Summer Activities: mark your calendars

The school year is wrapping up, and summer is about to take over. While many summer activities include cookouts, boating and soaking up the sunshine, I wanted to provide a few agricultural activities that you don’t want to miss out on:




Lessons Learned Through Agricultural Conversations

This morning as I was reading a post from Agriculture Proud titled, “How to Lose an Argument on Food and Agriculture Topics,” and I just had to share it. In his post Ryan Goodman, the author of Agriculture Proud, included a quote from Darwin that really stuck with me:

“It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the ones most adaptable to change.” -Darwin

Granted Darwin was probably referencing his theory on “survival of the fittest,” but I think being adaptable to change is an essential quality for all aspects of life, especially in agriculture. In Goodman’s post he talks about the lessons he has learned during failure and why people, who have the best intentions of advocating, lose arguments. He specifically relates the quote from Darwin to failing to engage in other conversations and seek out other perspectives, but I think the quote pertains to each of his points.

Goodman’s ten lessons learned during failure and reasons for losing an argument are:

1. Assuming science will give us the answers; it only gives us some of the answers.

2. Using economics as the justification for all of our practices.

3. Assuming that you have to speak up in defense of all agricultural practices.

4. Being reactive rather than proactive.

5. Assuming we can’t do better.

6. Attacking everyone who disagrees with you in a negative, critical manner.

7. Not being willing to listen because we are so busy responding.

8. Assuming that the lunatic fringe is the general public.

9. Assuming that because someone disagrees with you they are stupid, evil or both.

10. Not working to branch outside your comfort zone.

As I was reading these points I couldn’t help but think how true they are. As an agricultural enthusiast, I can look back to every argument I ever had and lost and relate at least one of these points to the reason for losing. We can’t know everything, and we are not going to come from the same background as the person we are in conversation with. But, if we take Darwin’s quote to heart, and work to be more adaptive, we can not only be more successful arguing a point, but also learn more along the way.

In the post, Goodman then goes on to talk about how we can approach controversial topics. He has multiple points, but a few of my favorites are: consider your own biases or confusion surrounding the issue; set a framework and objectives for the discussion that lead to engagement and consideration of opposing viewpoints; and at the end of a conversation summarize and reflect, then always leave the door open for follow-up conversations.

After reading this post, I hope to remember these lessons and become better at engaging in agricultural conversations while being open-minded to other perspectives. To read the full list of tips and expand on lessons learned, check out this post on Agriculture Proud.

Advocating isn’t always easy

I have dedicated the last four years of my academic career to agricultural communications, so I should be pretty comfortable advocating about agriculture, right?  Well, to be honest, it can be a little intimidating. I love talking about agriculture, but when a controversial topic comes up, it can be scary to let your voice be heard. While scrolling through Pinterest, I ran across a blog post by fifth generation livestock producer Emily Jackson.  Her blog, A Farm Girl’s Fight, is an outlet for her to tell the truths about agriculture from her livestock perspective. In this particular post titled, “To the Man Who Knows Me Better Than I Know Me,” she talks about her encounter with two PETA representatives at Texas Tech. Her bravery to speak up and even invite the man to visit her family’s farm is noteworthy.

The PETA representatives had a tent set up on campus where students were given free stuff if they made it through. Emily and her teammate walked through the tent and ended up spending an hour conversing with the two men. Here is an excerpt from her blog post:

Dave talked with us for a few minutes about farming practices. He tried to inform us that beating animals was a common practice, we told Dave that we were farmers and this was not true. About this time, a new wave of students came in. Dave and Austin both excused themselves from our delightful conversation to inform innocent students of PETA’s false scares and untruthful statistics.

Folks, I’m a relatively level-headed person. But I have a passion for agriculture and watching this man falsely accuse MY industry took anger management to a whole new level.

I stood up on my tippy toes, mustered my strength, quieted my anger, and yelled:

“I’m a farmer. If you have any questions about farms, ask me, not them.”

