Why Agriculture: An Open Letter from a High School Senior

kelli blog 2 photoHere I am, a high school senior, taking part in my final days of this stage in my life. Right now, as we approach graduation, filling out scholarships is a big task. The question “What’s your intended major?” arises quite often followed by “Why have you chosen the major stated above?” I always answer with, “Agricultural Communications” and then proceed with my reason why: “I grew up in this industry…I want to make a difference within agriculture…my passion lies here.” Although each of these statements is correct, my reasoning for why I am choosing a major in agriculture goes much deeper. It wasn’t until filling out a scholarship application today that I realized that. So, here’s a letter to agriculturalists in my community, state, and nation explaining why I choose agriculture. Here’s a deeper reason for why I’m choosing this major.

kelli blog 2 photo 2Dear dedicated agriculturalists,

It’s because of you. You are the reason I write “Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication” on every scholarship application. You are the reason I toured the college of agriculture on East Campus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. You are the reason I met with academic advisors in agriculture areas. You are the reason I choose agriculture. Why? It’s simple. YOU give me hope. You’ve helped me see the importance of each and every agriculturalist. From farmers to bankers to chemists to advocates- they’re all important. It’s because of you and your dedication and drive that I am choosing agriculture. Yes, I’m selecting this major for other reasons as well. For the uninformed, those disconnected from agriculture, and the curious. But in the end, I’m venturing with this major because of you. I see the smile you get when you finish your last field of corn. I see the difference you’re making in informing others through social media, radio, and magazines. I see your passion ignite when you get to visit with agriculturalists as well as non-agriculturists. I see the fear in your eyes of being able to feed the world by 2050. But I also see hope. I see so much hope. So, with that being said, thank you. Thank you for showing me that a major and a career in agriculture will be a choice I will never regret. Thank you for investing in me. Thank you for investing in others. YOU make a difference in the lives of countless people without even knowing it. So, thank you.

Sincerely,

A high school senior that got her passion for agriculture by watching all of you

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Agriculture in the Classroom

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.

 

catherine-aitcThe 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.
catherine-ag-in-the-classroom-logoThe 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.

 
catherine-ag-in-the-classroomNational 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.

 

catherine-ag-in-the-classroom-websiteWith 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.

 

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The Ag Sack Lunch Program: Educating the Future of Agriculture

By: Abby Steffen

ag-sack-lunchI grew up in Northeast Nebraska, in a very rural area. Most of my summer days were spent on my grandparent’s farm, learning about agriculture before I even knew what the word “agriculture” meant. I would run through corn and soybeans while they grew in the fields, I would sit and watch my grandpa bring the cows into the milk barn, I would giggle as baby calves fought over which one got to suck on my fingers. At the end of the day, I knew what the food was that was on my supper plate. I knew how it was raised, how it was harvested, and how much work was put into getting that food from farm to fridge to fork. Knowing these things humbled me in a way I cannot describe, but also gave me some peace of mind to be able to see what I was eating and putting into my body. I wish every kid in America would be able to grow up with these types of experiences, but I know that is not possible. There are many children who are now completely removed from farms and ranches. They aren’t provided with many opportunities to learn about agriculture. The Ag Sack Lunch program is trying to change that.
ag-sack-lunch2In 2010, the Ag Sack Lunch Program was created to educate Nebraska fourth-graders, teachers, and parents about the different agricultural industries in Nebraska, all while providing 5,000 sack lunches each year. Each Ag Sack Lunch Ambassador is given a set of presentation cards that give the children a visual to look at during the presentation. The cards have fun facts that help the students not only learn about the seven main industries in Nebraska, but also make connections about how these industries impact their lives.  They learn about how much land in Nebraska is devoted to farming and ranching, and also that 1 in every 4 jobs relates back to agriculture. The Program covers both specific sectors of the livestock industry, such as beef, dairy, swine, and poultry; and also crops like soybeans, corn, and wheat. In their sack lunches, the students receive a ham, roast beef, or turkey sandwich. They also get carrots, Fritos corn chips, a rice crispy bar, mayonnaise and mustard, and a deck of cards that have fun facts about each industry and look just like the cards the ambassador presents with. At the end of the presentation, the group walks through every item in their lunches and talks about which industry they came from.
ag-sack-lunch3This is now the Ag Sack Lunch Program’s seventh year and I have worked as an Ag Ambassador for two years. I can honestly say it has been one of the most rewarding and educational life experiences I have ever had. It has kept me humble and open minded, as I did not grow up in a very diverse agricultural area. For many classes I presented to, I was not surprised when students knew most of the answers. However, once I began to present to more urban centered schools, there were times I felt truly heartbroken. Some students I interacted with did not even know where the meat on their sandwich came from before the store. I could see the want to learn in the students’ eyes.  When it finally clicked for them, the smiles on their faces was enough to make me fall in love with the Ag Industry all over again.

