Animal Ag Engage


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What Will You Do?

My Roots

cornfield.jpgFive generations. For five generations my family has grown crops and raised livestock for food, fuel and fiber just outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. I have always considered myself lucky to be raised on a farm that is committed to providing food for a hungry world.

Growing up on a farm in a large metropolitan suburb, my family’s farming intentions were questioned more than once as housing developments, new roads and businesses started closing in on our acreage. It seemed that not everyone understood what my dad does as a farmer, and I often had to explain how the crops and livestock we grow get from our farm to their table.

Realizing that even my peers did not understand much about agriculture, I became interested in telling my farming story and sharing facts about farmers’ role in producing healthy food. To become a more skilled advocate and learn techniques that would help me share my story with others, I chose to major in agriculture communications.

We Have Work to Do

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The peta2 brochure that was handed to me freshman year.

It wasn’t long after I settled into my freshman year, that a group of students in matching t-shirts handed me and other students walking to class a ‘Guide to Going Vegan’ brochure. After class I read the brochure, published by peta2 (a branch of PETA that targets youth and young adults). The brochure was filled with vegan recipes and false information about “factory farms.”

I was concerned. There I was, surrounded by impressionable college peers who were uninformed about the safe and humane animal agriculture practices. Being handed a brochure with misinformation about animal agriculture on an agriculture campus while walking to an agriculture education class made me realize… those of us with a passion for animal agriculture have our work cut out for us.

Taking Action  

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This summer, I will take action while interning with the Animal Agriculture Alliance: an organization that stands up to protect producers, engage influencers and connect industry stakeholders to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. There is an immense need to share farmers’ commitment to responsibly and ethically produce meat, milk, poultry and eggs.

For those who have the privilege of working in the agriculture industry, I encourage you to share your story. Personally, I get to spend my summer creating social media content that busts myths, shares facts and answers questions about the animal agriculture industry. What will you do? With all of us working together, we can dispel the myths of animal agriculture and ensure a secure, safe and reliable food future.


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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!


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I am a voice for agriculture and I am learning to speak up

Dallas Dooley is a 2016 College Aggies Online competitor from New Mexico State University and winner of the week three challenge: Introduction Blog Post. Visit her blog to read more.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” I have never been one to stand around and watch idly as my dreams surpass me, so naturally it made sense for me to join College Aggies Online and seize this amazing opportunity to spread truth about the industry that I love. You may have seen me posting more than usual on social media. I have started using hashtags, cool graphics and facts about livestock. But what is this #CAO16, and why do I use it so much?

transparent-caoWhat does CAO stand for?

First off, CAO is short for College Aggies Online. We are a bunch of passionate agriculture students and groups from across the U.S. Though we may not always be on the same side of the stadium come Saturday, we stand hand in hand when it comes to loving agriculture.

What is my role in #CAO16?

As a 2016 competitor, my role in College Aggies Online is to create social media posts that reflect common misconceptions in the agricultural industries. Some of these hot topics include hormones, antibiotic use and animal welfare. Each week for 9 weeks, there is a different animal theme. Via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and my blog, I tell Ag’s story one post at a time.

Who am I?

Who am I? Who am I? *begin terrible Eddy Murphy impression of Mushu from Mulan* I am the generous, the gregarious, the indispensable Dallas Dooley. I grew up on a small family farm where we raised everything but wages. After I left for college at New Mexico State University, my mom started a horse rescue called Phoenix Equine. She is a firm believer that bad things happen to good people, and she gives all horses a second chance at life and service. If you ask me, her compassion extends to more than just horses which is why our farm looks more like a petting zoo than a business. However, my mother’s compassion is the trait I am most proud to have inherited. It allows me to step back and gives me time to try and understand when someone shares an opinion different than my own.

Growing up on a farm taught me how to love and care for animals, though I was not always so good with the ones that could talk back (aka humans). After leaving the farm and going to a university that was several hours removed from my friends, family and animals, I started to get really involved to fill the void of farm chores. As a result, my social skills began to blossom. Years later, I am able to carry on a conversation with a brick wall if necessary, but I can still sympathize with agriculturalists who struggle with talking to people not directly related to the farm. I am a voice for agriculture and through College Aggies Online, I am learning to speak up.

