Animal Ag Engage


A farmer’s extraordinary passion

I had never met a person so passionate, dedicated and proud of what they do until I met a farmer. I grew up 25 miles southwest of the White House in the suburbs of Centreville, Va., removed from the farm like many people today. My passions for science and animals led me 705 miles south to Auburn University where I quickly realized another passion – helping farmers tell their story.

Me sitting by the Auburn sign before graduation.

Me sitting by the Auburn sign before graduation.

When I met a farmer for the first time I knew I had to change my major. I wanted to help the people that showed me what it truly meant to be a hard worker. I switched my major from animal science pre-vet to agricultural communications after my first year.

With every farmer that I met, one value in particular stood out from the rest – the importance of animal care. Farmers put the well-being of their animals before themselves. I met one dairy farmer who said he would stand in front of a train before he let anything happen to his cows.

Whether their farm is big, small or somewhere in-between, farmers make sure their animals receive the best care. Regular health and wellness visits from veterinarians, 24/7 access to nutritionally-balanced food and water and healthy living conditions are just a few examples that demonstrate this commitment.

The Alliance team meeting with a chicken farmer!

The Alliance team meeting with a chicken farmer!

Farming isn’t a 9-5 job, it’s a 24/7 job – but you’ll never hear a farmer complain because although it is their livelihood, it is also their passion. It was an honor for me to be surrounded by such dedicated people and I developed the utmost respect for farmers and agriculture. Farmers not only changed the way I looked at agriculture, but opened my eyes to a career I had never considered.

Today I am the communications coordinator with the Animal Agriculture Alliance bridging the communication gap between farm and fork every day. Next week marks one year since I was officially brought onto the team and I am grateful of all the opportunities I have had to meet even more farmers.

Farmers are becoming the new celebrity everyone wants to know. If you have the opportunity to meet a farmer, take it because it may change the way you see agriculture. A farmer’s extraordinary passion helped me find mine, and for that I am grateful.

aciton-pleaseOne opportunity to meet and hear from farmers and others involved in animal agriculture is the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2016 Stakeholders Summit. Farmers, ranchers and industry professionals will meet May 5-6 to discuss ways to take action to secure a bright future for animal agriculture. Online registration will be open through Monday, May 2 with on-site registration available during the conference. If you cannot make it, be sure to tune in to the live stream!

About the author:

I didn’t grow up on farm, but as soon as I met a farmer I knew I wanted to help tell their story. I am the communications coordinator at the Animal Agriculture Alliance responsible for social media, website management and member resources, bridging the communication gap between farm and fork and telling farmers’ stories every day. 

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A day in the life of an agriculture student

A few weeks ago, I had my very final spring break, cue the sad violin. I traveled home to Pennsylvania to spend some time with family and friends. The conversation of my post-graduation plans always seems to plague pleasant conversations during my time home. More recently, I received some negativity regarding certain aspects of agriculture from family and friends, citing various articles or documentaries. Even the conversation at a doctor’s appointment shifts to the fear of GMOs – my optometrist should have seen my eyes roll. Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than people bashing agriculture based on misunderstandings or a lack of exposure to the industry.  With misconceptions that follow agriculture around, here is a look into what it is really like to be a student studying in the agriculture field.

We are a diverse group of students. Agricultural students can study in a variety of disciplines such as animal sciences, entomology, plant sciences, food science and marketing. Each discipline is crucial to the agricultural industry. Our studies are woven together through our coursework. You can find us all over campus. We are out on the farm learning about crop growth and animal husbandry, in the field collecting insect specimens, in the lab conducting research and in the library doing lots of studying.

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Collecting feed samples for research means competing with these girls for food.

Research is at the forefront of our studies. Many students, including myself, conduct research in agricultural labs. The science of agriculture is constantly evolving and research allows for the development of innovative technologies. During my time at the University of Delaware, I have spent countless hours in a dairy nutrition laboratory researching top of the line ration additives that allow the farmer to preserve their feed harvested in the fall for year-round feeding.

We are involved on campus with clubs and organizations. Our commitment to agriculture doesn’t stop in the classroom. Most of us spend our waking hours, eating, living and breathing agriculture. There are countless clubs devoted to agricultural majors. Personally, I spend my free time involved as a sister of Sigma Alpha, an Ag Ambassador giving tours to prospective students, and as a puppy raiser for a guide dog foundation. Campus involvement has been the most memorable part of my college experience.

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Sigma Alpha gave me sisters who share my passion for agriculture


We deal with controversial issues involving agriculture.  As I mentioned before, being an agricultural major comes along with controversial topics. Whether it be animal welfare or the fear of genetically engineered foods, everyone seems to have an opinion that they want to voice loudly at us. Being in the agriculture field means staying up-to-date on hot topic issues and always agvocating louder than the misguided information.

