Georgia On My Mind

Saide Lackey

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.

Agricultural Education

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.

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Lackey with her first FFA jacket, 2016

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

Sadie Lackey

Lackey at the U.S. Capitol, 2018

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.

Sadie Lackey

Don’t Stop

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.

Worried about the future of animal ag? Read this.

When it comes to podcasts, I’m a novice. Most times, I turn on some George Jones or Journey while I’m working, but recently I have warmed up to the idea of listening to podcasts because of one show in particular: The Shark Farmer Podcast.  Admittedly, this show has made me cry, laugh and fall into deep reflection all at my desk here at the Alliance office.

During one of my many binges of the podcast, I came across an episode with a quick discussion about the millennial generation that grabbed my attention. Unexpectedly, the guest on the show praised the individuals who belong to this generation.  This came as a shock to me as I hardly like to associate myself with my generation, but that quick conversation triggered a different thought process.  I took a long look at this generation, and it wasn’t all that bad. With this idea in mind, I decided to reach coast to coast and find some of the brightest minds of my generation and see what they have to say about animal agriculture. I was by no means disappointed, and I don’t think you will be either.

Lauren Heberling, Agribusiness Management Student at Michigan State University

I met Lauren as a state FFA officer, and she and her team taught me two things:

  1. (Ag)riculture is actually pronounced (egg)riculuture (at least in the Midwest), and
  2. the dairy industry is kind of a big deal.

Lauren Heberling

Lauren and I kept up with each other after our year of service and I have always been impressed by her unfailing motivation to make herself and the world around her better. During the school year, she works for the Michigan FFA Association as editor of the Michigan FFA publication, The Creed, trains current state FFA officers for their state FFA convention and works with media for Michigan FFA Association. In addition to her schooling, she is involved in the Michigan State Dairy Club, Sigma Alpha, Collegiate Farm Bureau and is finishing up her last year as a 4-H member. This summer she is interning for the Michigan Milk Producers Association. MMPA is a milk cooperative comprised of nearly 1,100 farms in the Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio. This opportunity has allowed Lauren to strengthen her passion and understanding of the animal agriculture industry as well as be on a team solely devoted to making sure their dairy farmer members receive the most profit possible for their hard work.

And what does Lauren have to say about animal ag?

“Those who raise the animals for food and fiber take the skepticism around what comprises their livelihood and turn it into transparency and innovation. The values and integrity of our American farmers are next to none and the raising of our food and fiber through animals pushes scientific advancement, raises ethical standards and holds the ideals of hard work high. The single-most reason animal agriculture is so vital to our society is because it produces the food – a burger, a cold glass of milk, an ice-cream cone in the middle of summer- while also providing a model of what every industry should look like. Animal agriculture makes a living for families, is honest in the face of controversy, works non-stop to provide for America in the safest manner for both humans and animals and above all else, does it with an honest pride.”

I could really stop right here and my point be made, but there a few more people you should meet.

Omar Raymundo, Biomedical Engineering Student at Duke University

Omar Raymundo

This kid is a GENIUS. Ask him anything about anything, and if he doesn’t know the answer, he will figure it out. Better yet, if he isn’t familiar with a subject, he craves to learn about it. Omar grew up in a small, rural town at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. As a child, he had relatively little interaction with the agriculture industry compared to others in his area. His grandfather owned livestock and had a small garden, but Omar was oblivious to the intricacies of agriculture. Since then, he has gained intelligent and passionate mentors to teach him much more about agriculture. As he reflects on the industry, he says,

“I am constantly reminded that animal agriculture is not simply ‘slopping the hogs.’ It is a complex mix of genetics, engineering and advocacy.”

I would like to give a huge shout out to agriculture teachers every where. As intellectual as they are, not many Ivy League students know the truth and importance of animal agriculture. Thanks to agricultural education, students like Omar will soon not be an anomaly.

