Wrapping Up the Semester

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As I head into the upcoming week I struggle with feelings of stress, anxiety and being overwhelmed.  In eleven days this school semester will be completely over.  All of the hard work, tears, frustration, joys and triumphs will come to an end and conclude my fifth semester as a college student.

I started this blog as a class assignment for my Public Relations in Agriculture class, taught by Jamie Johansen.  This blog was simply a class assignment, nothing too exciting, just another assignment.  This blog however, has turned into more than a class assignment.  It has turned into something I truly love, enjoy and has opened many doors for me.  Actually, this entire class has!

Many of you know, if you’ve read my About Me section or know me personally, I started out my journey at Missouri State as an animal science major.  I also spent some time in the emergency veterinary industry.  The entire time though I wasn’t quite sure WHAT I wanted to do with that degree.  I honestly struggled for a few years even knowing what I wanted to do with my life as a whole.

Then I started blogging and participating in the engagement part of the assignment, which was to comment with constructive and engaging comments on other agriculture blogs.  This opened a whole new world to me.  The entire time I had been in college, until this semester and this class, I had no idea what agriculture advocacy was or that it was even an issue.  I knew people opposed GMO’s and animal rights activist were often extreme, but I had NO IDEA to what level of a problem it was, until I started following other agriculture blogs.  I immediately started writing about these issues, like the Chipotle ad and an anti-GMO Facebook page saying agriculturalists had no right to write about agriculture topics.  I got REALLY into the whole blogging and agvocating thing really fast.

I now look forward to my weekly blogging routine, while other people dread it, I love it.  My Twitter and Facebook pages are now flooded with agriculture news, information and just general fun facts.  Over night I switched from a college kid posting about random stuff that didn’t matter, to a student who was more passionate than she knew she could be about something that DOES matter, agriculture.  I work hard to keep all of my social media websites professional and full of accurate, worthwhile information.  I want people to be able to access and read the information I post and know it is reliable and resourceful.

So what have I learned from this class and taken away from it?  I learned that agriculture communications is an extremely important field of study to the agriculture industry.  A field I want to be a part of.  I am now an agriculture communications major and I look forward to a bright future in it.  I learned that you have to leave your comfort zone.  Posting information about controversial topics like GMO crops and opening myself up to the harsh backlash that can come from that, was not easy.  Going to an event like NAFB and walking up to some of the biggest names in agriculture and interviewing them, was not easy.  It was one of the scariest things I ever done, but it was also one of the most rewarding and fun things that I have ever done.

I owe a lot of this and a big thank you to Jamie Johansen and Kristyn Stidham.  Jamie being my teacher gave me some of the best instruction I could have asked for.  Jamie is not JUST a teacher, she is also a professional in the industry and a fantastic mentor.  Kristyn has been one of my friends since my freshman year of college.  She has not been just a friend though, she has been a mentor, an encourager and a constant source of information.  Both of these women have impacted my life and helped more than words can say this semester.  Thank you to both of you for making this semester such a fantastic learning experience and helping find my place in agriculture!

Why I Hunt and How it is an Important Part of My Life!

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This past week, following my attendance of the NAFB Trade Talk event, I went on my annual deer hunting trip.  Every year, for deer season, me and my boyfriend Cameron make the trip to north Missouri in anticipation of killing a deer or two and filling our freezer.

The hunting this year was AWFUL.  It was SO windy, I was terrified being up in a tree stand.  Opening weekend we saw a total of three deer, and there were no decent opportunities to take a quality shot.  To make matters worse I broke my tree stand, completely.  Last year, on opening morning, all 118 pounds of me broke the last step.  Since then we have been resorting to Cameron hoisting me into the stand.  Its quite comical actually.  This year the stand that has been faithfully providing me a perch to hunt from for 12 years, bit the dust.

Even once my stand broke me and Cameron didn’t give up hunting.  To me and Cameron hunting is our lively hood.  We hunt (or fish) for our food, because we are broke college kids that love God’s great outdoors and all of its resources.  So why not make some use of the wildlife He has provided us with?

Cameron, with a goose he shot in his back yard.  In case you're wondering, goose is delicious.

Cameron, with a goose he shot in his back yard. In case you’re wondering, goose is delicious.