Two things then happened: 
        1. Dave and Austin got real mad.
        2. Two girls on opposite ends of the tents turned around and yelled “me too! This is ridiculous.”
        -Emily Jackson, A Farm Girl’s Fight
In the end, the PETA representatives didn’t agree with her, nor did they go to her farm. However, her story left me thinking about one great point: be part of the conversation. Maybe she didn’t change those representatives’s minds, but at least they now have had at least one positive conversation with a farmer, and maybe her voice was able to educate at least one other student in that tent. No matter what the conversation is about, there is always room for someone to criticize you. But isn’t it better to be part of the conversation and be criticized rather than stay quiet and let others be falsely informed?



Who knew classroom readings were interesting

Ever have that ah-ha moment when something from the classroom shows up in real life? Well I just had one of those moments. The other day I was reading material for my horticulture class (HORT 306), and Norman Borlaug popped up. Then, this morning as I was reading the latest blog posts from Crystal Cattle, Borlaug came up again.

Norman Borlaug is considered the father of the Green Revolution (I learned that in HORT 306). But to my surprise, he would have been 100 years old on March 25, which was National Ag Day.   On her blog, Crystal Cattle shared a video remix of popular quotes from Norman Borlaug. And, I must say that I agree with Crystal Cattle about Borlaug’s best quote:

“I think my favorite quote of his is “If I have anything to contribute to this world I’m going to play that card and play it hard.” For Norman this meant that he was going to use science, use GMO variations, use technology to ensure more people around the world had access to food and basic necessities.” -Crystal Cattle

I really enjoyed his quotes, but I’m not the biggest fan of remixes so I thought that part was a little cheesy. However, I think it’s definitely worth the watch.

What do you think, like or dislike?



This semester at Purdue, I’ve gotten the chance to step out of my comfort zone and learn to communicate through video. While I certainly don’t consider myself a videographer, I have noticed that now when watching a clip I pick up on various aspects: close-up shots, medium shots, wide shots, angles, use of questions.

Learning about these techniques have made me really appreciate a good video. Even more, I now appreciate how the use of these techniques can really make a video hit home for the viewer and tug on their emotions.

The other day, I ran across this video from the American Quarter Horse Foundation, and  I felt a need to share it.  From the narration, to the use of angles and variety of shots, this video pulled me in from beginning to end. It made me want to work harder on my own projects to give my audiences a similar experience.

The mission of the American Quarter Horse Foundation  is to advance the American Quarter Horse and the relationship it shares with people. This video illustrates the bond between a horse and its owner. 

What are some of your favorite agricultural videos?


Finding and coming to love Ag Comm

For many life moments and decisions, there is no cookie cutter path to follow nor is there one correct destination to come to. I have found that this is especially true throughout your collegiate career.

Like many students, I changed my mind a time or two about what I wanted to study.  I had vet school in mind, and later set my mind on Animal Sciences focusing on nutrition.  Then, a month before starting my Junior year, I met with my adviser and set my heart on Ag Comm.

Today, I couldn’t be happier with my decision, but hindsight is 20/20 and in the midst of making those big decisions it’s nice to know that other students also took a winding path toward Ag Comm (or whatever major they chose). In a blog post by Abigail Maurer, she shared her story of changing majors and why she chose Ag Comm. Like me, she took a winding path.

Abby talks about how she started in speech therapy, then switched to English education all before finding her passion in Agricultural Communication. And, her reason for studying Ag Comm is simple, “I love food. I love people. I love words. And that’s what ag comm is all about.”

As I continued to read her post, I also connected with her overall Purdue experience:

“But studying ag comm at Purdue is wonderful for more reasons than food, people and words.  In my major, I found the academic experience I always wanted college to be.  Classes that stimulated my mind and moved my heart.  Professors who cared about my life.  Friends with whom I could sit in classes and attend club meetings.”-Abigail Maurer

Being about a month away from graduation, I can’t imagine getting a degree in anything else, and I have loved my Purdue Ag Comm experience. I love learning about all aspects of agriculture, I love sharing stories about Ag, and I love that my major has taught me about communicating across a variety of platforms.