Time flies when you are having fun. Being a competitor in #CAO16 is no different. We are already at the end of week 5! If you are having a great time keeping up with all of our posts, don’t fret because we still have four weeks to go. Don’t forget to check back in with me for next week’s theme: Dairy Cows.

Follow Dallas on Twitter and Instagram!

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Using Snapchat to share agriculture’s story

The Animal Agriculture Alliance engages food chain influencers and promotes consumer choice by helping them better understand modern animal agriculture. Social media is one way we share information and facts about how farmers and ranchers care for their animals and help feed families.  We are active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and now Snapchat! Our username is animalag.

Snapchat is one of the newest social media channels with more than 100 million users. We are excited to use this new platform to make sure animal agriculture’s voice is heard and to reach even more people who may not be familiar with how delicious meat, milk and eggs get to their plates. Basically, the app allows users to take short videos and pictures to share with followers, but the content only remains visible for 24 hours.

The Alliance will use Snapchat to take our followers on farm tours and conferences we attend throughout the year, meet farmers and share trivia facts. Recently, our director of communications attended the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture annual conference in Nebraska and shared photos and videos from the conference where she had the opportunity to tour a dairy farm and a cow/calf beef farm.snapchat
Starting in the next few weeks, the Alliance will start Trivia Tuesdays and Thursdays on Snapchat about animal care, sustainability, meat matters and fun facts about pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys and all the other barnyard animals!

If you’re on Snapchat, here are a few other accounts to follow:

  • Gilmerdairy – Will Gilmer, Alabama dairy farmer
  • Hilljay45 – Jay Hill, New Mexico farmer
  • Nationalffa – National FFA
  • Realpigfarming – Real Pig Farming
  • Cristencclark – Cristen Clark, Food & Swine
  • Hmiller361 – Hannah Miller, social media guru on agriculture
  • Aggrad – Ag Grad, a career resource for college students and recent grads

For how to effectively use each social media platform to promote agriculture, check out the Alliance’s social media guide, The Power of Social Media in Agriculture: A Guide to Social Media Success.

 


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Growing up the Farmer’s Daughter

Some children grow up in the suburbs, others in the big city, some live in large mansions, others in small apartment buildings, but I believe I had the best place of all tpicture-in-front-of-barno grow up. Where would that be you might ask? My family’s dairy farm. Our farm is proudly located in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (Minnesota) and has been there for four generations. Each and every day on the dairy is something very special to me. There are triumphs and challenges, but I could not be more thankful to have been raised with agriculture in my roots. Here are three of the most important life lessons I learned growing up as the farmer’s daughter.

The cows come first. Always.

Regardless of the day or time, cow care is the top priority for my family. In my home, we do not eat supper or lunch until the cows have received their’s. We don’t clean our home, until the cow barn is taken care of. We don’t go to the doctor until the veterinarian came to check on our cows. Everyone in my family knows and fully understands that the cows come first. Farmers just like my dad, work tirelessly everyday of the year to make sure that their animals are well cared for. Imagine getting a call from your boss at 2:30 a.m. telling you to get to work right away. Most of us would question their sanity and then roll back over in bed. That is not the case for farmers. If my dad knows a cow will be calving in the middle of the night, I can guarantee you he will be up monitoring the birthing process ensuring the cow and newborn calf are well and healthy. There is no such thing as a ‘day off’ in my family.

There is always something to learn.

There are just some things that cannot be taught in the classroom. Thankfully, I have learned many life lessons on the farm. Work ethic, growing from mistakes and failure, and the importance of advocating for what you love are all proficiencies I have learned from the dairy. When you have to be up at sunrise and do not get to bed until way after sunset, you begin to be appreciative for the fact that you have a job that makes time go by in the blink of an eye. When you spend a countless number of hours preparing the land and planting your crops in the spring only to watch a hail storm destroy everything, you begin to be thankful for the fact that no people or animals were hurt. When you read and hear about organizations trying to destroy your livelihood by spreading misinformation, you begin to find the courage within yourself to stand up for what you believe in. I am a better person because of the trials and tribulations, victories and accomplishments I have had on the farm.

