Agricultural Communications….Working for Farmers, Educating the Public, Sharing Agriculture’s Story

There are two types of questions that I am asked pretty much on a daily basis. 1) The typical hows the family, how old are you now, are you married kinds and 2) where do you go to school, what year are you and what are you studying kinds of questions. So you are probably wondering, “Alison where exactly are you going with this?” Just sit back, read on.

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It is nothing new for people to ask me what I plan on doing with my agricultural communication degrees. My common answer is hopefully something in promotion of agricultural products, marketing, advocating, public relations, writing, public agricultural education, etc. However, one of the most crazy questions I’d been asked after telling someone what I’m studying is this. (I’m NOT making this up either!) “So agricultural communications, huh? So that means you’ll like talk to animals and actually communicate with them?”

After proceeding to pick my jaw up of the floor and bite my cheek hard enough so I wouldn’t laugh or make a sarcastic comment back (for everyone that knows me, I can be super sarcastic sometimes…). Honestly, the first time this happened, I did not really know what to say for a second. I mean I really wanted to be funny – and yes I know as an agvocate I should never do that, but just go with it – and say something like- “Why yes, just call me the next animal whisperer!” “Yes because I am the female version of Dr. Doolittle” Haha 🙂

While on the topic of some of the “crazy” things I have heard people say, here are some other common questions/statements I have heard/seen. Feel free to laugh (I really hope you do!); however keep in mind that this represents lack of agriculture education.

  • My family and I show Brown Swiss dairy cattle. I have heard this at almost every fair I have shown at. “Oh look at those brown cows. That’s where chocolate milk comes from!!!!!” True story.
  • While talking about the milking process at the Missouri State Fair, I was asked this. “Do those sucky things (referring to milkers) hurt the cows? I cannot believe you put those on the poor cows!” This seriously happened.
  • “Why do we need farmers when I can just go to the grocery store and get all my food?” I can’t make this up.
  • A 60+ year old woman from a large city approached me and my cow at a Branson, Missouri resort where I was talking about dairy. “This is the first time I have ever touched or seen a farm animal.” So crazy!

Do you see why agricultural communications is important now?

In all seriousness, I do explain what I am planning to do with my degrees. I explain why agriculture is so important and I truly hope that I do make them realize this concept! However, as ignorant as this sounds to some of us that people actually think agricultural communications deals with talking to animals, this is actually something quite alarming. It is proof of just how uneducated the public is about the agriculture industry. This also gives me a sense of purpose, as well as a mission to tell agriculture’s story.

These encounters gets the wheels in my head turning and reminds me that I really am where I need to be. Why do I need to tell agriculture’s story? Why do I need to work to promote agriculture products? Why do I need to support farmers?

Here’s a few facts about agriculture that will be better than any explanation I could give.

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  • Twenty two million American workers produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber. But only 4.6 million of those people live on the farms– slightly less than 2 percent of the total U.S. Population
  • Consumers spend $547 billion for food originating on U.S. farms and ranches. Of each dollar spent on food, the farmer’s share is approximately 23 cents. The rest are for costs beyond the farm gate: wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution.
  • Nearly two million people farm or ranch in the United States. Almost 90 percent of U.S. farms are operated by individuals or family corporations. And American agriculture provides jobs—including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing, along with retail and wholesale sales–for 15 percent of the U.S. population.
  • According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, 50 percent of the farmers are 55 years of age or older, up only three percent from 1997. Average age of the principal operator is 55.3.
  • A recent survey of America’s young farmers and ranchers revealed that 97.2 percent planned to farm and ranch for life. And 90 percent said they would like their children to follow in their footsteps. This provides strong incentive for today’s farmers and ranchers to protect and preserve he natural resources on their property. Not only is the land and its resources farmer’s lifeblood today, it represents the future for his family and its business.
  • Forty-one percent of U.S. total land area is farmland (938.28 million acres). In 1900, the average farm size was 147 acres, compared to 441 acres today.
  • Experts still project that our population will add more than 2 billion within the next 40 years.
  • The efficiency of U.S. farmers benefits the United States consumer in the pocketbook. Americans spend less on food than any other developed nation in the world. On average in 2004, Americans spent only 2% of their disposable income on meat and poultry, compared to 4.1 percent in 1970.
  • Farmers and ranchers are independent business people who provide for their families by growing and producing food and fiber. They use modern production techniques to increase the quality and quantity of the food they produce. In the 1960s one farmer supplied food for 25.8 persons in the U.S. and abroad. Today, one farmer supplies food for 144 people in the U.S. and abroad.

