What is your role in agriculture?
I like to say that I wear lots of hats in agriculture. I am a meat scientist and I conduct research on meat quality on many types of meat, including beef, pork, and goat. Part of my job is to teach classes on livestock and meat evaluation to undergraduate students and in advanced meat science to graduate students. I also mentor students on their research projects in meat science. I am the advisor for the Block and Bridle Club, the Meats Quiz Bowl Team, and the Animal Science Academic Quadrathlon team. I love working with students and showing them new aspects of agriculture.
I grew up on a sheep farm in Texas and we raised lambs and pigs as FFA projects, but I married into the cattle business. My husband and his parents have a herd of Simmental and SimAngus cattle in North Central Arkansas. So, I am also a cattlewoman.
I write a blog called Mom at the Meat Counter about meat and the meat industry from the perspective of a mom meat scientist.
I’m a consumer and a mom. I buy agriculture products to feed my family.
What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?
I like to call it ‘The Mom Club.’ When you become a mom, you join this special club. Moms love to help each other out. It may be advice from the mom behind you in the grocery line. It may be from someone in church. New moms are quick to learn that the best source of knowledge in this crazy adventure of raising kids is other moms.
In my conversations with all these other moms, I realized that I had a knowledge base about meat and food production that they don’t have. Even before I started the blog, I found myself telling other moms about food and answering their questions about meat production. I loved it when I could see those worry lines soften on their face after I visited with them.
Taysha Reitzel, of Dirt Road Charm, blogged last week about how desperate she was to find some relief for her fussy baby and that she was willing to believe anything she read on Google. As a mom, I totally get that. There are millions of moms out there desperately seeking information about the food they feed their families. These are smart women who just want what’s best for their kids and they are getting bombarded with lots of scary information.
Those moms are my inspiration. I want to give them good information that is easy to understand and help them feel better about their food.
What is your favorite part of being an agvocate?
That sigh of relief you hear when you assure someone that something in their food is not as scary as they thought it was.
What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?
I have a hard time figuring out what people want to know. I think sometimes people are embarrassed to ask questions because they don’t want to seem dumb, but it’s hard to know what answers to give if you don’t know the question.
I also find it challenging to make sure my message reaches “beyond the choir.” The really successful bloggers are the ones who are consistently interacting with people from outside of agriculture.
What advice do you have for other farmers or ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?
Join a network. Obviously, I think AgChat is a great choice, but when you start down this path of agvocacy, you really need a posse. A network of people are the best to bounce ideas off of, learn about new technology from, laugh and cry with, and these are the people who will have your back if you are attacked by negative groups. I’m involved with AgChat and the Arkansas Women Bloggers group.
What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?
Agchat is really special to me. My friend, Chris Raines, was a founding member. He was a meat scientist. We went to grad school together and it was Chris that encouraged me to start the blog. He helped me come up with the name, Mom at the Meat Counter.
I attended my first Ag Chat conference not long after I started my blog. Although Chris had passed away, it was like he was there. In my mind, his memory and his legacy live on through AgChat.
What’s the next step?
I want to encourage other scientists to agvocate. There are lots of great farm blogs, but not many people with PhDs are out there sharing about agriculture. It has taken a while, but I learned that this form of communication is really hard for people trained as scientists. It’s almost like learning a new language and a new way of thinking. As agricultural scientists, we have to get out of our comfort zones and reach out to everyday consumers.
Janeal Yancey has a Ph.D. in meat science, but is also a mom trying to raise two crazy little girls. Janeal hopes that she can help other moms feel more knowledgeable about the meat they feed their families. You can catch up with Janeal on her blog Mom at the Meat Counter, on Facebook, and on Twitter @MeatCounterMom.