Category Archives: MSU
I’m beginning to feel like an actual college student – a high school graduate with a career path and a good deal of knowledge about her university and such. It only took nearly two years.
This week (on Spring Break), I had the privilege of representing the William H. Darr School of Agriculture at a couple of events near my home town. Overall, it’s been quite the learning experience.
Event 1 – Eldon Career Center
I found out the day that break began for me that I would be heading north that evening so that I could be in Eldon by 10 Friday morning (which sounds like nothing if you’re used to getting up early, but I’m a college student – 9 is early, and 6 would have been way too early).
Together with one of my classmates and fellow Ag Ed majors, I gathered a bunch of recruitment materials (which turned out to be not nearly enough), and prepared for the day.
We arrived in our very official ag nerd garb (school of ag button-downs and khakis), and were very soon flooded with high schoolers. It was interesting, because we saw everyone – from freshmen to seniors. Much like me in high school, almost no one knew the right questions to ask (and unfortunately for me, I didn’t always have the answers to the questions they did ask). It was a lot of fun describing my school though, and it reminded me how incredibly proud I am to be a student there. More than that, it showed me how indescribably lucky I am to be at Missouri State University.
In high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, let alone where I wanted to do so. I always thought I would be at Mizzou, but the more contests I attended there, the more I realized it wasn’t really for me. The campus and classes were too big, and I didn’t want to be lost in a crowd. I loved the University of Central Missouri when it came to their music program, but the ag program there was way too small. Both universities were too close to home for me too – I love my family, but I didn’t want an excuse to drive home every weekend.
So basically, it was a lot like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. MSU was just right. And it is more so each day I spend there. I’ve learned so much, come to respect my professors as community leaders and people as well as academics, and found an awesome family of students who can line dance in the Student Activities room and still dominate an agricultural quiz bowl competition.
I was proud this week to wear my MSU Bears maroon and share my school spirit with high school students – I can only hope that they will find somewhere just as fun and challenging as I have to learn and grow.
Well, it looks like I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to write about my second event – it’s technically already tomorrow and I have plans that require sleep tonight.
Until then, don’t forget to be awesome and Farm Out Loud!
Lord, we thank You for the opportunity to work with the best people in the world, America’s farmers and ranchers, and for the chance to help them to do Your work in feeding Your world.
Al Gustin of KFYR in North Dakota, this year’s Farm Broadcaster of the Year, presented by the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and sponsored by Syngenta.
This week, I’ve had the honor of participating in the 69th annual NAFB convention as a student member. Janet Adkison, an MSU alumna and successful farm broadcaster at KMZU radio in Carrollton, Missouri, invited communications students from across the nation to experience the event. Janet served as this year’s NAFB Vice-President and is the NAFB president-elect for the upcoming year. Her goal on the NAFB Board of Directors has been to increase participation of young members and future professionals in the griculture industry, many of whom will soon have ties to farm broadcasting. Her mission has been a success. When she began work with the board, student membership was at a total of 7 students. Thanks to her diligent work, student membership is predicted to reach 40 before the end of this year. Nine students attended the conference – six from Missouri State, and one student each from Western Illinois University, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State University through Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow.
Today, I sat in on professional development sessions and attended an awards luncheon in the presence of farm broadcasting legends the likes of Orion Samuelson, Max Armstrong, representatives from Brownfield Ag News and RFD TV, an that’s not even touching the tip of the iceberg.
My time here has been full of unique opportunities, and it means the world to me that I was chosen to participate in the inaugural year of the NAFB college experience.
Farm Out Loud!
Today on my college campus, just like every day it seems, there were some random people passing out random pieces of paper that will soon end up in a trash can.
Many of the people who spend their days giving information to people who are less than interested possess radical beliefs about controversial issues. The paper they distribute is usually an advertisement (these are the more “normal” people), or propaganda supporting their cause. Today, I got the latter – a booklet about veganism and factory farms. I would love to just brush this off, laugh at it, maybe even publish a parody version about the mistreatment of plants. However, the spread of misinformation is an ever-present problem for agriculture, and this example is no different.
I don’t doubt that some people who operate animal harvesting facilities do so inhumanely. I don’t doubt that some animals live their lives in dismal conditions – food animals or not.
However, the challenge is how reliable and timely this information is. I don’t know anything about when this booklet was published or what methods were used to acquire the photos, but I do know that other similar materials have been known to use and reuse photos and video from one example – as in, you’re seeing the same video of the same cow from 1998(ish) nearly every time a news source comes up with a scare about mad cow disease.
