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The Evolution of Cattle Production: Why Consumers Can’t Have the iPhone 5, Sprawling Suburbs and the Pitchforked Farmer Too

BY AMINA BENNETT, Wife and Mother near Chicago, IL

Originally published Oct. 3, 2013: http://www.mommamina.com/2013/10/the-evolution-of-cattle-production-why.html 

The iPhone 5s was just released a few days ago, excited consumers across the nation eagerly waited hours (even overnight) for Apple stores to open in anticipation of getting their hands on the newest Apple technology. The iPhone 5s now boasts a larger screen, Touch ID, a faster operating system and enhanced camera features. Technology in communication is widely embraced, new inventions are encouraged, and consumers are eager to evolve with the changing times. That said, I think it’s safe to say that I would be an anomaly if I walked down the street with a vintage phone…

Hellooooooooooo

or a cell phone circa 1983…

Yup…they once looked like this!

So why is it that the same eagerness to evolve with the changing times, which is so apparent in the communications industry, not exhibited for the agricultural industry? In a recent visit to the Larson Farm, Farmer Mike Martz made mention that he felt as though society wanted him to “farm like how his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had farmed in years passed.” But with an increasing population, more urban sprawl (which leads to less farmland), and fewer farms to spread the labor (as future generations of farmers opt out of the family business), why are Americans unwilling to let farming evolve with the times?

While I haven’t got the answers to why some folks are so unyielding to the evolution of agriculture, I can only address the 5 fears that I once touted as the big WHY. And it goes a little something like this…

1. No Feedlots Please, I prefer my cattle roaming and grazing
As a Midwest city girl I always assumed that land outside of the city lights (and suburban sprawl) was sufficient enough to raise tons of cattle for grazing and roaming. But with the growing population and constant building outside of the city limits we’re encroaching upon farmland and animal habitats. Even coyotes have decided that since they can’t beat our burgeoning population that they’re going to join us here in the city. So when it comes to raising enough cattle to feed a large population, cattle feedlots are in response to the need for more livestock within a smaller farm area.

2. I don’t want my family consuming extra hormones; I’malready portly AND I want my kids to look like kids!
Sure, hormones are implanted into the ear of cattle to increase their size during their last few months of life, but according to the FDA, “all approved implant products have a zero day withdrawal. This means that the meat from the animal farm is safe for humans to eat at any time after the animal is treated.” In addition, the ears are discarded before the animal is slaughtered.

Furthermore, because I’m a believer in the power of statistical information, here’s a couple stats to give you some perspective on hormone use in cattle:

Organic Beef = 1.4 nanograms of estrogen hormone per 3 oz of meat
Conventional Beef = 1.9 nanograms of estrogen hormone per 3 oz of meat 
Potatoes = 225 nanograms of estrogen hormone (occurring naturally) per average sized potato
Birth Control Pills (at the lowest dose) = 20,000 nanograms per pill  

M&M visual of hormone dosages compliments of the Larson Farm
 Left to Right: Organic, Conventional, Baked Potato, Birth Control Pill

3. I don’t want to consume antibiotics when I’m not even sick!
Well, if you’ve followed my farming posts thus far, then you’ve got an idea on what I’ve learned about antibiotics. If you haven’t, check it out a here! But suffice it to say that at the Larson Farm, sick cattle are tagged, removed and then tested. The sick cattle are then kept 2 weeks later than when they are “technically” safe to sell as an added precaution. Antibiotics are not permitted on the meat market.

4. All feedlot farms (especially CAFO’s) are inhumane and mistreating their cattle 
Just a bit of clarification here. A feedlot is an area or building where livestock are fed or fattened up. A CAFO is a concentrated animal “production process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined spaces, and that substitutes structures and equipment (for feeding, temperature controls and manure management) for land and labor.” The Larson Farm is considered a CAFO (due to the number of cattle housed) and as a result, the farm undergoes a required certification every 3 years by the EPA.

While visiting the Larson Farm I didn’t witness any signs of animal abuse (no excessive mooing, cow bullying-yes it happens amongst cattle too, and no fear of people). I don’t believe anyone these days is naive to the mistreatment of animals in the farming industry, but what I can attest to is that not ALL farmers treat their animals cruelly. In fact, cruelty is not a matter of size or conventional versus organic. It’s a matter of the moral fiber of the farmer raising the animal. Which brings me to my next point…

5. I don’t want my food coming off of an assembly line!
Since when did being organized get a bad rap?!?! In fact, it’s when systems are not in place where all good intentions go to hell. Ever heard of Temple Grandin?

