Paving my path in agriculture

Greetings! My name is Cheyenne Eller and I am excited to announce that I am the fall communications intern at the Animal Agriculture Alliance. Here’s a little about myself…

I didn’t have the classic growing-up-on-a-farm childhood that many people involved in agriculture do. I grew up in a suburban town, but frequently visited my family’s cattle and tobacco farm. Spending time on the farm had me convinced I was born in the wrong generation. Farmers have always inspired me with the dedication they put into their 24/7 job. I wish that more people grew up with some type of farm experience because it really teaches you respect and a work ethic like no other.

Getting Started

My journey began in 5th grade when my parents thought horse back riding lessons would be a cute birthday present. They assumed it would be a once a week, hour commitment, tops. They quickly learned that riding a horse isn’t like going to soccer practice or karate class. You don’t get dropped off for your 5:00 p.m., 30-minute, lesson and leave at 5:30. Instead, you must get there a half hour early to groom your horse and put the tack on yourself. At the end of the lesson your reward is getting to give your horse a good brush or bath and then taking them on a walk to graze. Oh, and don’t forget to put all of the stuff you used back exactly where you found it!

Feeding a treat to famous “California Chrome” at his home in Kentucky

If I was good that week my parents would let me, after much begging, stay longer to give treats to all of the other horses in the barn (it’s not fair if you skip one). I remember saving the snack bags of carrots I would get every day from the school cafeteria to take with me to my weekly lesson. My parents would be lucky to get me in the car by 6:00, but I would have been happy to stay all night. To this day I still work and spend free time at the barn throughout the week and weekends, willingly.

Applying it

In high school I took multiple lessons a week along with working at the barn. I was looking for a way to link my developed passion for agriculture and a career. My sophomore year of high school I was informed about the AgDiscovery program run by the United States Department of Agriculture. This program allows you to attend a college for a few weeks to learn about the many aspects of agriculture. Before going into this program, agriculture to me had two options – the animal side and becoming a vet or the plant side and becoming a farmer. AgDiscovery opened my eyes to a wide range of jobs that were agriculture based.

Taken at the University of Maryland during my AgDiscovery program.

Making it a Career

I participated in AgDiscovery at the University of Maryland, College Park. Through this experience I fell in love with the campus and the complex network available within the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia area. When the time came for me to apply to college, UMD was at the top of my list. I was accepted into UMD and graduated with a degree in Animal Science. During my time on campus, I earned multiple leadership positions within clubs. This involvement allowed me to network and participate in amazing opportunities. I look forward to using my degree to pursue a career in animal agriculture education and outreach. Feel free to take some time to look into how our other interns got into agriculture! This a great opportunity to reflect on how you got involved in agriculture or how it influences your daily life.

All posts are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of the Animal Ag Alliance.

An Internship that Grew my Love for Travel

You’ve made it through security. Your bags are checked, your backpack rests on your shoulders as you wait in the Starbucks line and realization of what you’re doing slowly sets in. For the first time, you are traveling to an international destination alone; for a nearly three month stay. It isn’t your first time flying alone though. Two summers earlier you had your first true solo flight to Washington D.C. for the Animal Agriculture Alliance internship.

Where Have I Been Since Summer ’17…

It’s been almost two years since I anxiously navigated the DC Metro to find an office in Arlington, Virginia. I am now in my final semester at Purdue University. In the time in between, I’ve found myself continuing to connect myself and others to the agriculture industry through social media and other positions. I have served as a Marketing Ambassador for the 2019 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention and explored auction houses in small Welsh towns.

Sheradan and Temple Grandin

All of the experiences following my summer with the Alliance have brought back memories of being there with the team. In college classes, supply chain management conversations remind me of my project researching animal welfare policy updates for restaurant and food service organizations. That spreadsheet helped me answer my professor’s question, “which food place kick-started a revolution in the chicken supply chain standards?” It’s McDonald’s, by the way. While sitting in an animal bioethics class at Aberystwyth University, the mention of Temple Grandin sparked joy at the memory of an unexpected chance to meet her while attending the American Society of Animal Science Conference to work the Alliance booth.