John Winkler, Animal Science Student at University of Georgia

John Winkler

You know that FarmersOnly.com commercial with the tag line “city folk just don’t get it”? Well, I beg to differ. They do get it. John is a prime example of this.

John grew up in a city in the outskirts of Atlanta. As you can imagine, he didn’t grow up with an agriculture background or with influence such as FFA, Georgia Cattlemen’s or 4-H, but he knew he wanted to be in the agriculture industry. He began his collegiate career at Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College (Gee Haw, Whoa Back!) where he decided he wanted to go into the animal aspect of agriculture. He learned a lot about the industry through the connections he made and through joining the cattlemen’s club on campus. When asked his thoughts on the industry, he says,

“Animal agriculture plays a big role in our food industry. It is important that the people in this industry know how to raise the animals properly. Many factors go into doing such, in which I am learning throughout the course of my major. Without animal agriculture, just think about how our food industry would look.”

Wise words from a city slicker, huh?

Lizzi Neal, Agricultural Communications & Animal Science Major at Oklahoma State University

Some people think that Oklahoma is God’s country, but they are sadly mistaken. Being from Georgia, I can assure you that the Peach State holds this title. Nevertheless, this girl decided to move Oklahoma to gain a higher education. Again, not really sure why when she could attend the finest institution in the land, the University of Georgia. We still love her, though.

Lizzi Neal

Lizzi Neal is a livestock-showing queen. Her passion for agriculture and more specifically animal agriculture directly relates to her journey as a member of the National FFA Organization. From public speaking to livestock and meats evaluation, each avenue brought forth a new perspective of the industry that she had yet to consider. She began exhibiting livestock at the age of 11, and eventually her single market hog project grew to also include cattle. She later had the unique opportunity to serve as a state officer from 2016-2017. If you ask her, she will tell you that her life has been forever changed by animal agriculture.

When I have questions about animal ag, I normally give her a call. This quote shows you why:

“For me, the single most important aspect of animal agriculture at any stage is perception. 962 miles away from the only home I had ever known, individuals carried a much more positive and accepting connotation with the words animal agriculture. Such a way of life traveled back generations through family lines and was almost expected of at least 50 percent of people in a crowded room. Urbanization has stolen valuable farm land and more emphasis lies on research for more efficient yields. Still, as our industry becomes more progressive, the common perception fights against change. From the basic nutrients to total amount of edible product yielded per carcass, by changing perception, animal agriculture can be the driving force for feeding a growing world.”

Whether you’re a Poke or a Dawg, we can all agree that Lizzi makes a good point.

Elisabeth Doody, Plant Sciences and Technology Advancement Management at the University of California- Davis

There are many reasons why my passion runs deep in the agriculture industry. One reason is that this industry brings people together. I met Elisabeth at a reception here in DC. She is interning at the Agricultural Retailers Association where she is being introduced to agriculture policy and exploring how decision makers influence the agriculture industry. Although we are both from completely opposite ends of the country and focus on two separate areas on the industry, we easily found common ground and sparked up a great conversation. Elisabeth prefers to work with plants, but she has some pretty great insight on the animal ag industry and the industry as a whole.

Elisabeth Doody

“I hail from California- the land of star-studded runways, technological innovation, and not to be forgotten, agriculture.  Though perhaps not as illustrious as Google or the Kardashians, California agriculture is extraordinarily productive and innovative. More than a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. Here, dwindling resources, evolving consumer demand and growing concern for the environment necessitate that we embrace change and embody adaptability. Agriculture isn’t a popular pursuit among my peers, many of them choose instead to study computer science, engineering or medicine, but I was drawn to the industry at a young age. I discovered agriculture through 4-H – a youth program that manages to promote agriculture even in the suburbs of Southern California. With 4-H, I bred dairy goats, showed horses and raised market lambs. Working with livestock taught me to appreciate environmental, economic and cultural sustainability – a philosophy I hold on to even today. Agriculture exists at the intersection of biology and business, where tradition and technology work together to feed the world. I see in agriculture both a need for problem solvers and an opportunity for young people to affect positive change.”