Temple Grandin is an autistic woman who transformed the livestock industry by inventing improvements to the animal handling systems found on ranches, farms and meat plants. She is most known for the center-track restraint system that is widely used across North America.

Cows enter and exit the center-track system here

 

Top of center-track system which prevents cows from backing up and flipping over one another
Gentle “Hug” which calms the cattle immediately so that the ultrasound tech can check marbling and fat levels
Her invention decreases and eliminates the fear and pain animals experience when they are being handled and eventually slaughtered. You see, the successful management of large numbers of animals requires advanced engineering and forethought to prevent falls, crippling injuries and untimely death. Kudos to Larson Farms for incorporating this ingenious system into their farming processes. By the way…it’s composed entirely of scrap metal!  
 
As our world continues to evolve, our food industry has to adapt alongside of it. In practical terms, with millions more people on the earth, the days of free roaming animals that eat off of the land, and farmers driving horse-drawn plows… are gone. With farmers being charged with feeding more than just their family and their town, and with less space to do it, farmers (although still good stewards of the land) are seeking efficient and effective ways to raise livestock and cultivate the land within the changing times. Everything must evolve, just as the iPhone 5s will soon give way to the iPhone 6… 
 
…it’s just a matter of time. 

Are you still envisioning the pitch-forked farmers of the past? Do you believe that the agricultural industry should evolve with the times?

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4H: Impact for a Lifetime

BY MARTHA SMITH

Originally published: http://monsantoblog.com/2013/10/08/4h-impact-for-a-lifetime/

“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

smith_martha_More than a decade has passed since I last uttered those words at a 4-H meeting, yet these words that make up the 4-H Pledge still roll right off my tongue, and my hands still know exactly where they should be positioned for each verse. As I sit here reflecting back on my 4-H career, my mind is swarmed with wonderful memories of the many, many activities I participated in through 4-H and the impact those activities are still having on my life today.

I still vividly remember the first time I participated in the 4-H presentations contest as a 4th grader in Mrs. Thompson’s class. This was my first real venture into the world of public speaking, and I was scared to death. But, I knew my older sister had received a blue ribbon for her presentation a couple years ago, so I was bound and determined to conquer my fears and also win my first blue ribbon.

My chosen topic was, “How to Show a Market Hog,” which was quite fitting for a farm girl like me. My parents had assisted me with preparing my large presentation boards that included hand-stenciled letters (a.k.a., the PowerPoint of the 1990s). I brought along a stuffed miniature toy pig for the presentation and used a life-size cane and wire brush to teach my classmates and fellow 4-H members how to show a pig. I recall my hands shaking with fear as I made my way through the presentation, and I recall the huge wave of relief that came over me when I finished and returned to my desk. I had successfully made it through the whole presentation! And to my delight, I was awarded a blue ribbon and, thus, began a lifetime of public speaking for me.

4hpowerofyouthAs a member of my schools’ 4-H clubs and also a member of the local 4-H Stockmen’s Club, I could tell many other stories from my 10 wonderful years of 4-H membership. I experienced so many “firsts” through 4-H: the first time I balanced a checkbook; first time I met with and lobbied legislators; first time speaking to an audience of strangers; first time shooting a firearm; first time attending an overnight camp; first time serving as an officer in a club; and the list goes on and on. Certain memories of 4-H stick out as the ones I’m most proud of: being inducted into the Virginia 4-H All Stars; serving as President of my high school’s “The One” 4-H club; serving as Chief of the Occoneechee Tribe at 4-H camp; and winning Supreme Showmanship at my county’s 4-H livestock show.

But the experiences that really stand out in my mind are the ones where I developed lifelong friends. Just last month, a high school friend posted a photo on Facebook of a group of us at the Virginia 4-H Congress on the Virginia Tech campus. We were all amused at the flashback photo and began reminiscing on our 4-H days. These are friends who I don’t speak with too often now but who I can pick right back up with at a moment’s notice, as we share such a strong bond from the many hours we spent together during our 4-H days.