Outside of the Classroom…

All of these experiences have been helpful in the classroom and as a young professional, but my time as a summer intern served as something more for me. The three months I had in the Washington D.C. area helped me prepare for a lifetime of opportunity; it was like I had a small practice run to see what it’d be like to temporarily live somewhere new. It gave me the final push to admit I could actually do a semester of undergrad in a different country.

My internship with the Alliance gave me confidence as a communicator, a traveler and a young professional. It was only my sophomore year, but I knew the unique opportunity to relocate for an internship would help me be more courageous to seek more options after graduation. I’m still not sure where my Agricultural Communication degree will take me, but I know I have the connections and fortune of going far and wide while bragging about the first time I took a leap of faith at an offer I never anticipated receiving.

Welsh Cattle Auction

Even though there are times I miss roaming the streets of Arlington or Aberystwyth, I know every amazing life experience will help carry me as I close the chapter of being a student and enter the industry as a young professional.

To learn more about Alliance internship opportunities, click here.

One of the best agriculture internships

The wonderful team at the Animal Agriculture Alliance made me feel welcome from the very first day of my internship in the fall of 2018, and I was sad to say goodbye at the end of my internship. However, my sadness has quickly been matched by complete gratitude. Although I am not entirely sure exactly what my future in animal agriculture will be, I do know that the knowledge gained from my internship experience will stay with me for the rest of my life! Not only did I come to realize a great deal about myself, but I feel as though I have a much greater appreciation for all of animal agriculture.

Intern with a dairy cow
Ashley Cate with a dairy cow

Stepping outside of the dairy world

Up until this past September, my experience with animal agriculture had been almost entirely based upon dairy production. This internship provided me with an excellent opportunity to get to know the other facets of animal agriculture. I was introduced to people involved with poultry, pork and dairy alike. Among other things, this allowed me to learn that, although production practices vary across the different animal agriculture sectors, the goal of every producer is the same: to ensure a safe and secure food supply while maximizing animal health and welfare.

A lot of the challenges that animal agriculture is currently facing are shared across all types of animal agriculture. The Alliance really taught me that the most effective way to face a challenge is to create a unified voice. By bringing together multiple experts from all fields, including producers, animal health experts and welfare specialists, the Alliance provides the unique opportunity to discuss many possible solutions and work together to decide upon the best plan of action.

More than an internship

It is safe to say I learned a great deal from my internship. Perhaps most valuable of all is that I know where ever I end up within animal agriculture, I can count on the Alliance to be there supporting all of animal agriculture. As I embark on a new journey, I can’t stress enough how important internships can be. My next chapter is at the University of British Columbia Dairy Education and Research Centre and although my focus on is dairy, the Alliance helped me see the big picture.

Alliance internships
Animal Ag Alliance internship

The Alliance offers year-round internship opportunities. To learn how you can become the next Alliance intern, click here.

Agriculture doesn’t take a break for the holidays!

As my time with the Alliance comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on the brief, but impactful few months I had with this amazing organization. Throughout my undergraduate studies in animal and poultry science I was always focused on the production side of agriculture. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the immense opportunities available to me if I looked in another direction. After graduating, I gained a curiosity for different opportunities in the industry, which is what led me to apply to intern with the Alliance.

I love agriculture and I love sharing my passion for this industry, so why not combine the two? That turned out to be a great decision. Not only have I learned incredibly important and relevant career skills during my time here, but I have become a much more confident communicator in all aspects of my life. Here are just a few things I have gained a greater appreciation for while interning with the Alliance:

Women in agriculture can do amazing things.