I’m not crying…you are.

It’s time we as an industry see this generation as the generation who will not only hold on to the roots that run deep in animal agriculture but will make them stronger. Millennials will lead this industry to prosperity, and I am proud to be one of them. The next time you let the mainstream image of my generation float into your head, look around. We may just surprise you.

Every Month Should Be Dairy Month

June is celebrated as Dairy Month, so I have one question for you: got milk? If not, stay tuned. I am going to remind you why you should be obsessed with this delicious beverage that has been giving us artificial mustaches since we were children. It may be cheesy (see what I did there), but I have narrowed the long list of reasons of why to down a glass of milk to three important points:

  1. Dairy products are like a bath bomb of health and wellness for our bodies

Glass of MilkI may be 20 years old, but I still go wild when someone hands me a GoGurt. If loving this childhood snack is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Slurping down a tube of this mobile dairy delicacy is proven to be good for your health. Did you know that a glass of milk a day could keep the type-2 diabetes away? That’s right, folks. In an article published by the Dairy Alliance, research has found that higher consumption of low-fat dairy foods is associated with a 40-50 percent reduced risk for type-2 diabetes. So, the next time your cute 5-year-old niece hands you a GoGurt to eat with her, go to town, buddy. She is looking out for you.

  1. Dairy does not discriminate

Okay, fine. I’m guilty. I am that girl with a complicated coffee order. I take my coffee 1/8 espresso, 7/8 whole milk. Basically, I like milk with a dash of espresso. As much as I wish I could buy into the whole black coffee movement, I just can’t. Thankfully, we live in an age where one can order a coffee drink that does not taste like coffee at all. Just like how we can order a black coffee or a triple mocha chocolate chip Frappuccino, we have infinite possibilities to enjoy the delectable taste of dairy.

Where I would buy a gallon of whole milk, some put their money towards 2% or skim. Where I choose to stop by the frozen custard shop, some stick with the classic ice cream parlor. For some, cheddar is the cheese of choice. For me, I like to chow down on some mozzarella. What I’m getting to here is that you cannot go wrong with dairy. There is something for everyone— even you weird strawberry milk lovers. Don’t worry, lactose intolerant community. You can enjoy the pure perfection of dairy, as well. Yes, you heard me right; lactose-free dairy products are a thing. So, put down your soy “milk,” and fill up a glass of the real stuff. I promise, one taste, and you’ll never go back.

  1. Dairy farmers are the real MVPs

Full disclosure: I wish I was a dairy cow. First of all, they sleep an average of 12 hours a Dairy Cowday. As if that isn’t enough, dairy cattle are spoiled. Comfort is key when it comes to milk production. Therefore, dairy cattle are provided with clean, comfortable bedding daily, aisles are cleaned multiple times a day to ensure that the barn they live in is top-notch and sprinklers and fans are installed to keep the cattle cool and comfortable.

In addition, veterinary care is top priority for the livestock. Depending on the herd size, a veterinarian may come out to the farm as often as weekly to ensure the well-being of the cattle. Who makes all of this happen? Dairy farmers. As you can imagine, this is not a nine to five kind of gig. Dairy farmers work well over 40 hours a week to ensure that these 1,500-pound divas stay happy so you can have as much creamer in your morning coffee as you desire. And to think…their livelihoods are based off whether you go buy that gallon of milk I have been trying to sell you this whole time.

Multi-generational dairy farms are collapsing under the pressure of the current market. With every dairy farm bankruptcy, another farmer’s pride is crippled, another family loses its lifestyle and another young person is turned away from farming. Buy that gallon of milk, order your pizza with extra cheese and, for the sake of our dairy farmers, their families and future generations, do not limit Dairy Month to the month of June.