The booklet raises other questions, as well. Obviously, the funding for the handout came from vegan sources, and not from animal farms. A photo has been floating around Facebook in the past couple of weeks, which makes an interesting point (check out the photo to the right). I agree with one of my Facebook acquaintances who made this comment, “[This photo is] aimed at those people (most of whom have never even visited a farm/have no animal science education/consider all animals to be pets) who tend to “tell” ranchers and farmers that the way that they do things is wrong and inhumane when said ranchers and farmers have spent years and generations working with their animals and caring for them 24/7 (many even studying for years in college on animal behavior and psychology).”
This quote (left) from the booklet caught my attention as well. Although I certainly don’t agree with the manner in which this idea was presented, I must admit that I’ve wondered some of the same things. Is it possible that people in the agriculture industry are too often on the defensive, trying to prove that no one should be telling them what to do, when consumers are demanding something completely different? Perhaps we should be thinking about how to be transparent and welcoming instead of defensive and proud. I’m not sure what an ideal balance between transparency and the right of citizens to operate businesses with limited oversight – I just know that something needs to be done.
One of the last things included in the booklet, after a long description of how veganism works, was this phrase: Cruelty-Free Eating. I think that people have varying definitions of cruelty, but in general would be alright with “cruelty-free” just about anything. In fact, many farm families choose to buy their meat and other products from local sources because they know more about how the products are made, cared for, harvested, etc.
This booklet offers veganism as the only alternative to buying from “factory farms.” While much progress has been made regarding conditions in large farms (which, coincidentally, are just as likely to be family-0wned as many other farms), it is possible to reduce your support of practices that you are uncomfortable with, without giving up meat and animal byproducts altogether. You can research the companies you are giving your grocery-store purchase dollars to, and decide how you feel about them. If any of them give you a bad impression, you can choose to buy from a local meat processing business, ranch, or other farm with whose practices you are comfortable.
Maybe our best bet is to open our doors, take some photos, and produce a booklet much like this one – only with factual content and unedited photos. Perhaps if we let our voices be heard, someone will listen.
Farm Out Loud!
Have you ever noticed how incredibly hard it is to keep up your motivation once you’ve gotten past the tough part of something?
These are old photos, but they’re a pretty good representation of the five-star restaurant with rotating head chefs that exists on my grandparents’ deck at camping. Below, you see the kids table. Right, my brother and cousin chowing down dramatically, my grandpa grilling, etc.
Even once I’m working full time, though, it’s going to be a great summer. I’ll be in Jefferson City working for the Missouri Department of Agriculture as an intern, and I am so excited to find out what I’ll get to do there! I know it will be a great experience and I’ll meet some awesome people while I’m there. A bonus for my parents is that I’m working close to home – they’ll get the joy and the occasional headache that comes from me living at home this summer. I’ll also get to work some on the farm, which will begin with a crash course (hopefully not literally) in running some of the machinery so that I can actually be helpful. I’ll keep you posted on that adventure!
I’ve been listening more and more to songs with beaches and water and sunlight, so I figured I’d start putting together a playlist for boating and camping this summer.
Check it out by following the link or browsing the rdio playlist below!
What songs should I add to it to make the most epic summer playlist?
Farm Out Loud!
Oh State FFA Convention…. This coming week, hundreds (probably more like thousands) of high school students in blue corduroy jackets will converge on the Mizzou campus for an event they’ve been preparing for all year. Many will compete as state-qualifying teams and speakers in career development events (like Entomology, Dairy Foods, Meats, Soils, Floriculture, and other judging contests), and leadership events (speaking, Parliamentary Procedure, Knowledge, Sales, etc). Some will grace the stage as winners – of contests, awards, and degrees. Others will perform as talent entries or chorus members. This year’s leadership sessions will focus on this theme: Plant Goals, Harvest Success.
These two days of intense competition, inspiring speakers, leadership developments, and memories made are a celebration of agriculture in Missouri. These students are members of an organization that values and promotes our nation’s most vital industry – food and fiber production. Will all of them grow up to be farmers? Far from it. Many will go on to careers that are a far cry from a wheat field or a ranch – but even if their futures don’t become intimately linked with agriculture, they learn enough about the industry to speak up, vote smart, and spread the word – agriculture has a bright future, and we’re growing strong leaders for the winding road ahead.
This week, I’ll be spending most of my State FFA Convention in a room filled with computers and busy college students, typing away. It’s our job to record all of the awesome and exciting things that happen during convention to send to home chapters, newspapers and other media. The press room at convention will be hectic – but I think it’ll be a lot of fun. After all, this is part of what I can see myself doing with my life – telling the stories of the people of agriculture (or buying tan pants and a blue blazer – if girls even do that – and taking my own group of high schoolers to state contest). Talk about exciting!
