I’m including a video that was taken the same day I wrote this blog. Talking the talk is great, but utilizing videos on social media in a proactive and educational way can close that gap between rancher and rancher and rancher and consumer. As for being better with social media, I’m going to reread my next status update…I hope you do too…now if I could just figure out how to use a hashtag!
Tag Archives: YPC
BY BEN NEALE, YPC Leadership Board
Growing up as a boy in rural middle TN, our family only had the basic four or five main network TV channels…we were too far out to get anything else and even today my parents don’t care to get anything more. (We did however have shoes, electricity and even running water, contrary to popular beliefJ)
The quality of the reception on these channels was dependent on the season and weather. Sometimes we would have two channels, sometimes three. I know this can almost sound preposterous in today’s entertainment-soaked society and is what some could even ascertain to be abuse! In our household this intrinsically led to Sunday afternoons of watching either that fuzzy haired painter guy (Bob Ross) or “The Woodwright Shop” on PBS. Most often though, my father would opt to watch a movie such as ‘Lonesome Dove’ or ‘The Sackett’s’ for about 15 minutes before he fell asleep for a nap. I’d then be left with the choice to go outside or stay in to watch it while unknowingly soaking up some of the ideas that have molded me as a person. To speak honestly, the repetition of these events have probably molded me, for the good or bad, more than I would care to admit.
Probably one of the primary drivers of admiration I had as a young boy in the men portrayed by Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones or Tom Seleck in these movies was their perseverance in the face of adversity. For that reason, I would like to start a conversation or at least offer an idea on how we as young cattle people will deal with the setbacks that will inevitably come to us.
In the last few weeks, I have had to come to terms with losing some very close friends of mine and also deal with a painful back injury that has not allowed me much besides staring at my ceiling and thinking. When there’s problems all around, being still can be one of the hardest actions to choose! Yet for me it can be one of the most rewarding because it forced me to mentally deal with the situations that arise.
I realized that I had, for at least a brief time, developed a misguided expectation that I should not have the problems I was experiencing. I had ‘worked hard, ‘been good’ or (insert other excuse here) that allowed me to think my current situation was unfair. Sometimes I/we can tend to think this when there is something or someone in a position that may be preventing us from reaching a goal. I wholeheartedly agree that we should set goals and try to achieve them but we cannot forget to plan and be patient with the expected bumps in the road on the way to achievement.
This reminded me of the quote from Gus McCrae when talking to Lorie about San Francisco.
“Lorie darlin’, life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it’s likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself.”
I don’t mean for this to be taken out of context and that we turn from a goal-oriented attitude to drink whiskey and stay in bed. Although it has sure helped my back the last few days! My point is that achieving a goal is only one part of the enjoyments of life. We also need to be enjoying the adversity and the challenges that come almost as much as the achievements. If we expect too much satisfaction from climbing a ladder of success then when we arrive at the top we may find we had leaned it against the wrong building.
In the closing scene of the movie we can see that Woodrow’s vision of his life is the good with the bad. Often times I think some of us that have not had the privilege of years of wisdom look to the generation ahead and think they somehow just arrived where they are. That they didn’t have adversity to face or difficulty in taking over the reins from someone else. The more I have learned I cannot believe that this perception is reality. I have come to understand that the ones before us that have really achieved what we desire have done so, not without problems, but in spite of them.
There will be problems that come and mistakes made by us all on our way through life. The best we can do is live as honorably as we can, limit the mistakes we make where possible, ask forgiveness from God and others when we don’t and persevere in the face of our consequences.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
This generation of farmers have some big boots to fill. Cattle producers like Carly and Spencer Guinn are up to the challenge. The couple met while attending the University of Kentucky where Carly majored in Animal Science and Spencer majored in Agriculture Engineering. They were married in May of 2008, one week after graduation and three weeks later, they were living in Kansas where Spencer worked for Ag Co as a field test engineer. They moved back to Kentucky in 2010 and have since moved to their beautiful new farm in Danville Kentucky.
They both grew up in an agricultural environment, Carly on an apple orchard in Ohio and Spencer on a beef cattle farm and both knew this was the lifestyle they wanted to continue. “I think it’s just nature,” says Carly, “When you’re raised on a farm you don’t think of wanting to do anything else. I love the lifestyle and growing things for other people”.
Spencer agreed noting, “I’ve always wanted to farm. Growing up in Pulaski and Wayne Counties, my father always raised cattle and tobacco. My interest in cattle and helping on the farm turned into a degree in Agriculture and I haven’t looked back since.”
The Guinns are now running their own 350 acre farm where they have row crops – corn, soybeans and wheat. They also have a 30 head cow-calf operation and background their own calves. Their goals include increasing their back grounding herd, finishing their cattle working facilities and building their cow-calf herd to 100 head. Both of them also work full time jobs, both in agriculture. Carly is employed at Hallway Feeds in Lexington and Spencer works as an engineer at Tarter farm and ranch. One thing is certain- the Guinn family is successful in the agriculture industry!
Both of them credit taking advantage of resources to keep them on the right track. It’s not easy to get started on your own. Access to capital, operating capital, and finding property to buy or rent in order to expand are all challenges. Both are involved with YPC and both use this as a resource for education and new ideas. They also advise taking advantage of young farmer loans, NRCS and the FSA. It’s helped them to form a business plan which is something they learned how to do at UK. “It’s an amazing financial planning tool,” says Carly “It’s always our go-to when we want to see if something we want to do is realistic.”
When you see Carly and Spencer out on their farm, there’s an apparent togetherness that they share as they talk about where he’s at with drilling corn or if she needs to go ahead and put fly tags on the cattle this early. As we walked out into the field to shoot a picture, a little red heifer followed us. It was an orphan calf, Annie, which they’d bottle fed together and it was obviously very attached to both of them. It was so neat to see the two of them working together on something that they were both so passionate about that I couldn’t help but ask if they planned on raising their children to love farming just as much as them. After a short pause, Carly smiled and said, “Well I guess we can go ahead and announce to the readers of ‘Cow Country News’ that we will be expecting in October.”
“And yes,” added Spencer, “They will be growing up on a farm and with a farm lifestyle.” Of course, this next generation of farmers will have some big boots to fill as well. Carly and Spencer Guinn are up for that challenge too.
Feature written by Sara Neumeister
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.
Growing 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?
It 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.
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?
I 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.