The other day I decided to treat myself to a large bowl of ice cream. I was feeling like it needed a little extra something, so I decided to add some chocolate syrup and whipped cream. When I looked at the can of whipped cream, I had somewhat of an epiphany when I saw a bold label that said, “No Artificial Growth Hormones.” I stared at the label as an agriculturalist and an advocate for the industry and began to understand why there is such a distrust between consumers and producers.
We are often told to choose our words carefully. Sometimes we don’t pay any attention to the words that aren’t inappropriate or hurtful but in reality they are just as important. When attending Nebraska Agriculture Youth Institute a speaker gave us a chart of words to use when talking about agriculture to the consumers who are unaware of who we are as an industry. There was one group of words that really stuck out at me, the usage of operation compared to family farm or ranch. I’ve always considered our ranch as our family’s, but professionally speaking I have always referred to it as an operation. When thinking about Keystone Cattle Company and O-C Livestock I realized that it isn’t an operation but really my family’s home.
The reasoning behind my agriculture influence. Both sides of my grandparents have given me the opportunity to grow up in the most amazing industry and I have learned so much about their lives through doing the same activities that they have enjoyed in their lifetimes. My Grandpa and Grandma O’Connor have blessed me to grow up in God’s Country. It seems as if I can’t go anywhere without hearing crazy stories about Grandpa. Some of my favorite time with family is spent talking about the older generations. One of my most memorable brandings was this year when my grandpa crawled onto my brothers rope horse and heeled two legs on his first loop. I have been beyond blessed to be apart of the Keystone Cattle Company. However my blessings don’t stop there. My love for 4-H might just come from the Merritt’s. I love to hear the story of my grandparents meeting on the steps of the White House as they represented Nebraska as the 4-H Four Square Winners. Still to this day my family will go through my grandfather’s old papers on his registered Maines and his long line of show quarter horses. I love hearing people talk about how successful my Grandpa was in this tough industry, and even to this day my family and I wish we had his good eye to help us pick out our stock for the year. I love learning more about my family and am blessed to learn about the lives of my loved ones.
Perhaps the biggest influence of agriculture in my lifetime. If anyone knows my Mom you know that pigs won’t be far behind. Growing up, raised by Nebraska 4-H’s Queen and King,she fell in love with the organization and has passed that down to my brothers and I. Her father, having a variety of operations, presented her with a chance to work on their feedlot growing up, show some awesome show horses, and be involved with showing livestock competitively. Her love for agriculture met her profession when she traded out special education for a job at the local grain elevator. Though she was just wanting to help out during the harvest season, her love for ag lead her to being the commodity trader for a feedlot and now a manager for a feed store. I have seen my mother put much time and money into spoiling my brothers and I with some awesome livestock, hotels for shows, and of course a fair amount of carnival food. I wouldn’t be as successful in FFA, 4-H or any other activities if it wasn’t for her support. Her ability to network with everyone in the industry shows me how important relationships are. I love sitting in the show barn doing nothing with her and aspire to be such as great of female agriculturalist as she is.
The passing of my father last year has allowed me to learn so much about him in such a short time. Hearing stories about his success in high school and college rodeo inspires me to chase after my dreams. My father served as a regional director for both high school and college rodeo, which gives me a sense of where my strong leadership skills come from. Also the amount of support and friends he had, shows me that the all the relationships built in the agriculture family are those of gold.
My oldest brother is completely responsible for my future in agriculture. The year he left me to do my own chores had me worried, but being forced to be in the barn by myself made me realize his love spending time with his livestock. After chasing his dreams of judging livestock in college it has made me work hard to be more like him. From Casper College to South Dakota State, he has grown as an agriculturalist and man as he prepares to be in the workforce in agriculture. I can’t wait to see where this industry takes him.
Lastly my brother Rhett. Yep, you guessed it, Rhett is “that brother.” The one that is so close to home, but we don’t ever see him because he is busy experiencing new things, but mostly you can’t get him out of the roping arena. Rhett has demonstrated the importance of finding your perfect place while at school where he has excelled in his rodeoing and academics. Rhett’s good work ethic, love for talking, and positive attitude will make him do great things while running the Keystone Cattle Company in the future.
After thinking long and hard about how the words “family ranches” are more appealing than operations it made me think about how my operation would differ if it weren’t for my family. Agriculture is one of the fastest advancing industries yet it sits strong on a foundation of tradition and family. The closeness of family operations prove to be than producing goods but instead making a living worth loving. The future of agriculture will continue to grow but the tradition of the family farms and ranches will stand strong for ever.