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Photo by Erin McCarty

Obviously being a woman in agriculture, I already knew this. But there is a six-woman powerhouse at the Animal Ag Alliance, and I have been so impressed by the incredible collaboration and communication of these women. During my time with the Alliance, I had numerous opportunities to connect with women all across agriculture and realize that though we may be a minority in the industry, we are a powerful minority constantly working to advance the industry for future generations. According to a 2012 USDA Census, women make up 30 percent of the farmers in America and operate 14 percent of US farms. This constantly increasing number of women in agriculture is wonderfully encouraging. I can only hope that in my work of advocating for the industry, I am able to help continue increasing the number of hardworking, influential women across all facets of agriculture.

The agriculture industry is incredibly broad.

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Biosecurity comes first!

Farmers are an integral part of the agriculture industry, without whom there would be no ag industry, no food. But the farmer isn’t the entire industry. We have the scientists, who are the backbone of our welfare, technology, and efficiency practices. Agriculture is a science-based industry that functions according to factual, proven evidence, and the science researchers are crucial in those discoveries. Then we have the veterinarians, who not only provide necessary health care and treatments to our sick or injured animals, but also provide insight and guidance on appropriate welfare practices and regulations. Then, we have the processors, suppliers, restaurants and retailers who package, transport and sell the agriculture products. The list is extensive: communicators who work hard to share science-based facts about ag, policy workers who help to secure the future of agriculture through government regulations, and consumers who place their trust in us to continue providing them with a safe and secure food supply. There are so many different ways to be involved in agriculture and they are all equally as important as the next.

There is so much misinformation out there.

Whether it be at the hands of activists intentionally passing down doctored or false information or consumers unknowingly sharing it, misinformation is everywhere. It’s understandable, we’re all guilty of being lazy researchers and critical thinkers at some point. With social media, misinformation can be spread like wildfire so long as it has a click-bait, catchy title. However, we as agriculture supporters are responsible for not only holding ourselves to higher standards as critical thinkers, but correcting the false information or half-truths about our industry. It can feel overwhelming not knowing where to start to inform people of the science-based facts about agriculture, but making yourself a non-judgmental source for knowledge among your peers can open up communication opportunities and help correct some misunderstandings.

We are all consumers.

egg-1316407_960_720It’s easy to have an “us versus them” mentality as a agricultural advocate. We constantly talk about consumers’ choices, beliefs, and tendencies. This separation between those who are involved in agriculture and those who are not makes it easy to forget that we are all consumers. We all go to the grocery store and make decisions based on money, preconceived notions and desire. So when we’re reading an article from an agriculture perspective about consumers, let us not forget that we, too, can identify with those statements.

Agriculture doesn’t take a break for the holidays!

The world doesn’t stop eating on national holidays. This means that the farmers who grow your food will be out feeding their animals while you’re opening presents early Christmas morning. As you enjoy your holiday season, I hope everyone remembers to thank ag and the hardworking farmers and ranchers who continuously prioritize their livestock over themselves. Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! - blog

It’s More than an Industry

I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to have found an interest in animal agriculture; the work itself is great, but the people are even better. This summer I was able to attend the Ag Media Summit , which is a conference held for those involved in the agricultural communication field. I was again impressed by the kindness and sincerity of the people who work in the agriculture industry.

Everyone is Welcome

As a student, it is easy to be intimidated when meeting professionals who work in your field. We often forget that they are people too and once stood in the same place we did. For the first time, I attended a conference and did not feel like a student; I was immersed in professional conversations and introduced to mutual connections. I was in the presence of industry leaders while still being able to meet many like-minded students. I loved the atmosphere and felt welcome in every room I entered.

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It’s exhilarating to meet new people, especially when they have similar passions and understand why you get so excited about writing and social media. When you are a young professional just kick-starting your career or still finishing your degree, it is encouraging to have alumnus and communicators from across the nation take the time to speak with you about your goals. I can’t speak for other industries, but I know everyone in the agriculture sector is truly a large family wanting each other to succeed. I think that is something pretty special.

We Honor One Another

Since this was my first Ag Media Summit, I wasn’t familiar with who regularly attended or who had made the conference such a success for many consecutive years. So, when the room fell silent during a tribute to someone who had passed away and tears began to fall, all I could do was listen to a cherished man’s story and be thankful that such individuals exist. Even though I’d never met Don, just learning how he had impacted so many lives made me feel as though his memory would impact me.

