more from all of us, both young and old –  if we want to preserve the industries that feed us and have fed us since even before we called ourselves “Americans.”  Luckily, the CAO program is here to teach us all how to be heard, and be heard effectively.

“In no other country do so few people produce so much food, to feed so many, at such reasonable prices.” –

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Everyone Needs a Farmer, Three Times a Day

A Growing Community

The agriculture community is vast and continues to not only grow, but also to develop new practice methods. In a field so large not only can it be difficult to be well versed on all its subject matter, but it is also easy to find information that is subjective as opposed to objective. As an intern at the Animal Agriculture Alliance, my experiences have exposed me to the wide scope of information being shared along with those who are sharing it. In short, I have acknowledged the importance of the connection that needs to be made with all sides of the spectrum regarding individuals and their eating habits.

FFALike many people I do not have a background in agriculture. Agriculture was not a field I had involvement in until I took my first agriculture science class as a freshman in high school. The class exposed me to the unspoken truth that was made notable by Brenda Schoepp. “Once in your life you may need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” It is when I finally understood this truth that I knew I wanted to become more vocal in speaking out on issues of concern for our nation’s farmers and ranchers.

A Need for Effective Communication 

Currently there is a great need to bridge the communication gap regarding the truth that serves as the backbone of American animal agriculture. America’s farmers and ranchers have faced combative comments from animal activists as well as animal rights organizations. They want to know what the agriculture community’s defense is and explain again how farmers and ranchers care. These comments are all confrontational in nature, but by following two steps when responding to – or proactively confronting – these comments the agriculture community can take progressive strides forward regarding farmer’s sincere consideration for animal welfare.

  1. Focus on a particular segment of agriculture

    Photo by: Laura Bardot

    Photo by: Laura Bardot

Animal agriculture encompasses many different species and topics, such as animal welfare. Focus on a particular topic such as pigs, chickens, beef cattle, etc. With all of the different species, there are different farmers and ranchers utilizing different techniques. Because of this, farmers frequently specialize in one of the livestock or poultry species. With this specialization, farmers and ranchers can not only provide more tailored care and welfare practices for their animals, they can also provide specifically designed nutrition plans and specially designed housing. Consumers are hungry to know more about their food. By highlighting the benefits of specialization through focusing on the information about particular species, the consumer can see the emphasis farmers and ranchers put on animal welfare.

  1. Provide facts

Consumers want to know where their food is coming from. By providing facts and adding them to anecdotes of farmers utilizing these practices, information will be better retained. Farmers are constantly learning about new practices and systems they can use to raise their livestock, similarly to how consumers are constantly learning about where their food is coming from. As the majority of consumers are more than two generations removed from the farm, it is difficult to fully understand why farmers do what they do. This is why we encourage consumers to do their own research and decide for themselves what they should eat or not eat. In today’s world, food labels are becoming harder and harder to read, therefore, farmers are trying to be open about how their livestock is raised. The facts about your food are out there, go get them.

13941052_1204172576288928_195915745_nContinue Your Education 

President Kennedy said, “Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.” Then and now, the education of agriculture needs to be continuously spread. By being specific in the information being shared and providing facts along with anecdotes the true face of animal agriculture will leave no room for contentious questions. Never stop learning because agriculture never stops teaching.

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Without Agriculture, I wouldn’t be an Aggie

Heather Abeita is the 2015 College Aggies Online third place individual winner. She grew up on a small farm and ranch in New Mexico and was actively involved in 4-H and FFA. She is a senior studying Agricultural Biology at New Mexico State University with the goal of becoming a veterinarian. Read Heather’s original post here

“Agriculture: noun; the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products.”heather

The definition of Agriculture can easily be looked up, but actually living the life and being able to experience it is a whole different story and telling the other side of the story was exactly what I did in College Aggies Online (CAO). There were so many things I learned during CAO, which ranged from learning about GMOs, how hormones are illegal to use in the poultry and pork industry to why we even have to import beef to the United States. Growing up on a small farm and being active in FFA and 4-H, I thought I knew quite a bit of information of the agriculture industry, but being able to participate in CAO I learned so much more.

My favorite part of CAO was being able to advocate for agriculture and telling the other side of agriculture. There are so many stories making the agriculture industry look like horrible people who want to destroy the land, which is not true at all.

I am a better agvocate today because CAO has taught me so many great points on how to be a great agvocate and how to communicate and fill the gap from the agriculture community to people who may not know much about agriculture. It now makes it easier for me as well and I am more confident in being able to compose an answer to a question whereas before I was not as comfortable answering questions about GMOs and hormone use (or lack thereof) in poultry.