4-H was a huge part of my entire childhood, and I feel so blessed to have been introduced to the organization at such a young age.  I have no doubt that my experience with events like public speaking gave me a leg up once I entered “the real world.” I developed confidence and poise and learned the significance of being granted responsibility and, thus, the need to act responsibly. I experienced the fruits of success and the lessons to be learned from the times when you don’t succeed at a project. I learned how to be a leader and how to work as a team. I also learned the value and great need for serving others in your community. 4-H gave me many opportunities to experience new things and travel to new places, all while expanding my horizons, which surely gave me the courage to seek out my dreams and ambitions in life. I have no qualms in saying that outside of my family, 4-H had the most significant influence on developing me into who I am today.

In honor of National 4-H Week, I’d also like to give a shout out to all the 4-H staff and volunteer leaders. The time, dedication and passion they put into 4-H truly makes 4-H what it is: the premier youth leadership and service organization in rural and urban America. I owe so much to Mr. McCormick, who served as the County 4-H Extension Agent for my entire 4-H career. The weekends and nights that he gave up to 4-H is truly remarkable, and his desire to aide us in growing and developing left a lasting impression on all of us. I haven’t had a chance to say it recently but, thank you, Mr. McCormick.

Originally published October 8, 2013 by Monsantoco

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Reporting for Agriculture: YPC feature, Kadee Coffman

photo-12

Q&A BY LAUREN CHASE, YPC Communications 

Kadee Coffman is a national TV host and sideline reporter who can be seen on networks such as: Great American Country (GAC), Fox Sports and RFD-TV. She currently works as the PRCA Xtreme Bulls sideline reporter, Host of “Superior Sunrise” for Superior Livestock Auction and co-hosts RFD-TV’s “Gentle Giants” with Pam Minick. In addition, Kadee has been hired as a feature reporter on GAC, and was the sideline reporter at the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, the annual Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate Sale and more. Kadee is a true cowgirl at heart. Born and raised on her family’s horse and cattle ranch in Clovis, Calif., Kadee has shown western pleasure, reining and working cow horses since childhood. She has a true passion for rural America and in 2007 was Miss Rodeo California, which gave her the opportunity to promote professional rodeo and the western lifestyle. Today, Kadee calls Fort Worth, Texas home working for the world’s leader in livestock marketing, Superior Livestock Auction.

How did you get involved with Superior Livestock and Pro Rodeo? 

Rural America and the western lifestyle has my entire heart. For me, growing up on my family’s ranch instilled not only the western way of life, but a true passion for agriculture and being proud of where you come from. I had always dreamed of being Miss Clovis Rodeo because so many of the young ladies I looked up to had the opportunity. I was fortunate to win Miss Clovis Rodeo in 2004,and went on to the California Rodeo Salinas to represent the largest rodeo in California in 2005. That year, is when I knew not only did I want a career in the agricultural industry, but when I was being interviewed I always wanted to be the one asking the questions – not answering! After Miss Rodeo California in 2007, I was approached to host a TV program on RFD-TV after my reign and that is when I met the folks at Superior Productions. Following my year hosting “TV Horse Source,” I went back to school and obtained my degree in broadcast journalism. It wasn’t long after graduation I was knocking on Superior’s doors. I will always be thankful for their open arms and truly giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Tell us what a typical day looks like for you…or perhaps a season.

photo-1A typical day varies immensely! Some days I’m behind my computer editing RFD-TV’s “Gentle Giants” and other Superior Production projects, other days I feel like the airport is my second home flying from bull ridings to rodeos. The summer is the busiest time for me, but after Labor Day I slow down until the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December.

What venue is your favorite to host? 

I am beyond humbled every time I interview Superior’s customers on “Superior Sunrise.” Not only do I learn more about their operation (and get to brag about what great genetics they have), but what amazing and hard-working people we have that make up the cattle and ag industry. THANK YOU to each one of you for helping feed our world. On the other end of the arena, interviewing at the Wrangler NFR was a goal of mine for a long time. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say, interviewing someone like Wrangler NFR bull rider Trevor Kastner wasn’t awesome, after he was the only guy to cover a bull during round 9 and picked up a check for nearly $60,000…. It’s pretty neat to be able to capture that kind of reaction and emotion.

 Do you ever get nervous before you go live?  