Lets look at the affordability of hunting for a food source.  When I deer hunt I, as a Missouri resident, pay $17 for an any deer tag.  Meaning I can shoot a doe or a buck.  If I’m really in a financial jam I can chose to buy a doe only tag which is only $7.  This money in turn goes to the Missouri Department of Conservation to support and fund wildlife conservation programs and resources.  Small game, turkey, waterfowl tags and fishing permits are close in price to deer tags.

Small mouth bass caught off of the James River (one of those was his cousin's catch!)

Small mouth bass caught off of the James River (one of those was his cousin’s catch!)

Me and Cameron also butcher/process our own deer.  This increases the value of our freezer stash by saving us the money we would normally pay a processor.  Last year when I shot a doe it took me and Cameron under an hour to completely process the deer.  For $17 I not only filled my entire freezer, but I also had leftovers that went to Cameron’s cousin’s wedding cuisine.

The doe I shot last year.

The doe I shot last year.

Me and Cameron don’t just stop at deer hunting.  We turkey, waterfowl and squirrel hunt.  I have been unsuccessful at having the chance to kill a turkey, but Cameron on the other hand is quite skilled.  Cameron is also an avid fisherman and during the summer months is always on the river trying to catch something.  Between all of these sources our freezer tends to stay decently stocked!  Every animal we kill is brought home and used as a food source, we waste NOTHING.

My first duck, a green winged teal.

My first duck, a green winged teal.

Flathead catfish caught by Cameron & his cousin Buck.  Yummy!

Flathead catfish caught by Cameron & his cousin Buck. Yum!

People tend to forget that wildlife and hunting is a valuable part of agriculture and our food system as a whole.  To me, wildlife and hunting is how I can afford to even feed myself.  I know I’m not the only household in this situation.  So the next time you see a hunter, don’t assume they are chasing a trophy kill or on a fun vacation day.  They could be seriously be trying to feed their family.  Offer them some encouragement!

The Missouri Department of Conservation promotes Share the Harvest, a program that donates venison to needy families.  If you are running out of freezer space or just hunt for the fun of it, don’t waste the meat!  Donate it to a family in need!  More information can be found here: http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/deer/share-harvest

Trade Talk Social Media Corps

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A few weeks ago Farm Credit and the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) began recruiting agriculture communications students from across the country to broadcast the annual Trade Talk event through social media.  In order to be chosen for the event students had to apply for the position through social media.  After a selection process eight qualifying students were chosen and made the trip to Kansas City, MO for the event of a lifetime.

Trade Talk Social Media Corps Members.

Trade Talk Social Media Corps Members.

Trade Talk features agriculture companies and organizations from all over the U.S.  Companies range from livestock pharmaceuticals, to crop science, to organizations that lobby and represent agriculture in Washington, D.C.   The point of Trade Talk is not brand promotion or advertising, but rather for companies to have the opportunity to have subjects matters important to their company broadcasted across the nation.  The Social Media Corps task was to, for the first time ever, broadcast the event through social media.

Trade Talk floor during the broadcasting frenzy.

Trade Talk floor during the broadcasting frenzy.

The National Association of Farm Broadcasters turned over the controls of their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account to the Social Media Corps students.  The students were given the hashtag #NAFB13 and #TradeTalkSocial to use in order to get the event trending on the web.  During Trade Talk students conducted various tasks ranging from actually interviewing companies to snapping photos and video footage of the event.  Once content was gathered students either posted it from the Trade Talk floor on the web (through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) or went back to the media room to edit more lengthy post, such as a personal blog post.

Trade Talk Social Media Corps members in the media room posting content onto various social media channels.

Trade Talk Social Media Corps members in the media room posting content onto various social media channels.

Overall, the Trade Talk Social Media Corps was a success.  Students were able to gain valuable real world experience and interact with major companies in the agriculture industry.  The students were able to make contacts that otherwise would have been difficult to come by.  They were able to attend several events throughout the five day event and mingle with broadcasters, all the while getting an idea of what the broadcasting industry is like.

Rachel Lium, Iowa State University student, conducting an interview.

Rachel Lium, Iowa State University student, conducting an interview.

Tiffany Faughn, Missouri State University student, interviewing DuPont Pioneer.

Tiffany Faughn, Missouri State University student, interviewing DuPont Pioneer.

Reagan Wempe, from Murray State University, interviewing an employee from Monsanto.

Reagan Wempe, from Murray State University, interviewing an employee from Monsanto.