In the midst of mud from the freshly melted six inches of snow, miles of pens, and the hum of generators, I stand above the ground and take in my surroundings. The catwalk in the Denver stock yards is one of my favorite places in the world. On it, I am able to look over a place that has historic value, as well as significance to my family.
One of my favorite memories was this past January, seeing my photo on the Wall of Champions in the Yards as National Hereford Queen, since my parents and grandparents are on the wall, too. I am the fourth generation of both sides of my family to exhibit cattle at the National Western Stock Show, and the fifth generation on both sides to raise Hereford cattle.
While these two traditions have uniquely influenced my life, the broader traditions of agriculture run deep in many families, such as my own. There are technical traditions, such as branding cattle with the brand (and sometimes the same branding irons!) that have been in a family for years. There are also traditions of agricultural life that are more so associated with values and soft skills. For example, when I think of integrity, I think of a cowboy, because the image that most people have of a cowboy is a kind person who always helps and does the right thing. Other traditions of agricultural life include grit, courage, and passion. These are a handful of the reasons that I am proud of the traditions that I keep as part of an agricultural family.
Growing up in the middle of Omaha and growing up with agriculture I got the unique opportunity to see first-hand the disconnect between consumers and producers. I grew up on my family’s 38-acre farm with sheep, goats, horses, and pigs. My farm life experience taught me more than just about what the world agriculture means. It taught me responsibility, respect, leadership, how to be caring, work ethic, and determination; Each day I am thankful for the way I was raised.
With many Nebraskan’s removed from farms and ranches, a responsibility is given to us to share the story of agriculture. I have taken this responsibility personally. As an Agricultural and Environmental Science Communications major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln I am learning and growing as a communicator. I have found new tools and perspectives to help me reach a variety of audiences and then help them realize how important agriculture’s story is to me and why it should be important to them. One of those tools is the Agriculture in the Classroom Program.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation’s signature program is Agriculture in the Classroom. This program creates standard based materials for Nebraska Youth and Educators. Nebraska provides resources such as books, posters, activities and lesson plans about beef, pork, corn and soybeans. Each of these resources explains what happens from production to the everyday use of agricultural products of consumers. A part of Ag in the Classroom in Nebraska is the Ag Pen Pal program. This program helps urban classrooms in Nebraska relate with the agricultural community in Nebraska.
The Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Program is a part of a larger program called National Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC). National AITC is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture and helps provide a network of opportunities. AITC is striving to help community members appreciate and understand the food and fiber system that supports us all. Their goal is to see agriculture is valued by all.
National Agriculture in the Classroom is where I began my search for curriculum and resources that I use to teach urban youth in Omaha. Having teaching aids at your fingertips makes it impossible to say that you cannot share your agriculture experiences with whomever might have a question or misconception. If in any situation I need a resource to help communicate the ins and outs of agriculture production I can be sure to have unlimited help with the National and Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Programs at my side.
With many Nebraskan’s removed from the farm, a responsibility we now have is to share the story of agriculture. It is so important to me to see our society becoming agriculturally literate because the agricultural community has made me who I am. I owe my work ethic, friends, family, and future career to the agriculture industry.
I hope to someday have a career that allows me to help integrate agriculture into school curriculum, that reaches out in the marketplace to the general public about the real story of the products they are purchasing and that makes the importance of agriculture known on a local, state and national level.
Nebraska Farm Bureau has identified ten social media savvy student members to join our Crew. The Crew is a group of Nebraska Farm Bureau student members who enjoy agriculture communication and social media. Together, The Crew will work on reaching a larger audience with pro-ag messages and will help put a face to agriculture through social media in conjunction with Nebraska Farm Bureau. Members of The Crew have access to unique training sessions, such as exploring social media strategies on Capitol Hill.
NFBF is excited to introduce our Crew members to you! For the next year these students will help promote agriculture and rural America through their work on social media!
Hello! My name is Abby Steffen, unlike many of my Crew-mates, I did not grow up on a farm. However, I did grow up in the rural town of Crofton, Nebraska. I have been exposed to many aspects of agriculture since I was a little girl; my grandparents owned a small farm not too far away with a variety of livestock and crops. I spent many summer days watching my grandpa work and sometimes I even got to help. As I moved into high school I became very involved in my town’s local FFA chapter. Junior year, I was appointed chapter Reporter and the following year I was voted as President. It was my early childhood experiences and my involvement in FFA that sparked my interest and passion for communication agriculture.
Now, as a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I am majoring in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication. I am also active in the Ag Sack Lunch Program, a UCARE research project, and student organizations such as the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and Collegiate Farm Bureau. I am looking forward to the potential adventures that will come my way!
