Why Do I Agvocate? – Mom at the Meat Counter

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.


IMG_9462Janeal 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.

Why Do I Agvocate? – Matt Brechwald

What is your role in agriculture?

I am a learn by doing and lead by example type of person. I have three distinct roles in agriculture. First, I am a producer. We raise cattle, goats and pigs. All of them are sold locally for direct consumption by our customers. We like to fill the void that can be filled by smaller farmers and are proud of our relationships with our customers.
Second, I am a service provider for the agricultural community. When I broke away from my full-time, city job it was to serve farmers and ranchers. The business that I started was with the agricultural community in mind, and I cater to farmers and ranchers.
Last, I am an agvocate for agriculture. I do not list this third because it is my lowest priority. I list this third because I believe my first two roles justify my ability to agvocate. I chose to talk about how people can make supplemental income to support their farming endeavors or to simply live in rural areas. I believe we need good people to return to farms and rural communities, and in my own small way, I want to help this happen.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

This story is a little bit embarrassing, but I’ll tell it anyway. I graduated from Montana State University with a degree in animal science. I had intended to be an veterinarian when I started school, but it quickly became apparent that I did not have the intelligence or aptitudes for that. During college I worked on a number of ranches, and I also worked for a large chemical company selling agricultural chemicals for two summers. By the time I finished school I realized that I did not want to do sales, and I did not want to manage somebody else’s ranch. I wanted to have cattle of my own, and my own property.
I did not have a farm to return to, and I was not going to inherit one. So, I was going to have to work and save enough to by a small farm at some point in the future. I did not see any options in the agricultural career field that appealed to me at that time, and I was interested in law enforcement. So, I became a police officer. Fast-Forward 18 years. I had been working as a police officer for 15 years, and I knew that career was not a genuine fit for me. My wife and I had pledged to buy a farm, raise our own cattle and raise our daughter rural when we got married. None of that had happened yet. We finally got our act together and bought a farm.
Moving out to the country and developing a farm only increased my desire to leave my career in law enforcement. I decided to become a full-time college instructor (I had been teaching college part-time since 2007). In order to make this happen I decided to start a business that would bring in income during the summer months. I started the business, serving people in the agricultural community, and it took off. I enjoyed being an entrepreneur so much, that I turned down an offer to interview for a full-time position as a college instructor. Ultimately I grew my business and left my career in law enforcement. I became 100% agricultural.
One day I was heading down our driveway to go out and service a local farmer. A few of my friends and I were involved in a text message discussion (this is the embarrassing part). I ended up sitting at the end of our driveway for 20 minutes texting about football or something like that. When we were done I had a realization. I had not driven into the city for weeks, I was living and working in a rural community with agricultural people, we were developing a farm that my daughter would grow up on and I had a new lifestyle that offered a lot of freedom and was 100% agricultural.
There is no other way to put it than I was overwhelmed. It had been two years since I started my business and bought the farm. Now, I had reached a moment that I had previously dreamed about but did not think was possible.
I knew at that moment that I wanted to share this with other people. I wanted to help other people do what I had done – find their way back to the farm and return to agriculture. That is when I decided to agvocate.

What is your favorite part of being an agvocate?

My favorite part has been making connections with good, agricultural people all over the country. There is no question that this has been the highlight.
I conduct two interviews per week. One is with somebody who is finding a way to make it in agriculture. The other is with an FFA student who has started their own business during high school.
The people I interview inspire me. They are all agvocates for agriculture, and speaking with them re-affirms my decision to choose this lifestyle.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

Ironically, the most challenging part of being an agvocate is the same as my favorite part – conducting two interviews per week. Coming up with content is difficult. Trying to find people to interview can be difficult. I spend a lot of time combing Craigslist, looking for people with unique agricultural service businesses. Agricultural people are busy people. I have interviewed high school students who are involved in school, FFA, sports and other extracurricular activities – all while they are building businesses, taking care of livestock or selling products. They do not have a lot of extra time. So, for them to take out 30 minutes to have a discussion is a big challenge and a great honor for me.

What advice do you have for other farmers or ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

My advice is simple – Start! We live in an unprecedented time. You can get your message out to so many people through so many platforms. Never before in history has this been possible. However, never before in history has it been possible for so many people to tell your story for you and mis-represent what you are doing. Begin telling people what it is you do and why you do it. Don’t worry about the format or promotion methods. You will figure that out in time. Get that message out there. Don’t think of agvocating as something that “other” people do. Think of it as part of your job and part of your role in agriculture. Like it or not, as a farmer or rancher, you are an ambassador for agriculture. Take this role seriously and tell the story!

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation means a chance to correspond with people who are passionate about agriculture. It also means that there is an opportunity to take a stand on behalf of those who strive to work and thrive in agriculture. The AgChat Foundation is the first, real organization that I know of that has striven to teach people how to adapt to changing media and technology so they can defend what is precious to them – agriculture.


Matt Brechwald is the 4th agvocate highlighted in our Why Do I Agvocate series. Matt releases a weekly podcast called Off Farm Income. Matt and his wife own a small agricultural service AgChat1business and operate a 25 acre farm in Kuna, Idaho. Subscribe to Matt’s podcast on his website and follow him on Twitter @MattBrechwald.