The Trade Talk Social Media Corps members are so thankful that Farm Credit and the National Association of Farm Broadcasters gave us this outstanding opportunity!  Our experiences at this event were those that can’t be taught in a class room, but only by real world experience and interaction.  Also, thank you to all of the companies and broadcasters that took the time to talk to us and allowed us to interview them!

Tiffany Faughn, Social Media Corps Member.

National Bison Association – Straight from the NAFB Trade Talk Floor

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Today I am at the NAFB National Convention and Trade Talk in Kansas City, MO.  I have had the privilege of interviewing some of the biggest names in agriculture. One organization in particular, the National Bison Association, gave me some amazing information.

The National Bison Association represents over 1,000 producers all around the country, small and large farms alike.  Their goal is to encourage meeting your local farmer at the farmer’s market and restoring bison to the range.

In comparison to beef, bison is very similar in taste.  It is fantastic for the health conscious diet.  Bison also give birth to twice as many calves in their lifetime in comparison to cattle.  Bison prefer to be left alone when in labor, there is no such thing as “pulling a cal!” in the bison industry, unless the calf or mother is dying.  They are also low maintenance, bison do not require the antibiotic and vaccination usage that cattle do.  Bison producers prefer to adhere to “survival of the fittest.” They want their herds hearty, healthy and able to survive alone on the range.  Farmers and ranchers want the strongest genetics and the strongest herds.

Consumers love the idea of bison due to their heritage of a wild west range animal.  “If you serving bison, don’t worry about dinner conversation, it’ll take care of itself!”

Make sure to check back for more updates from Trade Talk!

Tiffany Faughn, Trade Talk Social Media Corp Member

LinkedIn

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Over the past week I have been working on a class assignment that challenged me to learn a facet of social media.  I chose to explore LinkedIn and all of its wonderfulness.  I wanted to share the final project with all of my readers in hopes that you too will be convinced to create a LinkedIn account. 

Below is the link, watch the presentation, then continue reading….

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1aoh1YLKq8SRSrD-ojFLD_Sbc6k9iZjEB929ceNrd0XI/edit#slide=id.p

As stated in my presentation, LinkedIn is awesome. There are so many ways to connect and network with people on a much more professional level than Facebook or Twitter.  I have found a few agriculture companies and have started following them.  My hope is that one day my persistent “following” and “reading up on” their company will pay off with an awesome job.  Guess we’ll see! 

 

All Kinds of Wheat Information

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Recently in my grain crops class we have covered the topic of small grains.  I learned some very interesting information that I thought would be relevant to share with my readers.  In this blog post I would like to specifically address wheat and all of the interesting facts about it.

Durum wheat is a spring variety of wheat that is produced for use as macaroni and couscous.  Durum wheat contains 14-18% protein, is very hard and requires 10-20″ of rainfall.  It is mainly produced in North Dakota, MN, and Montana.

Hard red spring wheat is produced for use as a bread flour.  It contains 12-15% protein, requires 10-20″ of rainfall and is primarily produced in the same states as durum wheat.

Hard red winter wheat is also used as a bread flour.  The difference in this wheat, in contrast to hard red spring wheat, is it is a winter variety (planted during winter months, undergoes vernalization, and has a cold/winter hardiness).  It contains the same protein contents as hard red spring wheat, but prefers a higher rainfall amount, 10-40″.   It is grown primarily in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

Soft red winter wheat is used for cakes, cookies, crackers, and biscuits.  It has a protein contents of 8-10%, requires 30-50″ of rainfall, and is produced primarily in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

Soft white wheat is a winter variety that is produced for the baking needs of puffed wheat, pastries, and oriental noodles.  This variety contains 7-8% protein, requires 18-24″ of rainfall and is produced in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, New York, and MI.

Hard white wheat is a winter variety as well.  It is used for making tortillas, bread, etc.  It is also the newest class of wheat in the United States!  It contains 10-14% protein.

Notice I mentioned winter and spring varieties.  Winter varieties are planted in the fall, usually around October and are harvested in July.  In the fall the plant reaches the seedling and tiller stage, but does not continue growth past that until spring.  This is beneficial in the sense that the plants are able to develop a more sturdy root system during the winter months, as apposed to spring varieties.  Winter varieties, generally, have a higher yield and a better environmental impact because they act as a cover crop for the soil during the winter months.  Spring varieties are planted in the spring and harvested late summer (usually in August).  The benefits to a spring variety is no vernalization (the process of going through a cold period to initiate flowering) is required and there is not the risk of too harsh of a winter wiping out an entire crop.  When it comes to the decision of selecting a spring or winter variety it is really up to the farmer and that farms unique needs for the growing season.