“Yeah I live on a farm!” That’s what I would say when my friends from high school, in populated Omaha, Nebraska, asked. I was under the impression that I lived on a nice size farm and was contributing majorly to the agricultural industry. Then I came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and met people who lived on farms a hundred times larger than mine. I was discouraged, but soon realized I was contributing in my own way.
My name is Catherine Jones and I am from a small farm in Omaha Nebraska, but I am making a big difference when it comes to the future of agriculture. My 48-acre farm was just big enough to raise livestock for urban youth to exhibit in 4-H. They got to experience how to raise livestock and how agriculture contributes to their daily lives, all while living in the metro. This is where I realized the disconnect between the population and our state’s agricultural industry. I made the decision to come to UNL and study Agricultural Environmental Sciences Communication and minor in Animal Science and Ag Business. Living in the city on a farm I got to see both worlds and the misunderstandings upfront, this gave me the passion to be an advocate for agriculture!
My name is Corin Pelster, I am from Elgin, Nebraska and have had a passion for agriculture my whole life. Growing up on my family’s ranch I got to experience first-hand the hard work that is put into agriculture. I was extremely active in my schools FFA chapter throughout high school where I gained a significant knowledge of how important the agriculture industry really is. It wasn’t until my last semester of senior year, though, that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in agriculture for myself, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am currently a junior Agribusiness major with a Banking and Finance option at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with intent to graduate December 2017. I have always enjoyed talking about agriculture with others and knew this would be a wonderful opportunity to advocate for agriculture!
My name is Courtney Nelson. I live on a farm in east central Nebraska where we grow corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. We also own a family farm in Kansas where we grow wheat and milo. As part of my SAE, I rent 40 acres of land on which I grew corn this year, and I also own market swine. I am a senior in high school, and I am very involved in a variety of activities. My hobbies include watching Nebraska volleyball and playing the piano. I have always been surrounded by agriculture, but I didn’t realize my passion for it until I attended the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute this past summer. I look forward to sharing my story and passion about agriculture and learning more about the industry as well.
Hello advocates for agriculture! My name is Darby O’Connor from Paxton, Nebraska. I pride myself in the fact that I am a part of the agriculture industry. My part in agriculture is expressed through my hobby of showing livestock – I enjoy spending time in the barn preparing for shows. I am active in FFA where I serve as the Paxton FFA President, and continue to grow as an agriculturalist. I am proud to play a role in such an amazing industry and love sharing my passion for agriculture with both producers and consumers. I grew up on a ranch north of Paxton and love the experiences that came with growing up in an agricultural family. My mother is my inspiration when loving to show, my father who was a rancher is the reason I was blessed enough to grow up where I did, my brother Merritt continues to follow his passion of livestock while judging at SDSU and my other brother Rhett in McCook for rodeo. I love to share the greatness of agriculture and can’t wait for the journey that The Crew will send me on.
My name is Kelli Mashino and I live on a family farm near the small town of Spencer, NE. I’m a third generation agriculturalist with strong roots in faith, family, farming, and FFA. I’m a senior in high school and plan to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for Agricultural Communications next fall. I am very active in extracurriculars at my school. FFA, however, is my favorite. I have such a HUGE passion for agriculture. Growing up on the farm, I have learned the true value of hard work and dedication. My appreciation for agriculture has grown more and more the older I get and I have found that advocating for agriculture is one of my biggest passions! I love public speaking as well as writing. Writing and giving speeches have always been strengths of mine in high school. That is why I am so excited to be joining the CREW! I can’t wait to put my strengths to work and help spread the word of agriculture. Agricultural literacy is far more important than most people think. That’s why everyone who has a background in agriculture should take a stand and share their story. I can’t wait to go on this journey with you all! It’s going to be a great year of advocating for ag!
I am Maisie Kennicutt! I am 17 years old and a senior in high school from Wallace, Nebraska! For those of you who have never heard of such a place, it is a small town of maybe 300 people or less. It is located in the southwestern corner of the state. I live on a little farm about 18 miles southwest of town where I raise sheep, hogs and chickens. I have a brother, Aidan, and a sister, Emily, and we have been involved in sheep 4-H for 3 years now. We had never done any type for 4-H before but we decided to give it a try and we fell in love with it! Now we have a few ewes we saved back this year because we would like to start our own herd.
