Animal Ag Engage


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It’s More than an Industry

I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to have found an interest in animal agriculture; the work itself is great, but the people are even better. This summer I was able to attend the Ag Media Summit , which is a conference held for those involved in the agricultural communication field. I was again impressed by the kindness and sincerity of the people who work in the agriculture industry.

Everyone is Welcome

As a student, it is easy to be intimidated when meeting professionals who work in your field. We often forget that they are people too and once stood in the same place we did. For the first time, I attended a conference and did not feel like a student; I was immersed in professional conversations and introduced to mutual connections. I was in the presence of industry leaders while still being able to meet many like-minded students. I loved the atmosphere and felt welcome in every room I entered.

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It’s exhilarating to meet new people, especially when they have similar passions and understand why you get so excited about writing and social media. When you are a young professional just kick-starting your career or still finishing your degree, it is encouraging to have alumnus and communicators from across the nation take the time to speak with you about your goals. I can’t speak for other industries, but I know everyone in the agriculture sector is truly a large family wanting each other to succeed. I think that is something pretty special.

We Honor One Another

Since this was my first Ag Media Summit, I wasn’t familiar with who regularly attended or who had made the conference such a success for many consecutive years. So, when the room fell silent during a tribute to someone who had passed away and tears began to fall, all I could do was listen to a cherished man’s story and be thankful that such individuals exist. Even though I’d never met Don, just learning how he had impacted so many lives made me feel as though his memory would impact me.

Throughout the entire conference, we all honored one another. Everyone respected each other as unique, creative individuals and everyone wanted to learn from other people’s experiences. People laughed and shook hands; it was easy to make incredible new relationships. Multiple attendees, students and professionals alike, were awarded for their hard work in the agricultural communication world.

For three days, I interacted with people who write incredible news stories, create beautiful magazine covers and strategically plan the perfect marketing campaigns. Not once did I hear anything negative about someone else’s ideas or passions. Instead, individuals collaborated and sought new ideas. I can’t accurately describe how talented these communicators are or how thankful I am to have met them.

A Bright Future

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I think most of us can agree that the agriculture industry needs a voice now more than ever. Technology continues to improve, new studies are being conducted and consumers have questions about how their food is being raised. It was great to come together with others who work to share the story of agriculture, and I think it is safe to say that our stories will continue to be told.

For me personally, I’ve been inspired to continue pursuing my goals and not be afraid to tell my own story. Besides, every single person has valuable experiences to share. I really believe the story of agriculture will only get better, especially since the story isn’t always about crop genetics or animal husbandry. The stories being told are actually about the remarkable people who make this industry so strong. The agriculture industry isn’t an industry of working strangers; it’s an industry built on family values. I hope we never forget that.

 


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We All Have a Voice for Agriculture

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Firefighter, rock-star, princess and football player were always common answers for me. Yet as the years went by, my responses became more complex and so did the question. In high school it was, “where are you going after graduation?” and now in college it’s, “what would you like to do with your degree?” These questions likely get asked thousands of times a day throughout the world, but how many answers ever involve the word agriculture?

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I grew up with my heart set on becoming a veterinarian. It never occurred to me that my hatred of math might be a problem and that my love for writing could benefit my career. It took a very rude awakening, but I eventually realized that veterinary medicine was not for me; agricultural communication was. But when I declared my major in ag comm, I questioned how I could ever be credible since I hadn’t grown up on a farm.

Let’s Take a Step Back

If the history of agriculture tells us anything, it’s that the industry is constantly changing. This means that education and communication are changing constantly as well. I doubt when the Morrill and Hatch Acts were passed anyone anticipated we’d be studying drone technology and the best ways to reach an audience on Facebook, but here we are. And here I am, studying communications and learning more about the animal ag industry so I can share the stories of producers who care so deeply for their animals.

The first Morrill Act was passed in 1862 and the Hatch Act a few years later in 1887. These pieces of legislation, along with the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, have changed agriculture and my life. Each act emphasized agriculture, education and research, which have essentially shaped everyone’s livelihood. Without the establishment of land-grant universities, agriculture may have never had such high priorities for research and extension. Plus, I may have never had the opportunity to show cattle through 4-H, understand the importance of animal health or fall in love with my university. These acts set the foundation for lifelong learning, outreach and change.

You Have to Keep Up with the Times

As I’ve already addressed, the agriculture industry is constantly evolving. As a communicator and student, it is important (and difficult) to keep up with everything going on, especially when you didn’t have a great foundation of agriculture literacy growing up.

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In the year 1900, farmers accounted for 31 percent of the U.S. labor force. More than 100 years later, it accounts for less than 2 percent. We do have to consider that advanced technology allows fewer farmers to produce more food, but what does this mean for the gap between farm and fork? It means that people are disconnected from how food ends up on their plates. In fact, 7 percent of Americans believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. It makes you question what perceptions people have about strawberry milk, too, doesn’t it? There is information available at our fingertips, yet there are some interesting misconceptions.

Anyone Can Be an ‘Agvocate’

When I decided I wanted to share my story and the story of animal agriculture, I was anxious. I was afraid I could never connect with producers, professionals, peers or consumers because I worried they wouldn’t trust me. Because why should they? The only true exposure I’d had to livestock production was showing cattle that weren’t even mine! It took a year or so of college for me to figure this out, but my voice is necessary and welcome in this industry. It’s even possible that my background has given me an advantage when connecting with those around me. Having the status of ‘farm kid’ may not matter as much as it used to when it comes to advocating for the industry.

I am grateful for what the past has given me and I am excited for what my future will hold. I anticipate gaining great skills during my time with the Animal Agriculture Alliance, becoming a strong communicator for animal health and traveling the globe to experience different animal ag systems. Of course, there are concerns and obstacles that myself and the industry will face, but I am no longer weary that I don’t belong. In my opinion, all it takes is passion and a little bit of curiosity. Even though not everyone can be a farmer, everyone is a part of the agriculture industry. That’s something that will never change.

pexels-photo-95425So, as you continue to take classes, search for jobs or find new hobbies, I challenge you to approach the question a little differently. When someone asks you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” why not tell them you plan to get involved with agriculture. Because believe it or not, you already are.