Family is forever. kylas-family

It is definitely not a ‘normal’ thing to have to work with your parents, grandparents, and siblings every day, but truthfully, I would not have it any other way. Each day, my family and I wake up knowing that we are taking care of cows that are producing wholesome, nutritious milk and are feeding the world. Being able to lean on your family in times of success and defeat is something I will never take for granted. We support one another in all aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to the farm.

Farming is a family affair. We farmers love what we do and are thankful for the opportunity to work alongside some of our closest friends and family. Just because a farm is large, does not make it a “factory farm” instead of a family farm. Ninety-seven percent of farms in America ar
e family-owned. Just as a person from town or a large city may want to go back to the family business, children of farmers want to do the same. With more family members wanting to continue their agricultural legacy and tradition, it is important that the farm expands in order to support multiple generations. Regardless of the size of the farm, animal care is going to be our top priority.

Do you see whfamily-farms-for-blogy life on the dairy farm has meant so much to me? I would not be the person I am today without the life lessons learned and the family who helped to raise me on the farm. I can assure you that I am not the only one who has ever felt this way. People all across the country are thankful to have been raised in agriculture and are passionate about producing our world’s food and fiber. Being an actual farmer may not be in my career aspirations, but I know that agriculture will be in my future. After all, I will always be the farmer’s daughter. 


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A Flashback to ’15 – College Aggies, Activists and Online Engagement

Jennifer Weinberg, 2015 College Aggies Online (CAO) second place individual winner, grew up on a beef cattle ranch in New Jersey. In 2015, she graduated from George Washington University with a degree in Political Communications. Her goal is to defend the rights of farmers in the court of law and public opinion by fusing together her love for agriculture with her current and future knowledge of law. 

Beef CattleBeing a part of the College Aggies Online program provided me the opportunity to do exactly what I love to do more than most everything else- talk about cattle and agriculture. Entering the competition taught me one thing- engagement defending agriculture on social media has never been needed more, or in higher demand. Opponents of agriculture have taken to the seas of social media in their attempts to end meat consumption. To their credit- they are good at it – “it” being using vast emotionally-engaging propaganda to drive a wedge of mistrust between shoppers and farmers. It’s time that the agricultural community mounts a force online to disrupt this and the CAO program was exactly that driving force for me.

Growing up on a small family-owned beef cattle farm gives me something in common with many other farmers, as 97 percent of U.S. farms are family owned, and I got to share my reality through creating various graphics and posts that I shared on social media platforms. Without the CAO program, activists would be able to continue telling their completely one-sided story of agriculture. Through the various seminars and tasks handed to us in each of the nine weeks of the program, we gained knowledge and encouragement that helped us learn to be heard.

In this however, being heard is not simply enough. The College Aggies program helped me see that not only was it important to be engaged with the PQA Plusonline world, but sharing my story had to do more than simply show a glimpse into my life; it had to do its part to combat the very negative framing that has been pushed forth about agriculture in America. Due to the changing tides of technology, it is no secret that information is spread almost instantly online. Not only is it a quick mode of information transfer, it’s efficient in changing how people form opinions and adapt behaviors. For instance, a Facebook post by an activist group that contorts the pig-preferred, safe usage of gestation crates for sows into an evil tortuous prison cell degrading the value of life, if seen by an individual who unknowingly takes it to be an expression of reality, can cause such an emotionally-formed opinion that they decide to stop eating pork products or even, stop eating meat all together. This decision has a significant effect on the market of supply and demand for pig farmers. This effect grows as more people change their eating and consumption habits, and activist engagement on social media is designed to do exactly that. One of the best parts of the CAO program was that learning how to combat this while avoiding the negativity of anti-agriculturalists.

450 poundsAvoiding this negativity was not hard because I drew on the experiences I have with agriculture. I was not aware before the program to the degree in which in both central New Jersey, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, and in the nation’s capital where I went to college, the average person’s conception of American agriculture is plagued with illusions of animals in pain and suffering by the hand of “heartless farmers”. This simply is not true, but before CAO I did not know what I could do about it.