I think I’d be worried if I didn’t have a few nerves as they were counting me down! I love LIVE TV, for two reasons. Number one: there are no do-overs. You have to roll with the punches and sometimes are better than others! Number two: I have my game face on that much more, you know, it’s go-time. It’s easy to get too comfortable when everything is being taped because you always have in the back of your mind, you can just do it over. With, LIVE TV you can’t!

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had while reporting?  

photo-16The 2012 Wrangler NFR is hard to top, however, interviewing Dr. Temple Grandin last fall in the Fort Worth Stockyards about cattle handling and animal welfare is something I will remember forever. I also did a special feature on GAC at R.O.C.K Ride On Center for Kids in Georgetown, Texas and highlighted their Horses For Heroes program. That was probably the most humbling experience of my life. I was able visit with soldiers who had just returned home, and were utilizing Horses For Heroes to not only alleviate physical pain but pain from scars that can’t always be seen. I think all of us can agree the bond and trust between a human and a horse can change your life. THANK YOU never seems good enough to say to a solider when I pass by them on any American Airlines flight I happen to be on, but, THANK YOU for continuing to fight for our great Country.

What is your favorite part about your job? 

As a reporter, especially in an industry that is so dear to me, I love being able to share a rancher’s story, or an upcoming bareback rider’s long road to making his first run at the WNFR. I love showing the western way of life, and I love bragging about how awesome each one of you are! We’re in an industry to be extremely proud of, and as a reporter I’m thankful I can help send that message.

Why is agriculture important to you? To the country?

photo-15Agriculture is everything to me. I think all of us that we’re raised on our family’s farm, and played with our dolls and John Deere tractors in the manure pile, instead of inside the house, just may be a little better off than our “city slicker” friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have many and absolutely adore them, but they all loved coming to the ranch and being able to play cowgirl for a day. Admit it, we all have a little cowboy and cowgirl in all of us. As far as impacting our country, agriculture feeds the world and not just our country. We provide for so much more than that! Farmers and ranchers are the salt of the earth.

What is one thing about yourself that would surprise people? 

I am an absolute neat freak! I can’t remember the last time I didn’t make my bed before I left my apartment. I’m the proud owner of a miniature donkey named Fiesta, and I’m also VERY uncomfortable with grocery shopping. Don’t ask – my mom will be embarrassed I said that.

What do you hope to be doing in the future? 

photo-13I hope to continue shedding a positive light on our industry and telling compelling stories of cowboys and cowgirls, who are our heroes. I’d also like to report at The Kentucky Derby in the near future and ride alongside the winning jockey. I’ll have to work on that English riding helmet the reporter usually wears. Hopefully, I can wear my cowboy hat! In my spare time, I design western chic buckles for Denver, Colo., based company, Johnson&Held. I’m going into my second year with them and absolutely love it! I’m a western fashion fanatic so who knows, maybe a boot line next?!

 What piece of advice to you have to women who would like to get into ag communications?

Cowgirl icon Pam Minick is not only my mentor but a dear friend of mine. She’s always said to, “Utilize every possible resource you have and give a 150% when you’re passionate about something.” I live by that, and I never say “I can’t.” If you keep your eye on the ball, and stay focused you can achieve anything!photo-14

Since this is a blog for beef producers, tell us what your favorite beef dish is and why. 

No one can beat my dad’s steak! I’m a steak, baked potato and broccoli kinda girl! On rare occasion I may splurge for twice-baked potatoes!

You can follow all of Kadee’s adventures on her Twitter page: @KadeeCoffman.  
 
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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Want to See the Mice?

BY LAUREN CHASE, YPC Communications

A blonde-haired, shoeless boy runs over to me yelling,”Lauren, Lauren…do you want to see the mice?”

I was visiting his parents on their farm in Tennessee and had just stepped out of the pick-up, surprised with this greeting.

“Um, do I?” I replied.

“Yeah! They’re over there!” he says while pointing towards the silage pile off in the distance.

His little hand grabs for mine and starts to lead me in the direction of the silage.

For Cattle CallHis brother and sister join us…each one barefoot…and, as if we we were going to miss the mice, walk faster and faster until we finally reach pile. Standing several feet higher than me, I carefully scan up and down the mound to see the mice. Without success, I ask the children where the mice are hiding.

They point to where they had seen the mice before and begin to tell me that if you gently kick the mound in certain places, they will come running. Well, boys will be boys, and both start karate-kicking the silage, letting out “hi-yahs.”