ag-sack-lunch4Agriculture is a huge and important industry in the state of Nebraska. It is crucial to the economy, the environment, and of course, to providing enough food to feed the growing population. Unfortunately, as more and more generations are being removed from farms and ranches, agricultural knowledge is not being passed along. Not many people know how this industry works and there are not many schools in Nebraska who implement ag-related courses. How can we expect people to understand and care about an industry and lifestyle they aren’t even familiar with? This is why the ag-literacy work that we do in the Farm Bureau Crew and in programs like Ag Sack Lunch is so important. By learning how to communicate to people of different ages and lifestyles we can improve ag-literacy in Nebraska. We can get people more involved and interested in agriculture to strengthen the future of the industry. In The Crew, I get to share different stories in agriculture through videos, photography, social media and blogging. In Ag Sack Lunch, I get to talk to students about where I grew up and how important agriculture is to people, especially in rural areas.
The experiences I have gained by working with The Crew and as an Ag Sack Lunch Ambassador have really made me appreciate the area in which I grew up and the educators who understood the importance of our state’s Agricultural Industry. I have experienced first-hand that programs like The Crew and Ag Sack Lunch are so important and influential to the Agriculture Industry. In the future, it will be up to their generation to find more sustainable food practices in order to feed the growing population while keeping the economy and the environment in check. They are the future of agriculture, and sponsored programs like The Crew and Ag Sack Lunch are preparing them in fun and interactive ways!

 

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Meet the 2016-2017 Class of The Crew!

 

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!

 

 

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Abby Steffen

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!

 

catherine-jones

Catherine Jones

“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!

 

corin-pelster

Corin Pelster

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!

 

courtney-nelson

Courtney Nelson

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.

 

 

 

darby-oconnor

Darby O’Connor

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.

 

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Kelli Mashino

Hey everyone!

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!

 

masie-kennicutt

Maisie Kennicutt

Hello Everyone!

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.

 

sam-steward

Sam Steward

Hey everyone!

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.

savannah-schafer

Savannah Schafer

Hi Everyone!

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!

 

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Katie Nolles

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!

 

Sound Tax Policy isn’t Education’s Foe

steve corn head shotThere are two things I’m confident about when it comes to the beliefs of the majority of Nebraskans. One, we value education; whether it’s making sure we have high quality K-12 schools, or quality secondary education opportunities. Two, we believe in sound fiscal policy; including an appreciation for spending restraint and a balanced tax structure.

We don’t believe those two things have to be in conflict, but you might get that impression based on sentiment expressed by some in the education community as Farm Bureau has weighed in on the need for property tax and school funding reform. Farm Bureau’s calls for local spending restraint and property tax relief should not in any way be construed as adversarial to public education.

You know as well as I do that Nebraska Farm Bureau and its members value quality educational opportunities for Nebraska students. For decades, numerous members of our organization have given their time and talents to serve on local school boards, while many others have offered their service to Nebraska education as teachers and volunteers. Our members are proud to support their schools and their communities.

As I’ve said on many occasions, including testimony before the Legislature’s Revenue and Education Committees, how we as Nebraskans choose to fund schools is a separate and distinct question from whether we should provide quality educational opportunities for students.

We believe in quality education, but we also believe we must address the underlying imbalance in our tax structure that has led us to a point where property taxes carry the lion’s share of school funding. Nebraska is far outside the norm in terms of our reliance on property taxes when compared with other states. For example, the nationwide average contribution of property taxes for school funding is 32 percent. In Nebraska, it’s 51 percent.