Purdue Ag Week

I wouldn’t be who I am today without agriculture. From the food that I eat to the places I have been and the people I have met, agriculture shapes my daily life and character.  I love talking about Ag and sharing science-based agricultural information, and that’s why I am especially excited for the next two weeks. Not only is this week National Ag Week, but Boilermakers are continuing to celebrate  April 6-11 with Purdue Ag Week: imAGine a world without Agriculture.

Over the past months, the Ag Week Task Force and fellow students have been preparing activities to not only celebrate agriculture, but also bring awareness to the student body and community. Clubs will hold activities on campus throughout the week, which includes a Farmer’s Breakfast sponsored by Purdue ACT.

To kick off Purdue Ag Week with a great start don’t miss out on these great activities:

Purdue Farmer 5K is Sunday, April 6 at 9:30 a.m.

The Purdue Collegiate FFA is sponsoring a 5K run/walk to raise money for the Lafayette Food Finders Bank. This fun, family friendly event is aimed to bring awareness to agriculture. Along the course, runners will pass agriculture facts about food, farms and farmers.

Hammer Down Hunger is Tuesday, April 8 at 5:00 p.m.

Purdue’s Ag Week Task Force has put together a meal packing event, Hammer Down Hunger. All Purdue students and groups are encouraged to participate. The group who logs the most hours will win a cash prize to donate to a philanthropy of their choice.

  • When: Tuesday, April 8
  • Time: 5:00-9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Purdue Memorial Mall
  • Sign up for a time slot to help your group win!

Stay connected with Purdue Ag Week on Facebook and Twitter.





Go Pinning for Agriculture

It’s more than just hairstyles and wedding ideas. Pinterest is grabbing the attention of various news sources, and it’s becoming a fun way to stay connected with your favorite companies or organizations.

Here are a few of my favorite agriculture-based Pinterest boards:

  • The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) has over 900 pins across 32 boards. Their pins range from money saving tips to horse events happening around the country. Two of my favorite AQHA boards are:

  • America’s Farmers by Monsanto is relatively new to Pinterest, but they also have some great boards. Whether they feature a picture from the farm or agriculture humor, I love looking at their pins. My favorite board from America’s Farmers is “On the farm.”

  • Indiana Dairy pins delicious dairy recipes, gorgeous Indiana barns, cow print fun, and milk mustaches, just to name a few. If you’re looking for a new way to stay in tune with Hoosier dairy, then these boards are perfect. My favorite board from Indiana Dairy features dairy farmers from across the state.

  • The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) has taken to Pinterest to show the role agriculture plays in the state’s economy and culture. I’m hoping that they continue to develop their boards, but I think they are showing great Pinterest promise.  This weekend I plan to try out one of their recipes.

Meet a Former Ag. Comm. Student

We may come from different backgrounds or have plans of going opposite directions, but we come together in the Agriculture Communications program. This post is all about giving incoming, current and former Purdue Ag. Comm. students (and anyone interested) a chance to meet some else in the program.

Amanda Gee, of North Vernon, Ind., completed her undergrad as an Ag. Comm. major in December 2013. Get Amanda’s perspective on Purdue’s Ag. Comm. program in this short Q&A interview:

Q&A with Amanda Gee

  • What made you decide to major in Agricultural Communications?

“I took kind of a circuitous route to Ag. Comm. I’ve always had eclectic interests, and as a high school senior I applied to five colleges with five different majors. I started out at Purdue in Pre-Pharmacy. After deciding that wasn’t my cup of tea, I checked out a number of majors. Then I met with an advisor and some AgComma’s who are now alumni. They convinced me to join with their passions for agriculture and the program. My Ag. Comm. journey began my sophomore year, and I never looked back.” 