Finally, their sister spots a small, gray mouse scurrying on the ground…the kids chase it into a tire that was holding down the tarp that covers the silage.

There were big smiles and laughs all around. I think they felt proud…a sense of accomplishment…that they were able to find a mouse.

This story, while it seems simple on the surface, really encompasses the agricultural rearing of children. These kids, like others that grow up on a farm or ranch, were able to find pure joy in something that didn’t have them plopped in front of a TV, or something that costs their parents hundreds of dollars. They learned to play together as brothers and sister, learned how to make their own fun on the farm, and learned how to strategize to get the mice to come out.

I left that farm thinking about how amazing the little things are in life and how kids that are raised on farms and ranches are really lucky! Once again, the agricultural lifestyle proves its value and I hope that more and more people will see it that way.

 

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Where It All Happens

BY RACHEL ABEH, Montana Stockgrowers Association intern

IMAG0813-1Students from Montana State University and Texas Tech University, including myself, traveled to our nation’s capital last week for a look at the impacts being made in Washington by agriculture organizations. Each of us is a student in our respective university’s college of agriculture. We went mainly to meet with the “who’s who” in the agriculture industry and learn about what their organizations are currently working on to better agriculture in politics.

We met with staff of the House Ag Committee, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, USDA-NIFA, and U.S. Wheat Counsel. These organizations welcomed our questions about the industry and offered a lot of insight from all sectors of agriculture. That week was perhaps the best to visit D.C., as the Farm Bill got rolling and biotech wheat was discovered.

A lot is happening in the industry in general and economic, legislative, and trade topics were discussed heavily by each organization. Additionally, we learned about the alliances between these organizations, which give agriculturalists an even stronger voice in D.C. This showcased to cohesiveness of agriculturalists and put into prospective the power of our industry.

Rachel and DustinI was most interested with the information we got from the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA), students from MSU and Tech alike could relate to the beef industry. NCBA discussed the future of the beef industry, and their role as lobbyist and advocates for their members. Especially in the recent work with the Farm Bill as it moves out of committee. NCBA discussed the challenges lay ahead for producers in relation to the Farm Bill; however, they remain hopeful as the Farm Bill progresses.

Ultimately, the trip to D.C. offered excellent prospective into the work that is done by the organizations in our industry. The ability to see the places and the people that are a driving force in the industry was invaluable to each of us and is an encouragement despite the negative connotations Washington sometimes holds.

 

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Standing Up for Agriculture: Jasmine Dillon

BY LAUREN CHASE, YPC Communications

I was sitting in the 2013 Young Producers’ Council meeting in Tampa, looking around at all of my peers and noticed one face in particular. I knew I had seen this woman before….but from where? Then it hit me. That’s Jasmine Dillon…she made a really great “ag-vocacy” video that went viral on YouTube. I had to meet her. And I’m glad I did. She is one super beef and agriculture advocate and today we feature her story on the Cattle Call.

Jasmine: I was born in Newington, CT and grew up in Plano, TX.  My Dad is from Jamaica and my grandparents used to have a few goats and chickens on their property in Florida, but my real connection to agriculture came when I was in high school.  Even though we lived in the suburbs, my school had an FFA chapter and I joined it so that I could show animals, as I loved them.

CattleCall_P1010950Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian and through FFA I discovered that being an animal science major as an undergraduate in college would prepare me for vet school.  I decided to major in animal science at Texas A&M University-Commerce, and transferred to Texas A&M University in College Station my sophomore year.  About halfway through school, I decided I wanted to explore options other than vet school and while I knew they existed, I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do.  I studied abroad in Brazil for a semester as a senior, an experience which opened my eyes to the breadth of opportunities available to me as an animal scientist and the passion I had for being part of a system which, at the end of the day, allowed me to care for animals and by doing so help bring nourishment to people.

I am currently finishing up my Master’s in Animal Breeding.  My research is investigating a phenomenon in Bos indicus x Bos taurus crossbred birth weights.

LC: You created a really powerful “ag-vocacy” video…could you tell us about how you got the idea to produce it and what it’s all about.