More facts can be found here: http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=newsroom.fastfacts

How do you feel about agriculture now?

F481501_10200455320567593_712146636_nor you farmers and fellow agriculturists feel INSPIRED! feel PRIDE! You are responsible for feeding the nation and the world. You are responsible for life as we know it here in the United States! I know you do not get the credit you so deserve. (That “So God Made a Farmer” video…just think about that!) That is why I am in agriculture communications. I want to change that so you can keep on doing what you’re doing and so that you can get some appreciation. I have your backs!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpZ0TGjbWE

For those who have never considered agriculture to be such a major part of your life- feel EDUCATED! feel THANKFUL! Considering only less than 2% of the population is responsible for providing you with food and fiber on 41% of the land here in the U.S; you spend less on food compared to any other country in the world; the population grows everyday meaning more mouths to feed on the same amount of land used for production practices today; many farmers are older than 50 meaning fewer young people are entering the production agriculture sector; and agriculture is a huge part of our economy and our daily lives! I want to be a reason that the public becomes more educated about agriculture.

For those who are disrespectful to farmers and criticize them for production practices feel the need to CHANGE your views. feel GRATEFUL instead of hateful. After reading the facts above, seriously reconsider your accusations and the perceptions you have of what agriculture should be. Here’s the deal. If all producers went to non-confinement farming, did not use vaccines, did not use pesticides, etc.? ask yourself these questions. How would we have enough land? How would we control disease to ensure enough of a safe product for consumption? How could we produce enough product to meet growing demand of food products? Our current methods of productions are efficient. Yes, there are ways which to improve so let’s focus on improvements instead of working to enforce more strict regulations, shutting farms down, etc. I want to be the reason you change your mind about agriculture!

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As you can see, agriculture is important. Sometimes, farmers forget just how important they are. Sometimes, the general public forgets just how lucky we all are to have a strong agriculture industry. Sometimes people forget about reality and focus just on how they want farms to be like. (You know, rolling green pastures, big red barns, happy animals, etc.) As an agricultural communicator, these are some of the challenges I know I will face. It is an almost impossible task of educating every single person about agriculture. I truly believe that through efforts such as advocating agriculture at community events, direct contact with the public talking about agriculture, working for farmers, using social media, writing newspaper articles, designing material to tell agriculture’s story, making videos, developing agricultural advocacy websites, etc., I can be a big part of this difficult task.

To wrap this post up, I just want to say this. There is no doubt in my mind that agriculture is in my blood. I was born a dairy farmers daughter, so it is safe to say I have been involved in the industry since the day I was born. My dad’s parents were dairy farmers. My mom’s parents are still dairy farmers. Two of my aunts are still dairy farmers. My dad is an agriculture education teacher. My cousin is an agriculture education teacher. Another of my cousins works in 20131020-204752.jpgagriculture engineering. My little sister is majoring in agriculture at Missouri State. I have a Bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and have a semester to go before I get a Master’s degree in agricultural communications. Agriculture is a huge influence in my entire family’s lives and is something I have been around my entire life. To be able to work in a field where I can work to help my family is a blessing in itself. 🙂

I truly hope that you now have a better knowledge of agricultural communications. It is a diverse field with so much opportunity that I am blessed to be a part of! Remember farmers, pat yourselves on the back. Everyone else, thank a farmer because without them, you would not be here.

God Bless You All!!!!! Until next time,

~Ali

P.S.- GO ST. LOUIS CARDINALS!!!!!! LETS GET THAT 12 IN ’13!!!! 🙂

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Life is Tough…But I’m Tougher

“I choose to be unstoppable. I am bigger than my concerns and worries. The strength of others inspire me daily. I focus on my goal. I trust my intuition and live a courageous life.”

I think I can speak for a majority of people when I say that life sure has a way of knocking us down sometimes. I can be one that can attest for that statement, especially after the events that have unfolded these past few weeks. I will be straight up and honest when I say I always try to put on a “tough girl” front. I strive to make a goal to try to be a positive light in others people lives even when I am facing struggles of my own. Sincere optimism, sassy sense of humor and simply smiling are three traits I want to exhibit to others no matter what…at least that is my goal. But as we all know, none of us are perfect. We can only be strong for so long before we break, crumble, fall away from our normal self and become distant from others for a while until we can pick the pieces up and put ourselves back together.My horse, Cherry Bomb, and I

“Sometimes, the prettiest smiles hide the deepest secrets. The prettiest eyes have cried the most tears and the kindest hearts have felt the most pain.”

