The number of people directly involved in the agriculture industry today is dwindling at an alarming rate. The majority of those left were raised on farms and always knew it was an industry they wanted to be involved with for the rest of their lives. This was not the case for me. I grew up in the suburbs in a neighborhood in Southern Maryland where I played with other children instead of pigs and chickens. But as I sit and write this from the Animal Agriculture Alliance office in Arlington, Va., I too know that this is an industry I want to be involved with for the rest of my life.
The Early Days
When I was younger, my mom used to joke that if I could choose between a day at an amusement park and a day at the barn, I would choose the barn every time. I was not fortunate enough to grow up on a farm but my cousins were – and boy, did I envy them! Typical visits with them usually included me begging to go to the barn to see all of their animals. I always got my way.
A few months before I started high school, I received an offer that completely changed my life. My older cousins had aged out of 4-H and there was only one sibling left to prepare and show all of the animals over the summer and at our local county fairs. I had been recruited to help out and I was hooked! Just about every weekend I was at their house working in the barn dreading the thought of my mother coming to take me home at the end of the day. Over the next couple years I became more and more involved due to my willingness to try just about anything related to agriculture – including learning what it meant to palpate a heifer (pictured left). In addition to showing beef cattle and goats, I participated on the Livestock Judging and Skillathon teams through 4-H.
My Start in Ag-vocation
2014 was a big year for me! I was graduating high school, earned a spot on the Maryland state Skillathon team and was selected as a delegate for National 4-H Congress! It was also the year I was chosen to be Miss Charles County Farm Bureau. I spent the next year learning more and more about agriculture within my county as well as the state. I attended county Farm Bureau meetings where I learned about legislation regarding the agriculture industry, mingled with and gave speeches to our county commissioners and officers, and competed in the Miss Maryland Agriculture contest.
The contest is held at our state fair every year in August and is a competition between the Farm Bureau ambassadors from each county. There are multiple rounds throughout the contest – interviews, first impressions, round table discussions, and finally a speech and fishbowl question and answer given to all of the spectators in the Cow Palace. It was through my time as a Farm Bureau ambassador that I learned about the importance of advocating for this industry that I love so much!
I’m Not in Southern Maryland Anymore
After my time in 4-H, I realized I wanted to do something related to the cattle industry. I enrolled at my state school, the University of Maryland, where I am currently a junior studying animal science and agribusiness economics. Attending such a diverse school with a very small agriculture department, my eyes were really opened to the disconnect between farmers and consumers, especially those with no direct ties to agriculture. This is where I realized I wanted to focus on consumer education and help to bridge the communication gap! My passion for production animal agriculture and my interest in consumer education on how your food gets from farm to table is what led me to apply for the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s communications internship program.
A little over two weeks ago when I started at the Alliance, I entered the “real world” chapter of my story. I now have my first “real” job and I am more motivated than ever to continue working towards my career goals. I’m so excited for my semester interning with the Alliance and I cannot wait to see what opportunities are in store for the future!