  • What was your favorite part about the Ag. Comm. program?

“The sense of community. The program is small compared to most others on campus, but it’s like a tight-knit family. I met people in my first Ag. Comm. class who not only helped me in future classes and told me about a internship opportunity I’d love, but who also became some of my best friends.”

  • What was your favorite class at Purdue?

Hard choice! I would say Intro to PR, Wine Appreciation, Problems in PR, Horses in Europe study abroad, and Intro to New Media all rank at the top of my list. But, I’m going to go with ANSC393: Animal Industry Travel Course that I took last year for my Animal Sciences minor. We toured farms and agribusinesses across the Midwest over Spring Break (read more here), and then came back and gave a presentation about it. It was a great opportunity, and not one that I’ll soon forget. Coming from a family beef farm in southeastern Indiana still didn’t quite prepare me for the sight of 72,000 head of cattle at a feedlot in Nebraska. And, some of the pics I took along the way sparked discussion of modern ag on my Facebook page, à la Ag. Comm. in action.”

  • What was your favorite club or activity?

“Big surprise…Ag Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT). It’s a professional club for Ag. Comm. students. I got to network with Ag. Comm. professionals and students, and hone my writing skills through some club projects. I’m not a big talker (funny that I’m in Ag. Comm. then, I know), but I was able to strengthen my writing and work on those presentational skills and get feedback on both. ”

  • How did the Ag. Comm. program prepare you for a future career?

“I learned how to be a better writer, communicator and critical thinker. I’ve always loved to write, but now I can confidently say that whether I need to create a press release, media plan, blog, hard news story, feature/profile, Facebook post, short video, photo collage, etc…I can do it, and do it well. The program also taught me about opportunities; if there isn’t one readily available that fits you, find or create one and go for it. All of my internships started with cold-calling because I was interested in learning from those people. And luckily, I got paid for them too!”

  • Where are you now?

“I’m pursuing my Master’s here at Purdue in Youth Development and Agricultural Education, with a concentration in Ag. Comm. I haven’t decided exactly what the focus of my research will be, but I want it to be something about engaging and involving audience members with a message. This summer, I’m traveling to Romania to help with a class, do research for my professor, and work on co-construction of stories with locals. After I graduate in a couple years, I’d like to be a communication/PR director of an agribusiness or even work with an international non-profit.”

Joining the Discussion

As I was scrolling through my Facebook, I ran across a blog post titled “What Monsanto Has Done To Farmers.” Reading it reiterated to me why my major, Agriculture Communications, is so important.

In the post, Hoosier Ag Today’s Gary Truitt reflects upon his taxi ride to an agriculture conference, which covered how agriculture can explain to the general public the need for technological innovations in order to feed the growing population.

The cab driver connected agriculture and biotechnology with Monsanto. But it wasn’t a positive connection. In the cab driver’s words, “It is really a shame what Monsanto has done to farmers.”

Being an Ag. Comm. major, I couldn’t wait to read how Truitt gave his taxi driver a little education. However, that’s not what happened, and this paragraph seemed to jump off the page and hit me in the face:

“The rest of the way to the terminal I wrestled with how to respond to this statement. Should I tell him that he was wrong and should stop reading all those anti-Monsanto rants on social media. Had I had more coffee or if it had been a bit later in the morning, I might have  been up to the challenge, but instead I said nothing deciding that, while he was misinformed, in the end he really did not care about Monsanto or the state of the world’s food supply. But over the next two days as I listened to experts talk about the need for innovation and communication,  his comment kept echoing in my head.” -Gary Truitt

There is a lot of discussion about the food supply, agriculture and biotechnology, both positive and negative, but whose job is it to join or lead the discussion? If you’re talking to a stranger should you take the back seat, or should you speak up? Is there a time and a place bridge that communication gap, or is it always the right time and the right place?