Animal Ag Engage


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“This is My First Summit!”

Over the course of my semester interning with the Animal Ag Alliance, preparation for the 2017 Stakeholders Summit was the main focus. I had witnessed how much work each member of the Alliance team had put into this event, listened to them discuss new ways to ensure every attendee was engaged, and strategize how they would make this year’s Summit the best one yet. Needless to say, I had pretty high expectation for the annual event.

Myself at the Alliance photo booth at Summit.

Board of Directors Meeting

The day before the official start of Summit was the Alliance’s spring Board of Directors meeting. With their strong connections to major industry organizations, the Alliance’s Board is filled with individuals who I am completely in awe of. Surrounded by and having the opportunity to mingle with representatives from National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, etc. was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. Stepping into my first “real” job, it was incredible having the opportunity to spend the day alongside so many people in positions that I aspire to be in.

Connect, Engage, Protect

Once Summit officially kicked off, each morning and afternoon focused on one core aspect of the Alliance’s work: connect, engage, and protect. The connect segment focused on misconceptions related to food. The Alliance team was able to provide a consumer focus group comprised of people that ate out at least 4 times a week. Attendees were able to hear why they choose the foods that they do related to labeling and what they associate those labels with.

Casey, Alliance communications manager and I having fun at one of the receptions.

The engage portion of the day was headlined by author Nina Teicholz, who spoke the importance of animal products in a healthy diet. It was great hearing from someone who was not biased related to this issue. She admitted that previously she was a believer that animal products were not good for your health, leading her to follow a vegetarian diet. She eventually discovered that this was not true and noted that she actually lost weight after introducing animal products back into her diet. The remainder of the day was broken into two breakout tracks: engaging with consumers, and engaging with the media to ensure the public has accurate information related to animal agriculture. I sat in on the media portion and was able to gain a better understanding of how to work with biased media.

Thursday morning was focused on protecting animal agriculture from people and organizations that are working tirelessly to end it. This was probably my favorite part of the event! Part of my responsibility with the Alliance was to monitor the news every morning for issues related to animal welfare and animal rights, and it was so cool to hear from experts on these issues in their fields. Diane Sullivan, an anti-poverty and affordable food advocate, closed the conference and was absolutely great to listen to. She brought up an important food topic, but one that I do not think of often. She shared her personal story and the hardships she’s faced securing food for her family. She was a great choice to wrap up Summit!

Two of the College Aggies winners and I showing people how to use the photo booth props!

College Aggies

I was fortunate enough to spend a good bit of time with the College Aggies Online winners during Summit. These winners are peers that I look up to and were absolutely deserving of the recognition they received. It was so cool meeting students from across the country and hearing about their campus experiences at their perspective schools. Hearing about how much they enjoyed participating in the College Aggies Online program has inspired me to participate in the contest this fall. I can’t wait to signup! 

Attending the 2017 Stakeholders Summit was an incredible experience and I am so thankful for having had the opportunity to attend! The event provided so many networking and learning opportunities which is super important for a college student like me! If you were not able to attend this year, I highly encourage you to signup for next year!

 


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4 Things I’ve Learned Interning with the Alliance

With only two weeks left until the Alliance’s Stakeholders Summit, my time here is quickly coming to an end. Managing work responsibilities, homework and studying, and extracurricular activities, this semester has been one of my hardest yet – but definitely the most rewarding. I feel like now is a good time to share the four greatest opportunities and learning experiences I’ve had because of this internship.

emily

#1: Time Management

This is absolutely the biggest thing I’ve learned these last couple months. A full college course-load is hard enough, but when you add in this internship and stepping into a presidential role for a club, it’s safe to say I kept busy. With daily deadlines and to-do lists a mile long, I learned hard and fast the importance of working quickly, efficiently, and not wasting any “down time”.

#2: “Ag-vocate” wherever and whenever

In a coffee shop, at the store, in class, on social media; there are always opportunities to advocate for the animal agriculture industry. Those involved in the industry are eager to share their stories, and consumers are seeking more insight about the agricultural world. The Alliance has shown me the importance of forming relationships with everyone – consumers, food retail associations, producers – to help bridge the gap between farm and fork.

#3: Take advantage of every opportunity

You always hear “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. This internship has provided me with many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I’ve had the chance to attend receptions, events on Capitol Hill, and even a barnyard social with other animal ag interns in the area! Stepping out of my comfort zone and engaging in these events has left me with memories that will last a lifetime.emily 4

And #4: Animal rights activists are crazy

Period.

I am so thankful for everything the organization has taught me and the wonderful people that I have met in my short time here. My last month will be bitter-sweet as I am sad to be moving on from the Alliance, but looking forward to finishing this experience with a bang at the 2017 Stakeholders Summit in Kansas City!


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We can all root for Team Agriculture

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Young Farmers and Ranchers FUSION conference with the American Farm Bureau Federation. I competed in the Maryland State Collegiate Discussion Meet and had won a trip to the FUSION conference emily-1to compete in the national competition! Food labels and tax policy reform were just two of the topics I discussed with students from across the nation. In addition to learning to work cooperatively in a solution-based discussion, there were also a wide variety of sessions, speakers, and fellow Young Farmers and Ranchers who I learned a few things from.

4:1          

“4:1”

This is the ratio of how many positive agriculture posts, articles, stories, etc. that it takes to counteract ONE negative story. In my session on advocacy through video and film, it was stressed that we, as farmers and ranchers and agriculture advocates, need to share our stories as much as possible to reach the public. You can throw out statistics all day and go back and forth with someone on who’s right and who’s wrong, but they cannot argue with your story. They cannot tell you that your life experiences are not real. WE are the ones who know the truths about our industry, WE are the ones living this lifestyle, WE are the ones passionate about what we do and if WE do not do it, nobody else is going to.

Engagement

“Engagement is what’s going to allow agriculture to survive in the future.” –Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation President

Not only emily-2is it important to share our stories, it is also important to take it one step further and engage with the public. Consumers do not always trust farming but they DO trust farmers. Use this to your advantage. Answer questions people have and pose new ones that make them think. Any time that you can have a positive interaction and get through to someone, you are creating another potential advocate!

Support

“You don’t have to be on the football team to still cheer for them. You don’t have to be involved with agriculture to still support it.”

During a networking luncheon at FUSION, I spoke with some collegiate members about getting those outside of agriculture involved.  It was mentioned that some people are really into football, some basketball and some baseball, but whatever sport it is, everyone still cheers regardless of being on the team or not. The agriculture industry needs this type of support too, now more than ever. There are fewer and fewer farmers every year feeding a growing population and it affects EVERYONE. We depend on agriculture for our food, our clothes, our shelter, etc. We may not all play on “Team Agriculture” but it has a huge role in our lives and we need to get behind it to ensure a successful future for it!

Overall, the FUSION conference was a great experience filled with many opportunities for learning and growth. It is truly amazing seeing so many Young Farmers and Ranchers so passionate and interested in sustaining and building the future for agriculture! I cannot wait for the conference next year in Reno!emily

 

 


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My Agriculture Story

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 cattle-chuteamusement 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 barnpalpating 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-vocationccfb

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 Anymorestate-fair

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.

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The Alliance sticker on the back of my truck.

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!