Calls for reform are not an indictment of whether our schools are doing a good job, but rather an indictment of an imbalance in the way in which we fund schools in Nebraska and the over-reliance on property taxes to do so.

And make no mistake, Nebraskans want lower property taxes.

Over the last 10 years, (2005 to 2015) total statewide property tax collections for real property increased 66 percent, with property taxes levied on agricultural land increasing 176 percent, commercial property taxes 49 percent and residential property taxes 35 percent.

In 2015 alone, property tax collections increased statewide by six percent, a total increase of $216 million. That clearly outpaces the $204 million put into the state’s property tax credit program that was targeted to provide property tax relief.

We’re not getting ahead. We’re not even treading water.

To solve the property tax problem we as Nebraskans have to think bigger. We need visionary leadership. That’s the reason delegates at Nebraska Farm Bureau’s annual meeting adopted policy that seeks to set a limitation that no more than 40 percent of school spending could come from property taxes, bringing us closer to the national norm. The goal isn’t to harm education. The goal is to alleviate the pressure on property taxes and force the conversation that must take place about balancing the tax burden on Nebraskans. This is about fixing a problem that continues to be kicked down the road.

Those who believe that calls for property tax reductions and school funding reform are attacks on education, are simply missing the point.

We can work together to determine how much money it takes to provide adequate funding for schools. But, until we reform how we fund schools, there will continue to be undue pressure on property taxes.

There’s no question that re-balancing the tax burden and how we fund schools is challenging. But having the ability to problem solve and tackle these types of challenges is why we invest in education in the first place.

It’s time to think bigger on Nebraska tax policy. Reducing our over-reliance on property taxes to fund education is the right place to start.

Sincerely,

Steve Nelson

President

A Fair is a Veritable Smorgasbord

Paramount Pictures

Charlotte’s Web — Paramount Pictures

“A fair is a veritable smorgasbord.” At least according to the rat, Templeton, from Charlotte’s web. If you’re not familiar, it’s the scene where the rodent sings about all the wonderful food he finds after the lights of the fair go down.

In this case, I’m not talking about food but rather all the wonderful agricultural products you can find at county fairs and the Nebraska State Fair, which wraps up this weekend. From the Milking Parlor to the Avenue of Breeds to the Antique Tractor Display, the Ag exhibits are endless, and for FFA and 4-H exhibitors, the end of a year of hard work on their projects.

"Tiny" - Nebraska's Largest Steer

“Tiny” – Nebraska’s Largest Steer

This year we heard reports of space running out in the sheep and goat barn because of so many producers wanting to show their product. And the hog and cattle barns are just as full. It’s exciting to see so many kids taking their projects to the next level. Now, I call on them to go even further.

For many people, the Nebraska State Fair or the local county fair is their first, and maybe only, interaction with agriculture. Hundreds of grade school students in matching T-shirts are paraded through the state fair every year.

Savannah Peterson GothenburgThey are excited to see and interact with the animals. But what are they really seeing? A large pet? Do they know why a farmer raises cattle or sheep? It is our job as livestock producers, farmers and Ag experts to go that extra step and explain why a heifer or steer exists. Why we shear sheep. How we bring only one or two hogs to the fair, while the rest stay home. And, ultimately, the fact that Nebraska farmers and ranchers are raising the world’s food supply.

 

 

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Day @ the Farm Video Contest

PrintYesterday was National Teach Ag Day, and in celebration Nebraska Farm Bureau and the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture announced a contest for Nebraska classrooms to win a trip to a farm or ranch!

Agriculture is a staple of Nebraska’s economy accounting for one in four jobs across our state. But with a growing distance between farmers and ranchers to students, an understanding of the impact of agriculture is becoming a major issue.

The Day @ the Farm Contest is designed to educate students about the importance of agriculture in their lives no matter where they live. Through the contest, Nebraska Farm Bureau hopes to teach students that their food, fuel and clothing come from agriculture.

Teachers and their classrooms, grades K-12, are invited to submit a video by Nov. 15 answering the question – What would your life be like without Nebraska Agriculture? Three classrooms will be selected as grand prize winners from across the state. Additional rules and contest information is outlined here >>

Winning classrooms will receive an all expense paid field trip to farms or ranches near their school as well as a surprise lunch congratulating them as a grand prize winner.