Throughout the entire conference, we all honored one another. Everyone respected each other as unique, creative individuals and everyone wanted to learn from other people’s experiences. People laughed and shook hands; it was easy to make incredible new relationships. Multiple attendees, students and professionals alike, were awarded for their hard work in the agricultural communication world.

For three days, I interacted with people who write incredible news stories, create beautiful magazine covers and strategically plan the perfect marketing campaigns. Not once did I hear anything negative about someone else’s ideas or passions. Instead, individuals collaborated and sought new ideas. I can’t accurately describe how talented these communicators are or how thankful I am to have met them.

A Bright Future

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I think most of us can agree that the agriculture industry needs a voice now more than ever. Technology continues to improve, new studies are being conducted and consumers have questions about how their food is being raised. It was great to come together with others who work to share the story of agriculture, and I think it is safe to say that our stories will continue to be told.

For me personally, I’ve been inspired to continue pursuing my goals and not be afraid to tell my own story. Besides, every single person has valuable experiences to share. I really believe the story of agriculture will only get better, especially since the story isn’t always about crop genetics or animal husbandry. The stories being told are actually about the remarkable people who make this industry so strong. The agriculture industry isn’t an industry of working strangers; it’s an industry built on family values. I hope we never forget that.

 

4 Things I’ve Learned Interning with the Alliance

With only two weeks left until the Alliance’s Stakeholders Summit, my time here is quickly coming to an end. Managing work responsibilities, homework and studying, and extracurricular activities, this semester has been one of my hardest yet – but definitely the most rewarding. I feel like now is a good time to share the four greatest opportunities and learning experiences I’ve had because of this internship.

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#1: Time Management

This is absolutely the biggest thing I’ve learned these last couple months. A full college course-load is hard enough, but when you add in this internship and stepping into a presidential role for a club, it’s safe to say I kept busy. With daily deadlines and to-do lists a mile long, I learned hard and fast the importance of working quickly, efficiently, and not wasting any “down time”.

#2: “Ag-vocate” wherever and whenever

In a coffee shop, at the store, in class, on social media; there are always opportunities to advocate for the animal agriculture industry. Those involved in the industry are eager to share their stories, and consumers are seeking more insight about the agricultural world. The Alliance has shown me the importance of forming relationships with everyone – consumers, food retail associations, producers – to help bridge the gap between farm and fork.

#3: Take advantage of every opportunity

You always hear “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. This internship has provided me with many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I’ve had the chance to attend receptions, events on Capitol Hill, and even a barnyard social with other animal ag interns in the area! Stepping out of my comfort zone and engaging in these events has left me with memories that will last a lifetime.emily 4

And #4: Animal rights activists are crazy

Period.

I am so thankful for everything the organization has taught me and the wonderful people that I have met in my short time here. My last month will be bitter-sweet as I am sad to be moving on from the Alliance, but looking forward to finishing this experience with a bang at the 2017 Stakeholders Summit in Kansas City!

Life Lessons from 2016

Just like that, another year is almost coming to a close! Where the heck has the time gone?! It seems like just yesterday, I was ringing in 2016 with some of my closest friends and family. Looking back at the last 12 months, I cannot help but be thankful for all of the opportunities I have been blessed with, especially within the agriculture community. Throughout this year, I have learned many life lessons…

Spring semester 2016 at South Dakota State University was definitely a rewarding one. This was the time I would finally start my Agricultural Education courses and be placed in a classroom to observe and assist. I was so excited! My first day there, I knew I was going to love interacting with the students and teaching them about different aspects of agriculture and leadership. These students challenged me in many different ways, but I learned so much and grew personally and professionally. Life lesson #1: “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” -Theodore Roosevelt. This is my all time favorite quote! Boy, did it ever ring true during my time in the classroom. I learned that if did not show my students how much I truly cared about them and the subject I was teaching, it would be difficult for them to learn anything from me.