The idea for the video was born out of a movement which started last spring on Texas A&M’s campus called Farmers Fight.  Farmers Fight is a grassroots movement with the mission of reconnecting American society with agriculture, starting with our campus and our community.  We aim to do this by providing a space for students to develop their ability to innovate and communicate through agricultural advocacy.  It is built on three pillars: community outreach, connection with campus, and advocate preparation.

The video started out as a spoken word poem, which is a form of art where you perform your poems.  I was with a friend, Mason Parish (the student who started the Farmers Fight movement), planning for events that semester: specifically for a conference where industry leaders were coming in to help us learn how to better communicate the message of agriculture to an audience from a non-agriculture background.  I had written a couple of poems in the past, and I performed one for him.  Mason prompted me to write my first poem about agriculture, and he along with other friends provided the encouragement and motivation I needed to get it done.

The idea behind the poem was to one, rally the Texas A&M College of Agriculture & Life Sciences student body behind the idea of making a difference for agriculture on our campus and beyond.  My hope was that students would feel empowered, and realize that they are capable of making a difference if they would only “stand up” for it.  The second idea behind the poem was to share agriculture with people from non-agriculture backgrounds through a new, innovative medium.  I hoped that the poem would encourage people to pause and reflect on the many ways in which agriculture touches us day in and day out without our being conscious of it.  While calling attention to agriculture’s role in our lives, I wanted to bring attention to the breadth of disciplines directly and indirectly tied to it.

The poem became the “ag-vocacy” video that it is when we decided to record it so that the message could be spread further.  We were able to do so with the gracious help of friends of ours at Wieghat Graphics.  We released the video through a number of social media outlets (YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter) the night before our campus wide advocacy day.  Our hope was that it would create a buzz for the event.  We also knew that social media would be a powerful tool in spreading the message, and that a video would allow it to be heard far, wide, and long after our years here at Texas A&M.

LC: What do you think the bridge between farmers/ranchers and consumers looks like? How can we make it better?

The bridge right now is broken; there is a chasm in the middle.  The folks on one side speak one language, while the folks on the other side speak another.  Really, the folks on either side represent two different cultures.  There are a few brave souls approaching the chasm and attempting to create a way across it, and some have successfully done so.  As a whole, however, we need to do a better job of engaging in “intercultural” communication so that we can work together to rebuild the bridge across the gap.

What will it take to cross the gap and what will it take to make it better?  I like to think of what we’re talking about here as intercultural communication.  So, how do you go about learning and interacting with a new culture?  You get out of your comfort zone, you give careful consideration to other points of view, you seek to understand why someone thinks or believes what they do the way they do – all of this you can accomplish by engaging in honest conversation.  I strongly believe in the idea of seeking to understand before seeking to be understood.

Nowadays, the consumer or food buyer typically has little connection to the agricultural process behind the ingredients that make up their food.  They are, and rightfully so, curious about what happens, how, and why.  On the other hand, the agriculturalist is not always able to relate to the way their customers think or why they think that way.  This causes frustration between both parties.  The fact of the matter is that we are as much a part of the problem as we are a part of the solution.  We live in an information age, so while it is our responsibility to make sure that accurate information is available and easily accessible, we are also responsible for learning about what our customers want, why they want it, and responding appropriately.  It is with this approach that we can seek to understand our customers before we seek to be understood by them.

LC: Why is it important for youth to get involved in local/state/national ag associations like the NCBA Young Producers’ Council?

CattleCall_P1000714It is important for youth to get involved in local/state/national ag associations because youth, us, WE, are the future.  We will be taking the places of decision makers in agriculture today.  I believe it is important for us to connect with those who have made their careers in agriculture so that we can learn from the wealth of wisdom they have to offer us, in order for us to make educated decisions that move us forward.

I also believe that it is important for us to be empowered in order for us to make sound, effective decisions.  It is important for us to understand that we have voices that are worth hearing, and we need only “stand up” for them to be heard.  There is a generation of people in agriculture right now waiting to empower the next generation of leaders, we just have to make ourselves available to them.

Local/state/national ag associations like the NCBA Young Producers’ Council provide spaces for youth to begin the learning and empowerment process.  They also have the potential to create a space for us to bridge the very gap we’ve been talking about.  Our generation better understands the next generation of customers, because they are our peers.  There is value in our ability to relate to them, and connecting with organizations like the NCBA Young Producers’ Council can help connect us in the ways we need to in order for us to make things happen.