Farm Out Loud!
I got back to Springfield this evening after a week at home in central Missouri for Spring Break. The day I drove home, I realized that practically overnight (which could mean anything from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks for this tunnel-visioned college kid) everything had turned green. I mean, our neighbor mowed our small lawn twice in the span of a little over a week.
It’s officially spring, which means that my house is regularly haunted by a presence who sleeps in a bed in our house, but rarely if ever darkens our doorstep in daylight hours. He lives on Mountain Dew and honey buns, and spends most of his days taking care of baby plants. My dad spent this past week (until it started raining incessantly) driving his new toy – a huge sprayer. It looks like a giant bug-slash-fourwheeler that runs across fields (wheat this week) using its long arms to spritz a mixture of water and chemicals to protect the plants from bugs, fungus, weeds, etc. Only one thing can be applied at a time, so these plants will get sprayed several more times this season to keep them healthy.
In other news this past week, my small Baptist church at home led a revival with a guest preacher. I really enjoyed the services, and Icouldn’t resist sharing one of the stories Brother David told one evening when he shared with us his passion for missions.
Prayer is the backbone of missions. If you’re not called to go far away, and you’re not called to go close to home right now, you’re called to pray. Because here’s the thing – farmers don’t just drive their combines into a random field and hope there will be something to harvest there. They know better. They know that they have to cultivate the ground, plant the seeds, water them, keep the weeds and bugs out, and check on them regularly to make sure they mature – they also have to make sure their tractor, sprayer, and combine are in good working order.
God tells us that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Yet He called all of us in the great commission to go therefore and make disciples. But just like a farmer, we are equipped for the call. Until we receive a call, we need to keep our equipment in working order. Is your pray-er rusty? Are your blades dull? It’s God’s parts store, the body of believers, that can help us with those things.
When God gives us a mission, He doesn’t waste words – have you noticed that? We’re supposed to listen the first time. When you hear it, jump to action – farm out loud, pray out loud, live out loud!
Farm Out Loud!
I recently took a poll of my public speaking class to get a feel for what my audience would know about my upcoming persuasive speech topic. Out of 18 students polled, all from the Honors College at MSU, only 2 had heard of the proposed changes to child labor regulations that could severely limit family farms and educational opportunities for agriculture students.
Today, my Agriculture Leaders class heard from the Missouri Farm Bureau National Legislative Programs Director Garrett Hawkins, a graduate of Missouri State. During his visit, Garrett answered some of our questions about the changes and Farm Bureau’s stance and actions regarding the measure. He shared with us that Farm Bureau, like every agriculture entity he has heard from, is strongly opposed to the changes as they are currently written. While no one would argue that safety wouldn’t come first when it comes to high school students working with animals, farm equipment, and so on, the changes would take away valuable education tools for teaching safety.
In case you’re still wondering what changes have been made, I strongly suggest researching this topic so that you can make your own call. However, here’s a quick overview. Before occupying her current position, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis backed an initiative in California that called for strict regulations for the children of migrant workers who worked with their parents in the fields. This, of course, crossed not only labor issues, but also differences in culture – and did not pass. When she became labor secretary in 2009, she continued to fight the same fight on a grander scale.
The changes are a combination of the issues Solis wanted addressed, as well as a number of sweeping rules and changes that would apply to all US teens – including removal of student learner exemptions, as well as the ban of certain kinds of work for students age 13-16, which includes work with animals, in hog & poultry barns, and machinery (defined as anything powered by an engine, meaning mowing the lawn is out), unless they were volunteering or working directly for a parent or guardian whose operation had not been incorporated.
I say all that to say this: the proposed changes are a major deal. If you caught what I did in that list, you’d notice that the Department of Labor is trying to kill the traditional FFA SAE Project, as well as other activities for students in FFA and 4-H programs. The changes also threaten multi-generational farms where children and grandchildren learn safety and agriculture through work. Doing away with these opportunities for children to learn safety in a supervised environment is not protecting children – it’s exposing them to undue risk of harm.
Right now, these changes are being proposed yet again (they’ve been proposed before, causing passionate backlash from the agriculture community). The goal as I understand it is to push the changes into law by the end of the summer. Why? If our current president is not re-elected this November, the new president will have the right to go back through all laws passed during a certain time period before the office changed hands. The people (and activist groups) backing the labor law changes want the proposed changes signed into law before the window for review opens.