Other than working with our sheep, I spend most of my time at school activities. I enjoy going to the different sporting events at our school and cheering loud for all my friends. Most of the time I am in the ag room working on projects or getting study packets ready for competitions. I spend any time I possibly can outside. Whether I am doing animal chores or just working on little things around the farm. My goal for my future is to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and get my degree in agriculture education. With my degree, I want to return to a small Nebraska town to teach the generations after me about an industry that is so important in all of our lives.
I am an aspiring horticulturist, landscape designer, and drone flyer.
My name is Sam Steward. I am in my second year at Southeast Community College in Beatrice, Nebraska. My major is Agriculture Business and Management Technology. I have two focuses in Horticulture and Agribusiness. I will be receiving my Precision Agriculture Certificate in September. I am very involved at SCC. I am president of SCC Ag Club, Vice President of SCC Collegiate Farm Bureau, and I am currently in the process of getting Horticulture Club started back up on campus.
I am originally from Hickman, Nebraska, but I recently moved to Mead, Nebraska. I graduated from Norris High School where I was very involved in my FFA chapter. I was also a part of the Star City Llama and Alpaca 4-H club where I showed my llamas and alpacas at the Lancaster County Fair. I have been a member of the Alpaca and Llama Show Association for 15 years. I am also member of the Nebraska Arborist Association and the Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association. I am also attending classes to become a certified Arborist for the state of Nebraska.
My name is Savannah Schafer and I am excited to be a CREW member! I am a sophomore majoring in Ag Education with a minor in Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. My parents and I operate the Schafer Angus Farm near Nehawka, Nebraska. Our farm is small but mighty with a herd of registered Angus cows that provide high-quality replacement heifers, bulls, and market animals. We raise corn, soybeans, and alfalfa hay.
My passion for the agriculture industry has developed as I have grown. I was an active member in 4-H and am still an involved member in FFA. FFA provided me countless opportunities to become an advocate for agriculture by experiencing the world of agriculture up close and personal through contests, conventions, and classes. I am excited to receive my American Degree in October. My membership in the Nebraska Junior Angus Association opened numerous channels to the cattle industry and today’s issues. Through these programs, I have developed wonderful friendships with people who share my enthusiasm and concerns. I enjoy discussing today’s issues with other enthusiasts and hope to make a difference in closing the gap between farmer/rancher and the consumer. I am the fourth generation to help run the family farm and I hope to keep it running for future generations to come. My goal is help educate all ages as to the importance of agriculture, farmers, and ranchers. I am dedicated to talking about the issues with anyone and everyone!
Hello! I am Katie Nolles, a fifth generation Hereford breeder on both sides of my family, from Bassett, Nebraska. Growing up on my family’s ranch was the most influential part of my life, as it shaped my work ethic, developed my passion for agriculture, and instilled my values in me. For as long as I can remember, I have looked forward to working cattle, branding, checking calves, feeding hay, fixing fence, and making breeding decisions. Our operation is diverse; we raise registered Hereford cattle to sell bulls to cattlemen, have a custom embryo placement business, and a small herd of commercial cows to raise F1 calves. My parents met while showing cattle, so it is natural that I follow in their footsteps by showing my Herefords on a local, state, and national level. Maintaining partnerships and friendships with people across the country that span multiple generations is special to me.
Showing livestock led me to a few key youth leadership organizations. Joining 4-H as a five-year-old, I quickly took advantage of the many projects and learning experiences. FFA honed my public speaking skills, broadened my passion for agriculture, allowed me to travel the world, and opened my eyes to my future career in agricultural education. The Nebraska and National Junior Hereford Associations established my career in the beef industry. All of these organizations gave me leadership and career skills, along with lifelong friendships. As I transition out of these organizations, I look back with fond memories at serving as a FFA State Officer, National Hereford Queen, and National 4-H Congress Youth Leadership Team member.
Currently, I am a sophomore at UNL majoring in Agricultural Education. I’m passionate about learning as much as possible about agriculture. My experience and interests range from production to policy to education and outreach. I’m looking forward to connecting with you this year as a member of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s CREW!
When I was a freshman in college I remember one weekend I had some friends ask me what I was going to do that weekend. I told them that I had to go home to help my family pair, sort, vaccinate, and move our cattle out to our summer pastures. To my surprise they would ask, “Why do you have to vaccinate them and sort them out?” At first I was shocked, I thought to myself, how would people not know why ranchers have to do that? But I took a step back and remembered that not everybody grew up in a ranching community and have been around cattle their whole life. After I told them why they seemed very interested in it and was glad they learned something new! So, I thought I would tell more people about why ranchers do this to their cattle.