 

Sources: Dr. Michael Burton and Dr. Anson Elliot, both professors at Missouri State University.

 

 

 

NAFB Trade Talk

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I have recently experienced the honor of being selected by Farm Credit to attended the NAFB Trade Talk event on November 13-14 in Kansas City, MO.  To say I’m excited about this event and being chosen to represent Farm Credit would be an understatement.  I’m ecstatic!  I will be part of a student lead social media group that will broadcast and share the event via social media.

NAFBLogo

Trade Talk is part of NAFB’s (National Association of Farm Broadcasters) national convention.  Companies in the agriculture industry will have the opportunity to obtain a booth at the event.  These companies will send communications staff to be interviewed by broadcasters that will then air/relay the interviews to the public.  This event provides a fantastic opportunity for companies to share and talk about hot topics that are important to their company.  The event lasts a little over six hours and is a frenzy of  interviewing and broadcasting.

TradeTalkLogo

This event is called Trade Talk because it is not a normal convention.  There is little, if any, brand and product promotion involved.  The event is strictly about communicating and relaying important agriculture topics, specific to that company.

Source: http://www.nafb.com/index.aspx?mid=12424

A Ban on GMO Crops

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Last week Mexico took a daring step and placed a ban on the planting of GMO seeds within the countries borders.  This judgement was passed by Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo J. of the Twelfth Federal District Court for Civil Matters in Mexico City.

You may be wondering why are they banning GMO crops?

The Judge is claiming that GMO crops “pose an imminent risk to the environment.”  The Judge took his judgment a step further by “ ordering a suspension of all activities involving the planting of transgenic corn in the country and end the granting of permission for experimental and pilot commercial plantings.”

Mexico is the birthplace of traditional maize and the judge is attempting to preserve the original genetic makeup of this crop.  However, if the judge had any scientific knowledge of plant physiology and genetics he would realize he is going about this the wrong way.

The judge is claiming that GMOs require too much pesticide use and that the native insect population is being affected by GMOs.  Pesticides are used in conventional, GM, AND organic production.  Pests are a real problem for producers and without pesticides we wouldn’t have a crop to harvest each year.  Also, the “gene swapping” that people freak out about in GM crops?  It occurs on its own in nature.  Just because you have GM crops planted, does not mean they will ruin your traditional plants.  Does genetic drift occur?  You bet it does.  It is something to be aware of?  YES.  However, completely banning GMOs on a political agenda is not the answer.

I also forgot to mention that this ban has nothing to do with food safety, in any shape or form.  It is only concerned with preserving traditional maize and the environment.  The judge believes that by banning GMO crops AND research that maize will not evolve on its own over time…….  Plants naturally evolve over time, IT HAPPENS.  They gene swap naturally in nature, its called, pollination.  The world cannot be fed off of organic foods, its simply not possible.  We need the technology and scientific advances research provides us with.

In the same week, Forbes released an article titled, “2000+ Reasons Why GMOs Are Safe To Eat And Environmentally Sustainable.”  This article addressed the hype around food safety and sustainability concerned with GMOs.  The author, Jon Entine, did a beautiful job giving credit where credit is given.  He addressed the fact that GMOs have been around for 20+ years and THERE HAS BEEN A NUMBER OF SCIENTIFIC STUDIES DONE ON THE SAFETY AND SUSTAINABILITY OF GMO CROPS!!!!!!  In today’s growing world populations GMOs are essential to feed the world.   (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/10/14/2000-reasons-why-gmos-are-safe-to-eat-and-environmentally-sustainable/)

All of this to say, “Banning GMO is prohibition based on superstition (@IowaFarmBureau, Lynas)” and “Scientific American: Whether GM foods are safe is a scientific not political question.”  Before you go making opinions on the use, safety, and sustainability of GMO foods and crops, do you research.  Realize that this is a topic that is at the college level and above.  Read peer reviewed articles and consider the source before forming your own educated opinion.