Fast forward to Ag Day 2016 and I am on a plane to Washington D.C. to advocate for agriculture in our nation’s capital with students from across the United States. Through this program we were able to learn about different aspects of agricultural policy, network with professionals within public policy and meet with our Congressmen and women to celebrate Ag Day. Because of this experience (thanks to Ag Future of America) I knew I wanted to be an intern inkyla-1 D.C. Life lesson #2: There is a disconnect between rural America and D.C., but there are hardworking and passionate people who are trying to minimize that gap.
Summer 2016 was filled with courses, corn and crowns. This odd combination included my summer classes, an internship and serving as Minnesota’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way. It was a hectic, rewarding summer! Life lesson #3: Get yourself a mentor. My mentors helped me immensely during this busy summer. They always had a listening ear, words of encouragement and expert advice. Without them, I do not think I would have been able to get through this summer!

My internship allowed me to travel across Minnesota and Wisconsin supporting and assisting farmers. It was an absolute privilege to meet some of the most hardworking people in the country. Even though these people are working 24/7 to provide food for our country and world, they are doing so with perseverance and a great attitude. Life lesson #4: If you find a job you love, you will never work again. Farmers are the perfect example of this. Their demanding occupation could not be done if they did not believe wholeheartedly in what they were doing. Most of the farmers I have met are in it for the lifestyle, not the paycheck.

In August, it was time for me to pass the crown to the 63rd Princess Kay of the Milky Way. (Princess Kay is the goodwill ambassador for the Minnesota’s dairy community.) As I stood on the stage that so many other young dairywomen have stood before, I could not help but be thankful for the kylaopportunities I had been given thanks to this experience.
My heart swelled with joy as I set the crown on our new Princess Kay, knowing she would be in for the ride of a lifetime. Life lesson #5: Advocate for what you believe in. I spent an entire year traveling Minnesota to schools, conferences and community events talking about the importance of the dairy community. I am thankful for every conversation had, relationship built and memory made through this experience.

Two weeks after giving up the crown, I packed my bags and started my journey across the country to Arlington, Virginia to start my internship with the Animal Agriculture Alliance. This internship has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Being surrounded by a team of passionate women in agriculture was a true blessing. The projects I worked on have given me real-life, applicable experience that I will utilize for the rest of my professional career. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking in all of the sights, sounds and history of Washington D.C., networking with professionals in agricultural policy and supporting the team at the Alliance. Life lesson #6: “There is no comfort in a growth zone, and no growth in a comfort zone.” Moving across the country has its challenges, but it has been something special. Who would have thought that after this internship I would actually end up changing my major? Not me! I am happy with my decision to switch to Agricultural Communications because it is a career path I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. Telkyla-2ling the story of agriculture has always been something I have loved doing.  Now, I can do it as a career!

My time in D.C. and at the Alliance is coming to an end, with a greater understanding of my purpose and a full heart, I will head back home to Minnesota thankful for each and every opportunity I had this year. These few experiences and lessons are just a small portion of all the wonderful things that happened in 2016. If 2017 is anything like this past year, I know it will be an unforgettable adventure. Life lesson #7: Work hard and believe in yourself. There is nothing you cannot do if you put your mind to it. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday season and a wonderful New Year!

Directionally Challenged

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PathI was always told that if the path before me is straight and clear, you’re probably on someone else’s path. This honestly never made sense to me. At the age of eight years old I could have looked anyone dead in the eye and shared my future plans with certainty. Therefore, of course my path was clear and straight. At first, this belief was valid; I did know what I wanted to do, but that is the tricky part about paths. It is easy to know the general direction I am traveling, but at no point did I know the destination.

