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Life Lessons from 2016

Just like that, another year is almost coming to a close! Where the heck has the time gone?! It seems like just yesterday, I was ringing in 2016 with some of my closest friends and family. Looking back at the last 12 months, I cannot help but be thankful for all of the opportunities I have been blessed with, especially within the agriculture community. Throughout this year, I have learned many life lessons…

Spring semester 2016 at South Dakota State University was definitely a rewarding one. This was the time I would finally start my Agricultural Education courses and be placed in a classroom to observe and assist. I was so excited! My first day there, I knew I was going to love interacting with the students and teaching them about different aspects of agriculture and leadership. These students challenged me in many different ways, but I learned so much and grew personally and professionally. Life lesson #1: “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” -Theodore Roosevelt. This is my all time favorite quote! Boy, did it ever ring true during my time in the classroom. I learned that if did not show my students how much I truly cared about them and the subject I was teaching, it would be difficult for them to learn anything from me.

Fast forward to Ag Day 2016 and I am on a plane to Washington D.C. to advocate for agriculture in our nation’s capital with students from across the United States. Through this program we were able to learn about different aspects of agricultural policy, network with professionals within public policy and meet with our Congressmen and women to celebrate Ag Day. Because of this experience (thanks to Ag Future of America) I knew I wanted to be an intern inkyla-1 D.C. Life lesson #2: There is a disconnect between rural America and D.C., but there are hardworking and passionate people who are trying to minimize that gap.
Summer 2016 was filled with courses, corn and crowns. This odd combination included my summer classes, an internship and serving as Minnesota’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way. It was a hectic, rewarding summer! Life lesson #3: Get yourself a mentor. My mentors helped me immensely during this busy summer. They always had a listening ear, words of encouragement and expert advice. Without them, I do not think I would have been able to get through this summer!

My internship allowed me to travel across Minnesota and Wisconsin supporting and assisting farmers. It was an absolute privilege to meet some of the most hardworking people in the country. Even though these people are working 24/7 to provide food for our country and world, they are doing so with perseverance and a great attitude. Life lesson #4: If you find a job you love, you will never work again. Farmers are the perfect example of this. Their demanding occupation could not be done if they did not believe wholeheartedly in what they were doing. Most of the farmers I have met are in it for the lifestyle, not the paycheck.

In August, it was time for me to pass the crown to the 63rd Princess Kay of the Milky Way. (Princess Kay is the goodwill ambassador for the Minnesota’s dairy community.) As I stood on the stage that so many other young dairywomen have stood before, I could not help but be thankful for the kylaopportunities I had been given thanks to this experience.
My heart swelled with joy as I set the crown on our new Princess Kay, knowing she would be in for the ride of a lifetime. Life lesson #5: Advocate for what you believe in. I spent an entire year traveling Minnesota to schools, conferences and community events talking about the importance of the dairy community. I am thankful for every conversation had, relationship built and memory made through this experience.

Two weeks after giving up the crown, I packed my bags and started my journey across the country to Arlington, Virginia to start my internship with the Animal Agriculture Alliance. This internship has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Being surrounded by a team of passionate women in agriculture was a true blessing. The projects I worked on have given me real-life, applicable experience that I will utilize for the rest of my professional career. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking in all of the sights, sounds and history of Washington D.C., networking with professionals in agricultural policy and supporting the team at the Alliance. Life lesson #6: “There is no comfort in a growth zone, and no growth in a comfort zone.” Moving across the country has its challenges, but it has been something special. Who would have thought that after this internship I would actually end up changing my major? Not me! I am happy with my decision to switch to Agricultural Communications because it is a career path I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. Telkyla-2ling the story of agriculture has always been something I have loved doing.  Now, I can do it as a career!

My time in D.C. and at the Alliance is coming to an end, with a greater understanding of my purpose and a full heart, I will head back home to Minnesota thankful for each and every opportunity I had this year. These few experiences and lessons are just a small portion of all the wonderful things that happened in 2016. If 2017 is anything like this past year, I know it will be an unforgettable adventure. Life lesson #7: Work hard and believe in yourself. There is nothing you cannot do if you put your mind to it. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday season and a wonderful New Year!


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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