This means the agriculture community has a lot of work to do. Maybe you can help me spread the news about the changes. Maybe you’ll see fit to call or write your congressman and let them know what these changes really mean, and why they should oppose them.
Farm Out Loud!
Guest Blogger! Well, almost.
In my Honors COM 115 class (public speaking), we’ve been writing and presenting speeches about our chosen careers this past week. As one of only 2 “ag” students in my class, naturally I was interested in what the other would have to say. I gave my speech on Agriculture Advocacy (talk about a mouthful); he gave his on Genetic Engineering. It’s difficult to talk about any career for 3+ minutes and make it interesting, but even more so for topics that are technical in nature, or that people just don’t know much about. I must say, I was impressed with my fellow aggie’s speech. Enough so that I was willing to be a dork and ask for a copy of it for my nerd farming blog.
So here it is: for your reading pleasure, a speech on the importance of a career in genetic engineering by Justin Conover, a Cell and Molecular Biology major at Missouri State University.
“Have you ever wanted to save the world?
When I was younger, I dreamed of being just like my favorite superhero, Superman. I dreamed of flying around the world, lifting large rocks off beautiful women and saving babies from evil, all while living the life of a businessman.
Now, however, I am dreaming of becoming a different kind of superhero, one who saves the world using science.
Today I want to explain to you how genetic engineering can save the world, what qualifications it takes to become a genetic engineering research scientist, and tell you some of the benefits being this career has in today’s world.
First, let’s take a look at why the world needs superheroes and how genetic engineering can save the world.
Currently there are 6.7 billion people on Earth, but according to a report in 2010 by Dr. Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology at the University of California at Davis, this number is projected to be close to 9.2 billion by the year 2050.
The question is how will we feed them?
There are already people around the world that do not have food to eat, not because they can’t afford it, but because it is not available to them. And with the traditional agriculture production yield, there is no way that we will be able to produce enough food to feed everyone.
This is where genetic engineering comes in. Genetic engineering is the use of recombinant DNA technology to alter the genetic makeup of an organism which improves its yield and nutritional value, along with added benefits such as pharmaceutical advantages and ecological gains.
Examples of genetically engineered plants include Bt corn, which includes an insecticide from a common bacteria; Round-up ready soybeans, which are resistant to Round-up, a herbicide manufactured by Monsanto; and golden rice, which contains small amounts of vitamin A used to prevent childhood blindness in many third-world countries.
These genetically engineered crops have led farmers to have higher production rates, provided consumers with lower prices of food, and given vitamins to those who otherwise could not get them.
The people that create these genetically engineered crops in the lab are called genetic engineering research scientists. Most genetic engineering research scientists have a doctorate degree in a biological science such as genetics or microbiology, which takes an additional four years after the completion of a bachelor’s degree to obtain. Many of these scientists have both their doctoral degree, or Ph.D., and their doctor of medicine, or M.D.. They spend most of their time working with a small team in a laboratory with strict cleanliness and safety standards. Research scientists often spend 35 to 40 hours a week in the lab, but additional hours are occasionally required for special projects.
Genetic Engineering research scientists also have great benefits. The average research scientist makes 65,000 dollars a year, according to stateuniveristy.com. Some of the benefits they can receive include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans. Plus, they get the satisfaction that what they are doing will make a direct influence on someone’s life and that they may save hundreds of lives by testing and creating genetically engineered crops. But perhaps the greatest benefit of all is knowing that their work will not only affect those close to them and alive today, but it will help people around the world for generations to come.
Just like Superman, being a genetic engineering research scientist requires you to take action and save the world, but instead of sheer strength and the ability to fly, research scientists use the power of science to complete their tasks. Being a research scientist is a very rewarding career, as you will most likely make decisions and discoveries that will affect people around the world. People are in desperate need of saving from poverty, starvation, and malnourishment.
That is why I have decided to become a genetic engineering research scientist and start saving the world through science.”
Justin Conover is a freshman Honors College student at Missouri State University majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology pursuing a career in Genetic Engineering. He is a 2011 graduate from Pattonsburg High School in Pattonsburg, MO. In high school, he was a part of FFA, FBLA, Student Council, National Honor Society, and was the Class of 2011 Secretary. He served as the Pattonsburg FFA Chapter President and as the Area II Treasurer. He competed on multiple contest teams in FFA, including Prepared Public Speaking, Poultry Evaluation, and Farm Business Management.
Farming out loud is more than just what I call “geeking out” with others in your field. It’s having the courage to speak up and tell you story when you know not everyone listening is on your side.