The push to “find your path” begins at a young age with constant reiteration that there is not one path; there is not even the right path; in fact, there is only your path. With sincere consideration my path lead me in the direction of becoming a zoo veterinarian. However, like any good path, mine fell victim to weathering. I have learned that this path is not guided, there are no mile markers, and with little solidity in destination, this path takes many turns. Originally I was in route to becoming a zoo veterinarian, then to a farrier, to an equine vet, as well as considering equestrian management. The common ground: agriculture. It was not until later in my high school career that I discovered my fondness for the industry, as a whole, was irrevocable.

murray-stateFinding My Path 

During my four years of high school I developed a fondness for agriculture that to this day causes me to light up when sharing my passion for the field. The agriculture industry is large in physical size as well as large in misconceptions regarding production practices. To put it lightly I found that concept bewildering, but following further consideration I recognized even with substantial passion, I too had a lot to learn. After high school graduation, I attended Murray State University in the unbridled spirit state of Kentucky. While attending Murray State University I pursued a degree that not only complimented my passion for agriculture but my aspiration to advocate on its behalf.  I am proud to say this past May I graduated from Murray State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture with a minor in Political Science.

Choosing My Direction 

It has been fourteen years since I was eight years old and began the trek in search of my career goals. I am now living in Washington D.C. – a long awaited goal – working with an organization dedicated towards bridging the communication gap between farm and fork. Without a doubt, I am facing the direction of what I believe to be my end goal. Currently, I aspire to broaden my knowledge on the American animal agriculture industry and further identify the root of common misconceptions. As I move forward with my time here at the Animal Agriculture Alliance I am able to explore many aspects of the industry under continuous scrutiny. With this backbone of information I plan to continue my career by expanding my understanding of agricultural misconceptions to a global scale.

“You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need” –Jerry Gillies. At first, I thought the push to find my path was meaningless, then as my goals continued to change I found the assignment unmanageable.  Now that I have discovered an endless energy for a particular field I am prepared for whatever back-country, scenic, and narrow road this path takes me down, starting with contesting the misconceptions of animal agriculture.

A day in the life of an agriculture student

A few weeks ago, I had my very final spring break, cue the sad violin. I traveled home to Pennsylvania to spend some time with family and friends. The conversation of my post-graduation plans always seems to plague pleasant conversations during my time home. More recently, I received some negativity regarding certain aspects of agriculture from family and friends, citing various articles or documentaries. Even the conversation at a doctor’s appointment shifts to the fear of GMOs – my optometrist should have seen my eyes roll. Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than people bashing agriculture based on misunderstandings or a lack of exposure to the industry.  With misconceptions that follow agriculture around, here is a look into what it is really like to be a student studying in the agriculture field.

We are a diverse group of students. Agricultural students can study in a variety of disciplines such as animal sciences, entomology, plant sciences, food science and marketing. Each discipline is crucial to the agricultural industry. Our studies are woven together through our coursework. You can find us all over campus. We are out on the farm learning about crop growth and animal husbandry, in the field collecting insect specimens, in the lab conducting research and in the library doing lots of studying.

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Collecting feed samples for research means competing with these girls for food.

Research is at the forefront of our studies. Many students, including myself, conduct research in agricultural labs. The science of agriculture is constantly evolving and research allows for the development of innovative technologies. During my time at the University of Delaware, I have spent countless hours in a dairy nutrition laboratory researching top of the line ration additives that allow the farmer to preserve their feed harvested in the fall for year-round feeding.

We are involved on campus with clubs and organizations. Our commitment to agriculture doesn’t stop in the classroom. Most of us spend our waking hours, eating, living and breathing agriculture. There are countless clubs devoted to agricultural majors. Personally, I spend my free time involved as a sister of Sigma Alpha, an Ag Ambassador giving tours to prospective students, and as a puppy raiser for a guide dog foundation. Campus involvement has been the most memorable part of my college experience.

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Sigma Alpha gave me sisters who share my passion for agriculture

 

We deal with controversial issues involving agriculture.  As I mentioned before, being an agricultural major comes along with controversial topics. Whether it be animal welfare or the fear of genetically engineered foods, everyone seems to have an opinion that they want to voice loudly at us. Being in the agriculture field means staying up-to-date on hot topic issues and always agvocating louder than the misguided information.

