Note: Here at the Animal Agriculture Alliance office, we are fortunate to be joined by two great interns for the summer. Both are outspoken young advocates for agriculture. Today’s guest post comes from intern Erin Mohler, who will be a senior at the University of Missouri this fall. Erin was involved in a campaign on her campus to educate students about where their food comes from. Below, she shares what agriculture truly means to her.
I grew up with lambs in my laundry room, chickens in my play house, checking cows and horses in the middle of the night and feeding animals in the morning before I fed myself. Agriculture has always been a part of who I am.
Unfortunately this is not the case for everyone. Many kids these days have never seen livestock or had the opportunity to care for animals. Agriculture has truly shaped me into the person I am today. I grew up on a medium-sized hobby farm in southern Maryland where my family and I loved spending the weekend in the barn. My brother and I still show hogs, cattle, sheep, and goats at local shows. Being involved in livestock has taught me responsibility, sportsmanship, and the importance of livestock for feeding our growing population. Most importantly, I have developed a passion for the animal agriculture industry.
In these next 10 years, the food and fiber industry will continue to battle negative perceptions and misinformation given out by uneducated consumers and animal rights activists. Some examples of the problems that the industry faces are uneducated media, million dollar anti-agriculture groups, and misinformed consumers. Whether it is Katie Couric talking about antibiotics in the industry, or PETA and HSUS showing emotional videos, it is essential that livestock producers spread the good word about agriculture.
Anyone who is involved in agriculture needs to be telling their story. While there are several negative videos floating around the Internet, as a person passionate about agriculture, I know that this is not an accurate representation of how we treat our animals. Mistreatment of animals should not be tolerated, but at the same time we must remember that they are the exception to the rule. There are also bad doctors, bad mothers, bad lawyers, and so on.
There are several programs out there that focus on teaching farmers how to tell their story. I recently had the opportunity to complete the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Master of Beef Advocacy Program. Although I grew up within the industry, I learned so much from this program. It helped me better combat misinformation about the industry and taught me ways to promote it. As a busy college student with a part-time job I thought that I did not have the time to take this course but now that I have completed it, I am very glad that I did. It is essential that farmers and ranchers join together and tell what they do on their farm to care for their animals and to teach what it means to produce a quality animal.
I know that I am not the only one out there that has let agriculture shape my life. I view the agriculture community as my extended family. The livestock industry is filled with caring farmers, ranchers, and families. These people do not think of farming as simply a job, it is their livelihood. Although these farmers are already busy putting crops in the ground and working cattle, they need to find a way to educate people about their way of life.
I think everyone should take a minute to share what agriculture has done for them.