Animal Ag Engage


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Agriculture doesn’t take a break for the holidays!

As my time with the Alliance comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on the brief but impactful few months I had with this amazing organization. Throughout my undergraduate studies in animal and poultry science I was always focused on the production side of agriculture. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the immense opportunities available to me if I looked in another direction. After graduating, I gained a curiosity for different opportunities in the industry, which is what led me to apply to intern with the Alliance. I love agriculture and I love sharing my passion for this industry, so why not combine the two? That turned out to be a great decision. Not only have I learned incredibly important and relevant career skills during my time here, but I have become a much more confident communicator in all aspects of my life. Here are just a few things I have gained a greater appreciation for while interning with the Alliance:

Women in agriculture can do amazing things.

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Photo by Erin McCarty

Obviously being a woman in agriculture, I already knew this. But there is a six-woman powerhouse at the Animal Ag Alliance, and I have been so impressed by the incredible collaboration and communication of these women. During my time with the Alliance, I had numerous opportunities to connect with women all across agriculture and realize that though we may be a minority in the industry, we are a powerful minority constantly working to advance the industry for future generations. According to a 2012 USDA Census, women make up 30 percent of the farmers in America and operate 14 percent of US farms. This constantly increasing number of women in agriculture is wonderfully encouraging. I can only hope that in my work of advocating for the industry, I am able to help continue increasing the number of hardworking, influential women across all facets of agriculture.

The agriculture industry is incredibly broad.

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Biosecurity comes first!

Farmers are an integral part of the agriculture industry, without whom there would be no ag industry, no food. But the farmer isn’t the entire industry. We have the scientists, who are the backbone of our welfare, technology, and efficiency practices. Agriculture is a science-based industry that functions according to factual, proven evidence, and the science researchers are crucial in those discoveries. Then we have the veterinarians, who not only provide necessary health care and treatments to our sick or injured animals, but also provide insight and guidance on appropriate welfare practices and regulations. Then, we have the processors, suppliers, restaurants and retailers who package, transport and sell the agriculture products. The list is extensive: communicators who work hard to share science-based facts about ag, policy workers who help to secure the future of agriculture through government regulations, and consumers who place their trust in us to continue providing them with a safe and secure food supply. There are so many different ways to be involved in agriculture and they are all equally as important as the next.

There is so much misinformation out there.

Whether it be at the hands of activists intentionally passing down doctored or false information or consumers unknowingly sharing it, misinformation is everywhere. It’s understandable, we’re all guilty of being lazy researchers and critical thinkers at some point. With social media, misinformation can be spread like wildfire so long as it has a click-bait, catchy title. However, we as agriculture supporters are responsible for not only holding ourselves to higher standards as critical thinkers, but correcting the false information or half-truths about our industry. It can feel overwhelming not knowing where to start to inform people of the science-based facts about agriculture, but making yourself a non-judgmental source for knowledge among your peers can open up communication opportunities and help correct some misunderstandings.

We are all consumers.

egg-1316407_960_720It’s easy to have an “us versus them” mentality as a agricultural advocate. We constantly talk about consumers’ choices, beliefs, and tendencies. This separation between those who are involved in agriculture and those who are not makes it easy to forget that we are all consumers. We all go to the grocery store and make decisions based on money, preconceived notions and desire. So when we’re reading an article from an agriculture perspective about consumers, let us not forget that we, too, can identify with those statements.

Agriculture doesn’t take a break for the holidays!

The world doesn’t stop eating on national holidays. This means that the farmers who grow your food will be out feeding their animals while you’re opening presents early Christmas morning. As you enjoy your holiday season, I hope everyone remembers to thank ag and the hardworking farmers and ranchers who continuously prioritize their livestock over themselves. Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! - blog


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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.

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#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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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!