After all the cows give birth to their calves in late spring, most ranchers move their cattle out to new pasture for the summer, a place where they will be comfortable all summer to roam and graze as they please. But before you can move them away from home you need to do some housekeeping duties first. First my family separates the good, healthy pairs. We only want to send our top notch, healthiest cows and calves to new pasture. So we separate the healthy pairs. In case you didn’t know, a pair is both the cow and her calve, the calves are still very young and need their mom’s milk for nutrients and to grow better. After we get the best, healthiest pairs separated, we need to sort the calves away from the cows. After we sort them it’s time to run them through the shoot.
You need to sort the cows from the calves because you use different sizes of alleyways and shoots. Once you get them in the shoot, the procedure is the same. Each cow, calf, and bull, get two shots. One shot helps prevent pink eye, respiratory problems, and intestinal problems. While the other shot is just some vitamins to help keep them healthy. You also pour a certain about of pour on over their backs. Pour on is a liquid that you pour over the backs of them. This helps prevent flies from bothering them as much during the heat of the summer.
After all of this you load them up in trailers. Calves go on separate trailers than the bulls and cows because they could get trampled. Once they are loaded you take them to your desired location. Over the coarse of the summer you need to check on them frequently. Ranchers have to make sure they have enough salt and mineral for them just so they are getting extra nutrients and sometimes ranchers will give them a sweet treat called cake. Cake is little cylinder like pellets that you give to them as a treat; they taste very good to the cows and are full of nutrients so ranchers like them too. Ranchers also have to check on them to make sure the flies aren’t bothering them too much. If the flies are bad, we will spray more pour on over them.
Moving cattle out to graze over the summer is an exciting time of the year for ranchers. It gives them a much-needed break after the hard, cold, and long calving season. Ranchers love to check up on their cattle and make sure they are doing okay. Once Fall hits it’s time to take them home. When they get home it’s not long before the calves are sorted away again and taken to sale barns to be sold. This is quite possibly the biggest day for ranchers, as they will make most of their money for the year. Sale day is also either a sad or happy day for them, depending on whom you ask! Then they start all over again in the spring with calving out their new calves.
This little stinker was a little over a week old at the time of this picture. This is the best time to do things like notch the pigs ears for identification, give the pig some iron and penicillin to help fight against all the infections that these little guys are very susceptible to, castrate the boars, or males, so they are less aggressive in adulthood, and clip their needle teeth which also help stop the spread of infection! Theses are some things that animal rights organizations would have us skip out on. But because my conventional farm goes through these essential procedures these little piglets are given the best possible chance to thrive and live happily! About 5 months ago I named this cutie Rudy.
Fast forward about 5 months and we have some awesome perspective on the life of a show pig! This is Rudy, the baby pig from five months ago that we just got done “processing.” That means that we notched his ears, vaccinated him, docked his tail, and castrated him. All of these things serve a purpose, and if you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them!
If we fast forward Rudy’s life about 4 weeks later, we’re vaccinating him again just to keep him healthy and then moving him to a new facility on our farm called the nursery. This process is called weaning. At the point of weaning, young piglets are still drinking their mother’s milk, but their main source of food comes from a starter feed.
About three months later we bring Rudy into our show barn. Our show barn, like the majority across the state of Nebraska, is kept at a very nice and cool temperature no matter how hot it is outside. My sister and I clean all our show pigs’ pens at least once a week and feed them twice a day. At this point in time, Rudy is on a 16%-18% protein feed, which is insuring his efficiency. Our state fair hogs get walked between 3 to 4 times a week, so that when we take them to state fair they’re comfortable in the ring.
At state fair during showmanship, I was asked what was the biggest problem in the swine industry today. I thought about the Chinese pork industries growing bigger and bigger every year, I thought about the PED virus, but out of these problem I know where the real problem lies. Advocacy. Companies and organizations like Chipotle and HSUS are using their networks to ruin the reputation of all aspects of agriculture, notably the swine industry. If we don’t tell the consume what is going on on our farms, we will lose the consumer. The world that we’re living in today is desperate for information, even if it’s cheap. The cheap information that they’re buying into are the stories that HSUS and PETA are giving them. I know the relationship between the farmer and the consumer needs some help. I also know the relationship between the animals in their care and the producer is completely different than what it is perceived to be. The consumer should know what is going on in the barn or in the field, and as a youth ag advocate, it is my job tell them.
Since attending the Agricultural Issues Academy at State FFA Convention last year, I’ve started my own blog. Ag Issues Academy opened my eyes to the miscommunication that is happening not only global, but right in my town and state. The link to my blog is listed below if you’re interested in what my farm looks like and its relationship with our animals.
Read more from Cheyenne here: https://youthagricultureadvocates.wordpress.com/