As a college student, there are many questions you are asked, with the two most common being:
- What year are you now?
- What are you studying?
Typical answers usually range from nursing to business. But not mine.
“I’ll be a junior this fall studying animal science with a minor in journalism and mass communications.”
Which then brings about my favorite question, "Why?".
Animal Science is a major within the College of Agriculture. I have chosen to pursue a career in the field of agriculture for the rest of my life, and I will continue to choose the agriculture industry without a shadow of a doubt.
The FFA Creed written by E. M. Tiffany says it best in the first few lines, “ I believe in the future of agriculture…” and that is precisely why I chose the path I am on. I have a firm belief in the future of agriculture as it is one of the largest, most diverse industries in the United States that will always be needed.
When I think of the ag industry, many words come to mind. Opportunity, Family-- just to name a few. Growing up on a family farm, I have been blessed, and fortunate enough, to witness all the ag industry has to offer first-hand. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I’ll start with the good.
In 2006 at the young age of eight, I joined the local 4-H club and began exhibiting cattle at the county fair, which soon progressed to the Illinois State Fair in 2008, and eventually the national level (National Western Stock Show, Junior National Heifer Shows, NAILE), and eventually joined my high school’s FFA Chapter in 2012. By participating in these events, I was afforded the opportunity to connect with people from all across the country who share similar passions, and dreams, as me. I was presented with the opportunity to learn valuable career skills such as public speaking, critical thinking, time management, teamwork, event planning, etc. Bottom line: I have the opportunity to grow.
In a class I took the past spring semester we briefly touched on the difference between connotation and denotation. I cannot think of a better example than the word family. The instant Google definition, and denotation, of the word is a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household. I prefer the Urban Dictionary (yes, I did say Urban Dictionary) “connotation” : A group of people, usually of the same blood (but do not have to be), who genuinely love, trust, care about, and look out for each other. REAL family is a bondage that cannot be broken by any means.
To me, that is precisely what the ag industry is- a family.
This spring, wildfires raged across the southern panhandle, destroying everything (farms, homes, livestock, even people) in it’s path. Farms and ranches suffered countless losses, but, one thing is for certain: they were not alone. One by one, in the face of adversity, farmers not affected by the fires stepped up to the plate and began delivering flatbed trailers loaded plum full of round hay bales to those in need. Not because there was a way to profit, but because of the sheer want to help. We are a unique family made up of different races, genders, and backgrounds with not one being the exact same who genuinely care about one another. As long as I am involved in the ag industry, I am certain that I will have a second family who will continue to support me and always have my back in any situation.
Now onto the bad and the ugly.
Glamorous is not a word often associated with agriculture, and truthfully, it should not be. This lifestyle comes with many challenges. Our industry is constantly under attack by organizations like PETA and HSUS aiming to sway consumers viewpoints. The worst part? They’re good at it because they hire marketing experts who know how to appeal to our deepest emotions. The war us agriculturists fight daily is ugly. In all honesty and with no sugar coating, we do have to “be mean” to our animals at times. But let’s also get something straight, It's NOT BECAUSE WE WANT TO. Like a mother’s natural instinct to protect and take care of her children, farmers and ranchers have an instinct built in to do what is necessary to make sure their animals are happy and healthy again if they become sick or are threatened.
My “why” is just this:
I see the challenges agriculture has faced, and will continue to face, in the past, present and future. Choosing a career in agriculture is a constant challenge to myself that continuously pushes me outside my comfort zone and ignites a fire within me to learn more. By learning more, and sharing my story, its possible to build a more effective foundation of trust consumers can count on to answer questions they have honestly, and openly, through relatable conversations that promote agriculture in all facets.