By being a part of the College Aggies Online program I was able to learn how to effectively combat this online by balancing my conveyance of the facts with emotionally salient materials that shoppers want to see. In other words, I got to share my story of what farming ACTUALLY looks like through informative posts that show the lighter, meaningful relationship that farmers share with their livestock. I am forever grateful for the Animal Agriculture Alliance for providing me the opportunity to learn how to express my story through social media and other mediums like on the “Future Problem Solvers” Panel at the 2016 Summit that allowed my voice to be heard. That’s what needs to happen more and more from all of us, both young and old –  if we want to preserve the industries that feed us and have fed us since even before we called ourselves “Americans.”  Luckily, the CAO program is here to teach us all how to be heard, and be heard effectively.

“In no other country do so few people produce so much food, to feed so many, at such reasonable prices.” –


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Everyone Needs a Farmer, Three Times a Day

A Growing Community

The agriculture community is vast and continues to not only grow, but also to develop new practice methods. In a field so large not only can it be difficult to be well versed on all its subject matter, but it is also easy to find information that is subjective as opposed to objective. As an intern at the Animal Agriculture Alliance, my experiences have exposed me to the wide scope of information being shared along with those who are sharing it. In short, I have acknowledged the importance of the connection that needs to be made with all sides of the spectrum regarding individuals and their eating habits.

FFALike many people I do not have a background in agriculture. Agriculture was not a field I had involvement in until I took my first agriculture science class as a freshman in high school. The class exposed me to the unspoken truth that was made notable by Brenda Schoepp. “Once in your life you may need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” It is when I finally understood this truth that I knew I wanted to become more vocal in speaking out on issues of concern for our nation’s farmers and ranchers.

A Need for Effective Communication 

Currently there is a great need to bridge the communication gap regarding the truth that serves as the backbone of American animal agriculture. America’s farmers and ranchers have faced combative comments from animal activists as well as animal rights organizations. They want to know what the agriculture community’s defense is and explain again how farmers and ranchers care. These comments are all confrontational in nature, but by following two steps when responding to – or proactively confronting – these comments the agriculture community can take progressive strides forward regarding farmer’s sincere consideration for animal welfare.

  1. Focus on a particular segment of agriculture

    Photo by: Laura Bardot

    Photo by: Laura Bardot

Animal agriculture encompasses many different species and topics, such as animal welfare. Focus on a particular topic such as pigs, chickens, beef cattle, etc. With all of the different species, there are different farmers and ranchers utilizing different techniques. Because of this, farmers frequently specialize in one of the livestock or poultry species. With this specialization, farmers and ranchers can not only provide more tailored care and welfare practices for their animals, they can also provide specifically designed nutrition plans and specially designed housing. Consumers are hungry to know more about their food. By highlighting the benefits of specialization through focusing on the information about particular species, the consumer can see the emphasis farmers and ranchers put on animal welfare.

  1. Provide facts

Consumers want to know where their food is coming from. By providing facts and adding them to anecdotes of farmers utilizing these practices, information will be better retained. Farmers are constantly learning about new practices and systems they can use to raise their livestock, similarly to how consumers are constantly learning about where their food is coming from. As the majority of consumers are more than two generations removed from the farm, it is difficult to fully understand why farmers do what they do. This is why we encourage consumers to do their own research and decide for themselves what they should eat or not eat. In today’s world, food labels are becoming harder and harder to read, therefore, farmers are trying to be open about how their livestock is raised. The facts about your food are out there, go get them.

13941052_1204172576288928_195915745_nContinue Your Education 

President Kennedy said, “Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.” Then and now, the education of agriculture needs to be continuously spread. By being specific in the information being shared and providing facts along with anecdotes the true face of animal agriculture will leave no room for contentious questions. Never stop learning because agriculture never stops teaching.


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AGGIES are AMAZING

Jessica Miller is the 2015 College Aggies Online first place individual winner. She received her undergraduate degree in animal science and is now a graduate student studying agriculture education at Oklahoma State University. She grew up on a beef farm in Oklahoma and showed cattle, judged horses and livestock and participated in 4-H. Read Jessica’s original post here

Summer is about to end and school is right around the corner. I almost can’t believe it myself. Days pass by so quickly anymore and the things I look forward to now are fairs and fall. However, I am also looking forward to something else that happens in the fall that is much more exciting.

College Aggie’s Online (CAO), an initiative of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, is one of my main highlights that I look forward to now that I was so involved in it last year. I’d have to say the whole entire event was my favorite just because it challenged me to push myself and get things done.