So I think I made it obvious that I unfortunately have experienced some tough times here recently. Extreme stress from graduate school, uncertainties of what my future holds, losing a dear family member and other things have really gotten to this sassy lady. Yes I will admit, there has been times that I have almost completely broke down. Yes, there has been times that I wanted to just give up. However, it did not take me long to realize that is not who I am. That is not how I want to live my life. It took some conversations with the big man upstairs, some flipping of Bible pages, advice from some of my closest friends/family and constant reminder from myself that I am strong enough to handle anything.

“Life…has knocked me down a few times, it showed me things I never wanted to see, I experienced many sadness and failures…But one thing for sure- I ALWAYS GET UP”

Thankfully, I’ve been able to regroup and get to feeling normal again. I have taken a step back, remembered what is truly important in life and have made these bad events into learning experiences. (And of course, I had to incorporate optimism into them all!) Stress from graduate school? I have to deal with it. Stressing about it will not make it any better. Uncertain about the future? Quit worrying about it! Have faith in God that He will direct my paths and will provide like always. Losing a family member? Never easy and downright depressing. (My cousin passed away after fighting breast cancer and it was super hard on my entire family, but I know she is in a much better place where she is feeling no pain). And one of those other things – I’ll be honest about it – is getting poison ivy all over my face and arms which led to a trip to the doctor, who then put me on meds that literally made me crazy. I know this doesn’t seem like a major deal, but when you are horribly moody, unable to fall asleep at night and retaining water making you feel like a hippo, all while having a nasty rash on your face then you kind of lose it. Haha, you can go ahead and laugh but it was just the straw that broke the camels back if that makes sense.1373928_10201913058490130_1771588366_n

“Next time you’re stressed: take a step back, inhale and laugh. Remember who you are and why you’re here. You’re never given anything in this world that you can’t handle. Be strong, be flexible, love yourself and love others. Always remember just keep moving forward.”

In lieu of all of these situations, I have learned a great deal about myself and life in general. First of all, tough situations lead you to discover who your true friends are and who really does belong in your life. Secondly, simply stated life is going to suck sometimes. That is just how it is. You just have to rely on God and rely on your faith to remain strong to overcome these not-so-good times. Also, another lesson learned is that life is too short to be anything but happy. Seriously, make the most and best out of each day and never take anything for granted. Most importantly, life is a blessing , so stop stressing!!!! On a more funny note, I did learn that if I ever get poison ivy again, I will not take the medicine that makes me a crazy person. (I think a lot of other people will appreciate that too!) Here is a list of quotes that sums up what I have learned that can also help you 🙂

  • “Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
  • “Life is too short to stress yourself with people who do not even deserve to be an issue in your life.” -Anon
  • “Faith is knowing and believing, not wondering and doubting.”
  • “Use your smile to change this world. Don’t let this world change your smile.”
  • “Don’t stress the could haves. If it should have, it would have.”
  • “Just because the past didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, doesn’t mean your future can’t be better than what you’ve ever imagined.”
  • “The secret of being happy is accepting where you are in life and making the most out of everyday!”
  • “Never let a bad situation bring out the worst in you. Choose to stay positive and be strong.”
  • A woman’s strength isn’t just about how much she can handle before she breaks. It is also about how much she must handle after she’s broken.” 1384977_10201948418534109_452540958_n

My “AG” ventures definitely have not been the most positive situations lately that is for sure. However, I do know that I will be an even stronger person now that I have been able to endure what I have so far. I know that as people, we all go through times when you cannot help but feel a little down. I must say that if it was not for my family, friends, my horse, my dogs and my faith, I know I would not even be where I am today. It is these things that truly matter because they are the ones who are always by my side and they are the ones that always puts a smile on my face. I hope this post serves as an inspiration/motivation for others who are going through struggles and trials of their own. There are always brighter days ahead. Just keep your head up, keep smiling and let your light shine!

“I believe everything happens for a reason. People change so you can learn to let go. You believe lies so that you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself. Things go wrong so that you can appreciate them when they’re right. And sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – Marilyn Monroe

 

This blog is dedicated to my cousin Deana who recently lost her battle to breast cancer. She was one of my biggest inspirations and is a true hero! Please remember that it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Think Pink!!!!!

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