Yep. That’s me. I’ve been a nerd from the beginning. I have always loved to learn, but I never really “geeked out” over any one subject. I really can’t handle reading more than about thirty minutes at a time, and I have always taken a little longer when working out a long division problem. I’m a novice of many things, master of nothing.
That all changed when I enrolled into my first agricultural education class. The geeking began. I wanted to learn any and everything possible I could sitting in that 7th-grade basic ag class. Within a month, I started my first swine project, joined FFA and was awaiting my first FFA jacket. From there, I competed in FFA Creed Speaking, came to every chapter meeting and found a mentor and friend in my agriculture teacher. Every day after school (or sometimes even before school) I was either in the garden with one set of grandparents or in the barn with the other set. I wanted to soak in all the knowledge I could about the agriculture industry and have not stopped since.
As I made the journey to high school, I still latched on to the FFA. Just like that 7th-grade version of myself, I was eager to learn more about agriculture. I will admit, my time welding and wiring was minimal, but that was for the best. I don’t think my agriculture teacher would have appreciated their shop being burned to the ground.
As I rounded out my time in this great organization, I gained a sense of pride in where I came from– the rolling hills of North Georgia. Being in FFA, traveling had become second nature. From traveling the state as a state officer to competing in the national Parliamentary Procedure Career Development Event in Indianapolis, Indiana, there were many times I found myself reflecting on that little town that I grew up in. I realized that the agriculture of North Georgia was my agriculture. I realized that I learned about agriculture in those deep valleys and rows of chicken houses. I knew the local feed store owners, local farmers and the folks over at the Gilmer County Farm Bureau by name. Georgia is the reason why I love this industry, but it is also the reason I had to leave
The Journey to DC
About six months ago, I left my home state to move to Washington, D.C. I was offered an internship on Capitol Hill that I simply could not miss out on. I interned in the office of Congressman Austin Scott, a South Georgia representative and a member of the House Agriculture Committee. Having an interest in policy and agriculture, there was no doubt that taking this internship was the right move. Within that 12-week span, I caught the D.C. bug, and, as chance would have it, I was given the opportunity to stay another three months in the area in a different internship position here at the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
A Summer with the Animal Agriculture Alliance
I will be honest when I say that I did not know what to expect from the internship with the Alliance. I assumed that I would expand my portfolio, gain communication skills and gain knowledge about outreach and education, which has all shown to be true. Although, the Alliance gave me much more than that. I came in with the knowledge of knowing how to advocate for this industry, but I lost my “why.” The Alliance helped me trace it back ten hours south to the place where it all began. Animal agriculture not only battles the market and Mother Nature but forces that wish to see its existence come to an end. Prior to this internship, I knew there were forces like that out there (have ya’ll seen Facebook nowadays?), but I did not grasp the severity of the situation. Let me inform you; the severity of this issue is… severe. There are groups and individuals that have plans to end animal agriculture. This would crush family tradition, take value away from programs such as 4-H and FFA, result in a spike in the price of food, cause thousands to loose their jobs and would send rural America, my home, into a cycle of despair.
It’s not easy being a part of this industry, and that is coming from a college intern working in an area an hour away from the closest farm. As I scroll through news clips here at the Alliance office, it can be truly overwhelming reading what it is being said about animal agriculture. I find myself contemplating about how we as an industry will overcome this negativity. At times, it seems as if there is no way to jump over this hurdle, that all this work we are doing is for nothing. Then my mind crosses the Mason-Dixon line, and I remember who I am advocating for– the farmers back home that I know by name.
Here is your call to action: don’t stop. Don’t stop blogging, posting on social media or hosting community events that support the industry. Don’t stop sharing your story about animal agriculture or working towards that degree that will secure you a job in this great industry. Don’t stop educating and advocating. In the face of adversity, farmers still farm, and, in the same token, we should still advocate. If you ever question if the work you are doing for animal agriculture is making a difference, think of the farmers and ranchers in your home state. There are hundreds, even thousands, of activists who want to see their livelihoods destroyed. The farmers need your voice.
Leaving Georgia for a time was the best thing I could ever do as a young advocate. Moving forward, I am eager to continue to fight for this industry and ensure that farmers, ranchers and rural Americans have a secure future using the skills and experiences I have gained here in D.C. Even though I love this area, it’s time for me to go home. I have Georgia on my mind.