Sources: http://grist.org/news/gmo-corn-crop-trials-suspended-in-mexico/ , http://grist.org/news/gmo-corn-crop-trials-suspended-in-mexico/ , http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/10/14/2000-reasons-why-gmos-are-safe-to-eat-and-environmentally-sustainable/

South Dakota Livestock Massacre

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On October 4, a fierce blizzard swept through South Dakota claiming the lives of the livestock in its path.  Chances are the only way you have heard about this blizzard is through social media, because national news groups have yet to pick up the story, and if they have it has been minimal to say the least.

A cow frozen in the South Dakota blizzard.  Image from www.motherjones.com

A cow frozen in the South Dakota blizzard. Image from http://www.motherjones.com

Farmers and ranchers are by no means unaccustomed to hard winters and blizzards.  What made this blizzard so devastating was how early in the year it struck.  Ranchers keep their cattle on more open range during the warm summer months and move them to areas providing adequate cover in the winter.  This storm hit right at the beginning of October, before anyone had even given a thought to moving herds to safer grounds.  Also the livestock hadn’t developed their winter coats.  God created livestock with a built in insulation system that begins to start working as the days get shorter, their coats grow long, fuzzy, and THICK.  We are not into the time of year just yet when they begin to do this.

Cattle with their fuzzy, thick winter coats.  These cows were not victims of the SD blizzard.

Cattle with their fuzzy, thick winter coats. These cows were not victims of the SD blizzard. Image from http://www.debwardart.blogspot.com

The combination of an early storm, livestock being in summer pasture, and the lack of winter coats proved to be devastating.  Ranchers lost an estimated 75,000 cattle state wide.  This blow isn’t quite fully comprehended by the non-agricultural community.  Insurance doesn’t favor livestock producers like it does crop producers, there are often many loop holes to be found.  Also it takes years to not only build up a herd of substantial size, but also to build the genetics within the herd.  Coincidentally the government shut down could not have come at a worse time for farmers.  The Farm Bill ran out on September 30 and since the shut down has obviously been no ones concern.

Image from spiritandanimal.wordpress.com.

Image from spiritandanimal.wordpress.com.

Farmer and Ranches have just been dealt a crippling blow and there seems to be little light at the end of the tunnel.  National news has deemed this story unworthy of substantial reporting and President Obama himself has failed to make an address regarding the tragedy our fellow American farmers and ranchers are enduring.

The best way we can get the news out about the South Dakota blizzard is to continue to click the share button on Facebook, the re-tweet button on Twitter, and of course to blog.  In this way we can hopefully show the South Dakota farmers that yes, some of us do care, unlike the national media and our President.

Sources: dawnwink.wordpress.com & http://dairycarrie.com/2013/10/13/southdakotaatlas/

Agriculturists and GMOs

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Every morning I start my day with a cup of coffee as I sit with my laptop browsing the Internet.  The usual routine is Facebook, Twitter, the news, the Weather Channel, etc.  Since I am an agriculture student and very interested in the “going-on’s” of the industry I follow several agriculture related website on Facebook and Twitter.

This morning my attention was drawn to a post by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance about GMOs.  http://www.fooddialogues.com/foodsource/how-does-biotechnology-differ-from-other-plant-breeding-techniques  I read the article then braced myself for the comments….  GMOs are a hot topic in the agriculture industry and among consumers in general.  It seems people either LOVE GMOs or HATE them with a vengeance.  I feel like I can say that the majority of the people who commented on this post were people who hated GMOs.  Now it wasn’t so much that they hated GMOs that got me, but rather how badly they put down agriculture as a whole.  Then one comment really hit home and stung a little bit.  The commenter said how agriculture communications majors or degree holders should not be writing these kinds of articles.  That the article was drab, boring, and nothing but facts.  He believed someone who did not have an ag degree should be writing unbiased articles.

I am here to address not the topic of GMOs in this post, but rather the topic of agriculture majors/degree holders writing agriculture articles.  I feel like someone who is an expert or very knowledgeable in a field of study has the right to write about and hold conversations about that field of study.  In America around 2% of the population is directly involved in agriculture.  THAT IS WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT AGRICULTURISTS TELL THEIR STORY and write about hot topics in agriculture.  Being an agriculture student I will be the first person to tell you that my professors stress an unbiased education full of FACTS.  The majority of the population depends on us to relay to them what is going on in the agriculture industry and to straighten out misrepresentation (like the Chipotle add).  That being said, as experts in our area of study a little bit of respect goes a long way, we’re just trying to feed the world.

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