Over the course of the nine weeks, I loved learning how to make an infographic which helps in explaining topics when advocating because there is a visual that people can actually see. I loved every bit of the competition and it was also pretty convenient because everything is mostly online-based and works better for your schedule.

My overall experience of CAO was a very impactful nine weeks of learning about various topics within the agriculture industry. Learning about all the various topics in the agriculture industry will help me in my future career of wanting to be a veterinarian because of the many connections and topics. I stumbled across College Aggies on Facebook and I thought I would give it a go and it was the best decision I made. I’ve also met so many other students and others who are involved in agriculture while attending the Tyson Foods tour as well as Animal Agriculture Alliance‘s Stakeholders Summit in Washington D.C. who want the best for agriculture.

Becoming a CAO individual winner was such an amazing accomplishment because I was not only representing myself but New Mexico State University. I was very excited that over the course of the nine weeks my hard work paid off in being one of the top individual winners. It meant a lot to me placing because there was competition with the other individuals and I was always looking for ideas to step up my game and how I could be a better advocate.

I hope others will take what they learn over the course of the nine weeks and become awesome advocators. I hope that they don’t stop advocating once it is all over but to keep advocating for agriculture because it is so vital, especially right now when there are so many voices who are speaking against the agriculture industry. We are hearing about GMOs and the use of antibiotics that may ultimately lead to bills being passed by lawmakers who have never stepped foot on a farm. So let’s all agvocate and become a stronger voice for agriculture!

The 2016 competition kicks off September 19. Sign up today!


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Jessica Miller is the 2015 College Aggies Online first place individual winner. She received her undergraduate degree in animal science and is now a graduate student studying agriculture education at Oklahoma State University. She grew up on a beef farm in Oklahoma and showed cattle, judged horses and livestock and participated in 4-H. Read Jessica’s original post here

Summer is about to end and school is right around the corner. I almost can’t believe it myself. Days pass by so quickly anymore and the things I look forward to now are fairs and fall. However, I am also looking forward to something else that happens in the fall that is much more exciting.

College Aggie’s Online (CAO), an initiative of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, is one of my main highlights that I look forward to now that I was so involved in it last year. I’d have to say the whole entire event was my favorite just because it challenged me to push myself and get things done.

I learned so much in those nine weeks and applied them after the event ended. I learned about the kind of people who tend to “hate” on agriculture as well as how to handle them online and in person. I learned so many ways of how to properly advocate for Ag in order to teach people where their food comes from. I am way better at advocating because of CAO and I help teach visitors at our school dairy farm about where their milk comes from and handle their questions with the confidence I didn’t have before CAO.

Overall, CAO was thrilling, challenging and fun. I first heard about the contest through others who had done it at my school. Our dairy club had recently won the club competition and had gone to the Alliance’s annual Stakeholders Summit, which the president had told me had been a load of fun. Since I loved to compete and loved to advocate for agriculture, I went ahead and joined the competition. I never knew how much fun I would have.

My first post was a dairy show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I made it a point in my schedule to share at least twice a day everyday when I wasn’t busy with school or work. I enjoyed the blogs, AgChat and all of the various assignments we did.

I didn’t really expect to win the CAO competition. I tried my best to do all the assignments and get the points I needed. However, winning the competition meant I had given it my all,  learned how to properly advocate for Ag, had kept pushing myself to do well and get all of the assignments finished. Winning the competition meant everything to me. I also got to experience Washington, D.C. for the first time in my life which was something this country girl was not used to, but I loved every minute of it and the Summit while getting to meet people and see things I had never seen.

I hope others gain the experience and have the fun I had during this competition. It is important we learn the facts about the Ag industry and learn about our detractors as well – because in the end, we have people who don’t support our farmers and ranchers and use what they call “facts” against us. In all honesty, what they use as facts are usually false or taken out of context and we as agriculturalists need to learn how to handle such accusations while maintaining a diplomatic demeanor.

I believe our youth in Ag is the future. If we arm our youth with knowledge of why and how we do things in agriculture, they can use it to defend our way of life against the ones who want to criticize it. Having knowledge that is correct and factual is mightier than the sword and if younger generations defend agriculture, we will have a promising future. I believe that CAO and the Alliance are the best at getting youth involved in advocating for Ag.

Thank you College Aggies and Animal Ag Alliance for everything!

Here is a link to the panel I was on discussing futures in Ag at the Alliance’s annual conference. This was an amazing experience if not a little nerve wracking just because it was my first time, but it was enjoyable and down right fun!

This year’s College Aggies Online scholarship competition kicks off September 19. To sign up, visit the Alliance website!