BY LAUREN CHASE (Montana Stockgrowers Association)
If you spend anytime on social media, you will know the name Ryan Goodman. Ryan is one of the agriculture industry’s biggest advocates — creating websites like I am Agriculture Proud, hashtags like #Ranchlife, volunteering with the AgChat Foundation, and prompting thousands of people around the country to start dialogues about food and ag. On top of all of his advocacy work, Ryan is earning his Master’s degree and continues to work on the farm. I wanted to learn more about what drives Ryan to be so passionate for telling the beef story….
Ryan grew up on a commercial Angus ranch in Arkansas where his family managed around 1,200 head of cows and backgrounded close to 12,000 head of stocker cattle a year. From the start, he was heavily involved in the cattle industry and managed to stay involved after leaving home. Ryan attended the University of Arkansas to complete the Equine Science program and finished his Animal Science degree at Oklahoma State University.
Through the years, Ryan has also taken the opportunity to broaden his experience in the cattle industry to gain a better perspective of the whole picture. He spent a summer in Wyoming, ranching in the Big Horn mountains. “This was definitely my best experience in life because I learned so much by working in an environment so different from where I grew up. Also, I have spent time working in a few different feed yards in the Texas Panhandle. This was a great experience to learn more about the finishing stage of cattle production and a respect for managing 40-60,000 head of cattle at once,” said Ryan.
Along the way, Ryan has also spent time with meat processors, large and small, learning more about the process of harvesting cattle. Late last year, he decided to return to school for a Master’s degree and is currently working in the Reproductive Physiology program at the University of Tennessee Animal Science department.
Let’s learn more about Ryan….
You have really established yourself as one of the leading “advocates” out there. Walk us through how a rancher/college student got to be in that position?
Becoming an agriculture advocate was really never planned; certainly not writing on a page for CNN. I am very passionate for working in the cattle industry and want to share that experience with others. When I started blogging, it was simply to keep my family updated on my travels and working experiences. I soon learned there are a great number of people seeking information about our food supply and farmers were missing from the conversations. I began sharing my experiences, trying my best to answer questions honestly and utilizing my resources to learn more about the topics being discussed. I have probably learned more from my use of social media than information I have shared, but listening to the conversations around us is a huge part of the process.
What motivates you to advocate on a daily basis?
Nothing motivates me more than false information being shared about the way of life that I love most. Maybe that’s not the best approach, but that’s what keeps me going. I enjoy hearing other’s perspectives on food and farming issues and hope to share at least some insight from my experience for those who are willing to listen. I also enjoy learning about sectors of agriculture where I have little hands-on experience. I have learned a ton about row-crop farming and ranching across the country by following farmers sharing online. Networking and connecting with peers across the country who share my passion is another great motivation.
What is Agriculture Proud and how have you seen it grow since its creation?
AgricultureProud.com is my home base on social media. My blog is where I create my content, share my experiences and opinions on issues that arise in the online food and farming conversations. Even though my content is centered around cattle and agriculture advocacy, any of my interests, travels, or experiences are fair game to appear here. I use other social networks like Facebook and Twitter to share these posts and build my network through conversations and relationships built on a variety of related interests. I started this page after someone asked why I was proud to be a part of my community, and that’s a message that continues to resonate with people. As the number of followers on my page continues to grow, so does my feeling of responsibility and commitment to continuing the conversations.
How are some ways more young producers (beef) can get involved with advocating?
I believe it’s important for our generation of young beef producers to join online conversations and advocate through social media, because it is our peers who will influence tomorrow’s consumer trends. Folks our age are impressionable and seeking to learn, and many are wanting to learn about their food supply. If we can get out there and build relationships with others our age through mutual interests, they’ll have someone to turn to when quesitons about food and agriculture arise.
Aside from social media, what other ways do you advocate?
Opportunities to advocate lie around every corner. I first noticed this as a number of my college classmates were inexperienced when it came to hands-on experience with farming. I then noticed that even in a rural town, fellow church members had questions about raising cattle and wanted to learn more about my perspectives. I get a big kick out of conversations about food every time I go to the grocery store. I always make an effort to wear an ag-themed shirt/cap and it makes it relatively easy to strike up a conversation about raising cattle with the folks behind the deli counter or at the meat shelf. This is the perfect setting to talk about food and I usually am able to make a good connection, pass on a business card, and follow up with later conversations. My college campus is also prime territory for food conversations. I’ve become involved in food groups with the general campus community and am working to get the Agriculture college more involved in food activities across campus.
What has been your biggest struggle in being involved with the beef industry?
My biggest struggle to become involved in the beef community has been my age and experience. I am rather motivated and want to aim high with my goals, but it’s a matter of getting there in due time. Even though I’ve spent my life on a variety of cattle operations across the country, there’s still so much more for me to learn in the cattle industry.
Tell us a little bit about the research you are currently working on.
Tennessee has one of the largest cattle herds East of the Mississippi, thanks to a good mix of cool and warm season grazing. I’m working on a project to help producers identify feeding strategies that are more efficient and may help calves perform closer to their genetic potential. A number of studies in the past have looked at supplementation prior to calving and its affect through weaning, but we’re taking the approach of looking at the bigger picture. We’ll follow the calf from the time it’s a fetus through carcass performance or early heifer fertility – referred to as fetal programming. I am pretty excited about my project because I believe it has practical application in a real-world cattle herd.
What is the in the future for you? What do you want to accomplish in your advocacy work and career?
My ultimate goal is to continue working in the cattle industry and through advocacy, open my doors to those who do not have the opportunity to experience it hands-on. I love ranching, raising cattle, and being involved in the cattle community, but there’s no reason to turn down a good opportunity to get involved and make a difference on my journey back to the ranch.
And finally, what is your favorite beef meal?
My first choice would have to be a juicy ribeye, medium-rare, with a grilled green vegetable and potatoes. But it’s really hard to turn down some Texas BBQ brisket.