We love our studies! No matter what the major, agriculture students are fiercely passionate about their studies. Agriculture is our life and our future. I have found my niche in agriculture, a place where I feel right at home alongside my peers. I cannot imagine loving my major any more than I do.

So to my friends, family, acquaintances, and even doctors, I’ll leave you with a quote from Leslie Knope from the tv show, Parks and Recreation. Leslie loves parks just as much as I love agriculture. “If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on strong, it’s because I feel strongly. And if I push too hard, it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough. This *agriculture* is my home. And I promise you – I’m not going anywhere.”

My time as a student may be coming to a close but it has given me a love for agriculture and that, I will have forever.abby 4


You’re teaching my daughter WHAT in health class???

This guest blog post is from Ty Higgins, a farm broadcaster from the Ohio Ag Net and host of Farm and Country Radio, sharing his experience of when he learned his daughter watched “Food Inc.” in her school health class and how he took action to help the school learn the truth about agriculture. Read Ty’s original post here. 

Ty Higgins

Ty Higgins

What started out as a nice family meal out at one of our favorite fried chicken stops turned into a conversation that had me boiling like the oil that cooked our supper that night.

My 6th grade daughter began telling us about her day. Part of her studies for this quarter included a health class. I have to admit as a protective father the thought of what she might learn in health class scares me just a tad, but never in my wildest imagination did I think she would learn something like what she was about to tell me.

Her health teacher loaded up a video that was called “Food, Inc.”! My heart literally stopped for a second, although that might have been a bit of the fried chicken’s fault too, but that’s beside the point.

She went on to tell me, muffled by a chicken leg between her teeth, that many of the girls after class said that they would never eat meat again and felt so bad for the animals in the film. I was appalled and wrote this letter to the health teacher and the school principal.

Good Afternoon,

Over dinner last night, my daughter brought up that her health class curriculum included viewing the “documentary” “Food, Inc.”

As a member of Ohio’s agriculture community and a very proud grandson of a farmer, I was disheartened to hear that this misleading, propaganda-filled movie was part of a health class curriculum.

I was hoping for some insights on why this anti-agriculture biased film was part of a health class? Is it the intention of the local schools to teach kids that all of America’s hard working farmers are bad and that animal proteins are not healthy?

These 6th grade students are very impressionable and I am in complete disagreement that such a movie is part of any class, unless there were an opportunity for actual farmers to share what really happens on family farms, which make up 97% of farms in this country and just how safe and healthy animal protein is to consume. I can arrange that if you would like.

I feel that if we are teaching our children to come to conclusions about certain societal issues, they should hear both sides of the argument.

I truly value the education that my daughter receives and I thank you both for the time you spend with her and all of your students. My only concern is about showing them documentaries that are one-sided and agenda-driven against something that is so important for people in my world and the world as a whole.

I look forward to your response and I thank you for your time,



The first response I got was from the teacher, who wrote:

By no means was this meant to be that at all. We talk about how the companies place things into our foods without us even knowing it… We looked at it from the food safety side, as well as what it means when things are organic products (grass fed; no antibiotics, and hormone free)…

Totally agree — We talk about what the corporations have done to the farming industry and all the power they have; in fact we talked about in the video where the natural farmer raises his on all grass and not corn and the differences between the two.

By no means was this a push for me to say that farming is bad. I was raised in eastern central Ohio in a rural community and support farming 100 percent.  Appreciate all the hard working farming communities.  

I would love to have someone speak to our health classes… If you or someone you know would come and speak to our kiddos as that would be great!

And I responded back:

Our food safety system is one of the (if not the) safest in the world. With a huge urban population (only 1.5% of our society is farmers) that is not a small feat. Although I think there is room for all types of agriculture, including grass fed and organic, these methods are not sustainable with the amount of food needed. No meat that is sold in stores has antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to keep in livestock to keep them healthy, but there is a period before production that an animal is taken off the antibiotics.

As for labels, I think that today’s labels are made simply for marketing and that should be part of your curriculum as well, i.e. “hormone-free” pork or poultry (hormones are never used in these animals).

Then I got a phone call from the principal. Before he called me, he watched a few clips of “Food, Inc.” on YouTube and he sounded just as upset as I was about this type of film being shown inside the walls of his school.

He assured me that he realized this video was not meant for teaching students about food, but for scaring them into not eating it. He was by no means a part of agriculture, he admitted, but a generation or two before him were farmers and he knew the importance of telling ag’s side of the story.

That is exactly what will be happening from now on at this particular middle school. He has already contacted me since to see if I knew of some local farmers that would want to stop by to share what they do every day to keep our community, our nation and our world fed.

Just so happens, I know a few of them.