I learned so much in those nine weeks and applied them after the event ended. I learned about the kind of people who tend to “hate” on agriculture as well as how to handle them online and in person. I learned so many ways of how to properly advocate for Ag in order to teach people where their food comes from. I am way better at advocating because of CAO and I help teach visitors at our school dairy farm about where their milk comes from and handle their questions with the confidence I didn’t have before CAO.

Overall, CAO was thrilling, challenging and fun. I first heard about the contest through others who had done it at my school. Our dairy club had recently won the club competition and had gone to the Alliance’s annual Stakeholders Summit, which the president had told me had been a load of fun. Since I loved to compete and loved to advocate for agriculture, I went ahead and joined the competition. I never knew how much fun I would have.

My first post was a dairy show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I made it a point in my schedule to share at least twice a day everyday when I wasn’t busy with school or work. I enjoyed the blogs, AgChat and all of the various assignments we did.

I didn’t really expect to win the CAO competition. I tried my best to do all the assignments and get the points I needed. However, winning the competition meant I had given it my all,  learned how to properly advocate for Ag, had kept pushing myself to do well and get all of the assignments finished. Winning the competition meant everything to me. I also got to experience Washington, D.C. for the first time in my life which was something this country girl was not used to, but I loved every minute of it and the Summit while getting to meet people and see things I had never seen.

I hope others gain the experience and have the fun I had during this competition. It is important we learn the facts about the Ag industry and learn about our detractors as well – because in the end, we have people who don’t support our farmers and ranchers and use what they call “facts” against us. In all honesty, what they use as facts are usually false or taken out of context and we as agriculturalists need to learn how to handle such accusations while maintaining a diplomatic demeanor.

I believe our youth in Ag is the future. If we arm our youth with knowledge of why and how we do things in agriculture, they can use it to defend our way of life against the ones who want to criticize it. Having knowledge that is correct and factual is mightier than the sword and if younger generations defend agriculture, we will have a promising future. I believe that CAO and the Alliance are the best at getting youth involved in advocating for Ag.

Thank you College Aggies and Animal Ag Alliance for everything!

Here is a link to the panel I was on discussing futures in Ag at the Alliance’s annual conference. This was an amazing experience if not a little nerve wracking just because it was my first time, but it was enjoyable and down right fun!

This year’s College Aggies Online scholarship competition kicks off September 19. To sign up, visit the Alliance website!


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Reflections from the Animal Rights National Conference: what can we learn

Attending Animal Rights Conferences blog picture

The Animal Agriculture Alliance frequently attends conferences hosted by animal rights groups. The purpose of attending – to get inside information straight from the source and generate reports for its members. I attended Taking Action for Animals, hosted by the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Rights National Conference, hosted by the Farm Animal Rights Movement. The experience was eye-opening. I went in open-minded and intrigued by the conference themes. The themes targeted the rights and welfare of all animals. After a few phrases were repeated, the strategic position these organizations held was clear: these conferences are an attempt to undermine the animal agriculture community.

While attending each of the conferences, I did not see eye-to-eye with much of the information shared. Oftentimes the information was outdated, out of context and invalid. There was one speaker howbeit, that I did side with in one regard, Steve Hindi. Hindi is president of SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness). During his presentation Hindi said, “We’re winning? That’s absurd.” A statement which I applaud. The animal rights movement is far from a winning force. Hindi verified this truth in front of all attendees at the Animal Rights National Conference.

Why They Are Not Winning farmer-657332__180

Taking Action for Animals and the Animal Rights National Conference are the two primary conferences hosted for animal rights activists. As a result of their significance, messages conveyed were synonymous and presentations paralleled. Despite undeniable resemblance, the animal rights movement as a whole lacks synergy. There is no combination of strengths among organizations. Instead, speakers denounced other animal rights activist groups discrediting their effectiveness as an organization. Besides the lack of unity, the animal rights movement also fails to convey current and original information. Repetitive speeches at workshops with replica information and analogies was a common occurrence.

The animal agriculture community has become the primary focus of activist groups. By targeting animal agriculture, these groups claim they can “spare” the most animals. To do this they attempt to discredit scientifically-backed practices and protocols. With these tactics, activist groups draw profound attention to the animal agriculture community; but these organizations have forgotten a key business strategy –  never underestimate your opponent, but never make them bigger than you either. In attempt to discredit farmers and ranchers, these conferences do just the opposite. The conferences sing the praise of how far we as a collective, undivided industry have come and shine a light on what we are – science based.