LC: What are some of the ways you are working to advocate for agriculture…especially being from a “non-ag” background?

I believe that advocacy is my responsibility, as a student and lover of agriculture.  It’s not work to me, it’s life!  I read agriculture, I study agriculture, I plan to build a career in agriculture.  So naturally, I talk about agriculture.  I try to make it a point to consciously engage people in conversations to understand what it is they want from their food system, how they currently feel about it, and why it is that they feel the way that they feel or believe the way that they believe.  My personal preference is to have one-on-one conversations with people, because it allows you to get to know them more deeply.

When given the opportunity, I also perform the “Stand Up” poem at spoken word events to reach folks who care about where their food comes from but may not have as direct a tie to its production as they would like.  I also like to share some of the musical parodies that have been made, just to get people thinking and talking about ag in different ways.  One of the things I think I do most is ask questions.  Asking questions allows you to get to know someone, while also encouraging that person to explore their own thought processes and rationale.  In some cases, a person may realize that the opinions they hold are not based on fact or reason but rather, on popular opinion.  And you never know, you may find that you end up challenging yourself to reconsider what you think and why you think that way.CattleCall_P1010828

LC: What is the one thing you wish consumers understood about the production of beef?

I think I would like most for food buyers to have perspective on the rigors of the measures our food system has in place to ensure that food is as safe as possible.  By safe I mean that we are consistently working to have a product that provides nourishment to the person who eats it while also minimizing its chance of making them sick.  I would also like food buyers to know that our production system isn’t perfect, and we know that.  That is why there are thousands of us working in agriculture day-in and day-out to continuously improve beef production.

I honestly am not a big fan of this question, not because it is a bad question, but because I feel as though it takes the focus off of us, the agriculturalists, and puts it on the food-buyer.  I do wish that customers understood these things about beef, but I believe that it is our job to make sure that it is understood.  There is power in words, and language like this encourages us to view the situation as though the problem is not with us.  It almost, in some ways, encourages us to look “down” on the customer as opposed to valuing them and their wants and desires.  This kind of thinking encourages us to be reactive as opposed to being proactive.  I would love to see us take a proactive stance in approaching this problem: seeking to understand our customers and reflecting on what we can do differently so that we can begin repairing the bridge.

A friend of mine says we should rephrase the question to be “what do we wish we understood about the consumer?”  I tend to agree, and would go so far as to add, “and how can we meet their needs?”

LC: What does the future look like for you? And when can we expect the next video?

CattleCall_P1000201I want to be a productive part of what I see being a global body of people working to solve our international challenge of feeding 9 billion people sustainably in 2050.  Specifically, I would like to see the inclusion of livestock production systems in that solution.  In the process, I want to encourage people who may not traditionally think of agriculture as a career path to consider it.  I honestly don’t know exactly what this will look like yet.  I believe it will involve sound science, good policy, and improved communication between all sectors of our industry.

As for the next video, we’ll see. :) I can’t make any promises, as my first priority is getting my thesis completed so that I can wrap up my graduate program.

If you would like to learn more about Jasmine, you can tweet her at @jashdillon.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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How do you impact your community?

BY FAUSTINE CURRY, YPC leadership board

581480_382157115140187_1683825774_nMoving communities forward requires leaders to emerge from all agriculture sectors and all employment levels. Have you thought about how you are giving back to the agriculture community that gives so much to you? What leadership role are do you want within our community?

Your beef family, your local town, your agriculture community needs individuals who have the conviction and courage to make it  the best place to live, work and play. We must work collectively towards a shared vision. The agriculture community needs volunteers who are results oriented, team players, idea creators and committed to moving beef forward!

But thinking even broader, every event needs support and help from community members to make it a success. With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are enormous to you, your family and the community. It can help you make new friends, learn new skills and make business connections.

One of the best known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteers are the glue that holds a community together. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place! However, volunteering is a two-way street. It can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network and boost your social fun!

Often as young people, we forget that there is a whole world out there that we can interact in….where we can help and make a difference. As the agriculture community’s median age increases and the baby boomers get closer to retirement…we are the people that will need to take up the slack. We need to step up and be ready to support the agriculture community that has provided us so much in our lives.

So, if you are up for the challenge, there are lots of places right now that could use YOU! Don’t wait a minute longer to get involved and make agriculture all it can be.

 

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