We love our studies! No matter what the major, agriculture students are fiercely passionate about their studies. Agriculture is our life and our future. I have found my niche in agriculture, a place where I feel right at home alongside my peers. I cannot imagine loving my major any more than I do.

So to my friends, family, acquaintances, and even doctors, I’ll leave you with a quote from Leslie Knope from the tv show, Parks and Recreation. Leslie loves parks just as much as I love agriculture. “If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on strong, it’s because I feel strongly. And if I push too hard, it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough. This *agriculture* is my home. And I promise you – I’m not going anywhere.”

My time as a student may be coming to a close but it has given me a love for agriculture and that, I will have forever.abby 4

Join me on my adventure!

If you had come up to me a few months ago and told me that I was going to drop out of school and move to Washington, D.C. with 15 credits left until graduation, I would have laughed and silently questioned your sanity.300669_2288095074251_640233774_n And yet, here I am – thrilled to be the newest intern at the Animal Agriculture Alliance for this Fall semester! My name is Valerie Downs. I am fortunate enough to be studying public relations at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida (stay tuned to see how well I survive the Northern winter. It’s only September and I am already freezing). Before I became a Floridian, though, I was a Marylander. I spent the vast majority of my life in the Hagerstown area of Western Maryland.  I wish I could tell you that I grew up on a farm and have a beautiful background in agriculture, but unfortunately I do not. All I really have to offer is a passion to learn as much as I can about the industry and an equal desire to share what I have learned with you.

What I Have Been Learning

Although I have only been working at the Alliance for a few short weeks, I have already learned so much. When I dropped all of my classes, one of the things I was most disappointed about was pulling out of my first graphic design class. During my time with the Alliance, though, I have been learning Photoshop.  I have even created graphics that were posted to the Alliance’s social media platforms.  I’ve gotten to sit in on meetings and listen to key members of the animal agriculture industry speak.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I am definitely learning more here than I would have learned in the classroom.

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Photo From My Grandpa’s Land

Not everything that I’ve learned so far has been quite so academic. Besides discovering the joys of people watching on the metro, I have been developing an even deeper respect for all of those who work in the agriculture industry.

My childhood home was right next door to my grandpa’s little hobby “farm.” He just keeps a few horses and tends to his fields and a relatively sizable garden. During the hottest part of every summer, he’d always recruit my cousins and I to help with hay harvesting.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI remember growing a respect for those who work full-time on farms somewhere between sweating more than I ever have in my life and discovering black snakes hidden in hay bales. One thing that really sticks out to me about those summers is how my grandpa could spend all day throwing heavy hay bales around but still come in the house at night singing his silly made-up songs about lightning bugs or caterpillars with all the cheerfulness of a songbird.  Even though it was hard work, he was always so passionate about what he was doing that it made him and everyone around him glow.

There is a real passion in the animal agriculture industry, and it doesn’t stop on the farm. When I told my friends and family that I had accepted this wonderful opportunity with the Alliance, the ones who have had experience in agriculture all told me the same thing: once you get a taste of working in this industry, you will never want to leave. Several different people told me that those who work in animal agriculture foster a caring workplace environment like no other – so much so that it makes you want to stay there forever.  And I have yet to see anything other than exactly that.

What I Hope to Learn

Looking at everything that I’ve learned so far, I am so excited to continue on my journey with the Alliance. I still have so much left to learn. I’m looking forward to meeting more people and hearing their animal agriculture stories. One of the most important things I hope to take away from this internship is the ability to know how to communicate to everyday consumers about the animal agriculture industry. I look forward to sharing everything that I learn with you.  I hope that even though I do not have a background in animal agriculture, my point of view that comes from looking into the industry as an outsider can be helpful to you.

There are so many stories floating around the Internet and sometimes even the media that are not based in truth. When I was looking at the Alliance before accepting this internship one quote from our President and CEO, Kay Johnson Smith, resonated with me: “Our duty is to be honest, be truthful, and be factual in the representation of the issues we deal with.” The truth is as important to the Alliance as it is to the consumer, and that is exactly the kind of organization from which I want to learn.