My Take-Away 

AAA_group_con-eng-pro_4CAs a result of these conferences, the animal agriculture community must face the “marketing campaign” of the animal rights groups. Immediately, the question “how?” is raised. My answer – we don’t. Instead, we should aim to expand public knowledge about how farm animals are cared for and broaden the understanding of animal agriculture practices. At these conferences Wayne Pacelle and Nick Cooney said, “People are smart.” They are correct, the public simply has minimal exposure to agriculture. Animal welfare is a driving force that influences both the farmers and consumers. The well-being of animals’ health are valued by each, and because of this, practices reflect both values. By seeking what is understood by the public, and further developing their knowledge, there is no fight. The importance of animal care will be unquestionable. So I thank the conference speakers for drawing attention to animal agriculture – now it’s our opportunity to shine a light on the indisputable, humane methods of America’s farmers and ranchers.

The Alliance recently released its report from the 2016 Taking Action for Animals conference, available to Alliance members only.


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Taking Opportunities from the Cattle Pasture to Capitol Hill

Coming from a small, rural town in east-central Missouri, I never would have imaged myself interning in an office near the nation’s Capitol. Yet, growing up on my family’s large, commercial cattle farm has given numerous opportunities that have led me to where I am today. So, how could a small-town farm kid end up here?

The Beginning

If I were asked what my favorite animal was when I was younger, I would have answered “cows!” without hesitation. I knew I lived on a farm with cows, pigs and chickens, but I never realized the importance of agriculture and farming until I was older.

In grade school and high school I was known as the “farm kid”. I could be found wearing my boots almost every day and sporting a shirt from my FFA chapter or 4-H club. I raised and showed beef breeding heifers, breeding gilts and market hogs during my time as a member. (A breeding heifer is a young female cow shown at a fair to exhibit her qualities, a breeding gilt is a young female pig also shown for her qualities, a market hog is a pig grown and showed for his/her qualities and auctioned off during the fair.)

cow calf

Getting on the Right Road

When it came time to choose a college and major, unlike most people I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I was exposed to the agricultural communications field when I visited Kansas State University in the fall of 2011, due to my participation in the National 4-H Meat Judging competition. After that visit, I knew I wanted to be an advocate for the agricultural industry. I had my heart set on going to K-State and being a Wildcat. Yet, the University of Missouri was where I knew I belonged, mostly because it was closer to home and I had some family ties there. At MU there is not an agricultural communications major, instead there is a science and agricultural journalism program, which is where I found my passion.

How I got Here

I was a very active member of 4-H growing up and I served on the Missouri State 4-H Council for three years before retiring in early June. As a 4-H member, I had countless opportunities to minimize my comfort zone and maximize my leadership potential. One opportunity that took me above and beyond my comfort zone was being a participant in Missouri 4-H’s 2015 Legislative Academy. I was not interested in politics, I dreaded American Government class, yet with a smile on my face and a leap of faith I went to the state’s capital. I shadowed my hometown representative and as a savvy college kid, I left my business card and resume “just because”. The very next day I received an email asking me to return to the capital as an intern the following week. I was eager and excited, I accepted the position and caught the “political bug” while interning at the Missouri House of Representatives.

AGJAs the saying goes, “It’s a small world.” You never realize how small of a world it is until you talk to one person and the next thing you know you are interviewing for an internship halfway across the country. I was a participant in the 2015 Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leader’s Conference, where I was sponsored by Farm Credit. As I was thanking one of the ladies from Farm Credit, I happened to give her my introductory elevator speech. The next thing I know, she is giving me a recommendation for an internship with the Animal Agriculture Alliance. A couple of emails and phone calls later, I was offered the position and decided I was moving to the East Coast for the summer.

Now Here I Am

As a 20 year-old, junior in college, my parents were not too keen of the idea of their youngest child living half way across the country. Yet, with some persuasion I was able to convince them this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. As I carry on in life, no matter where connections take me, I will remain a passionate advocate for American agriculture. With an industry that fuels the globe, agriculture is indeed a very “small world”, you never know who you will meet next.