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.

Why Do I Agvocate? – Paint the Town Ag

 What is your role in agriculture?

I married into agriculture onto a third generation beef, poultry, and crop farm in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Coming from a city, I didn’t know a thing about the hard work, dedication, and passion that farmers & ranchers have for their craft, and I’m constantly learning!
Professionally, I work for Virginia Cooperative Extension, a resource through Virginia Tech and Virginia State that takes university research and puts it to work practically in communities across the state. With them, I am the Farm to Table Coordinator, working with Farm to School activities, facilitating farm to institution procurement, and working with area farmers for best management practices.
I also “agvocate” through my personal blog – PaintTheTownAg.com – where I share our family’s chapter in the big book of agriculture.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

Prior to working in Cooperative Extension, I was a preschool special education teacher in an urban school system. I began to notice the disconnect that the kids and their families had with agriculture, even though the city was surrounded by rural area and farms. I started small by bringing agriculture into my classroom on a regular basis, and that evolved into “Farm Friday” for us, a regular partnership with other grades and community members to learn about different aspects of agriculture.
From there I started a school and district-wide program called Farming in the City to connect the elementary kids with agriculture – I’m happy to say that this is something still going strong at the school where I used to teach, even though I am no longer working there.

What is your favorite part of being an agvocate?

My absolute favorite part is being able to answer questions and dispel myths about the “American Farmer.” For most groups or individuals that I encounter, my short hair, glasses, and stylish clothes completely throw them off when I tell them I’m from a farm. It has led to some great conversations!

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

I find two things challenging when advocating for agriculture. For one, Americans in general are very passive about the source of their food, fiber, and fuel. It’s hard to agvocate when the majority are not concerned. The second challenge is being a voice in a sea of passionate individuals who are either 1) working for a cause, or 2) have passion (and speak loudly!) with little factual information.

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

Don’t hesitate to jump in, but also think carefully about 1) what you want to advocate for within agriculture, and 2) make sure you have resources to support you when questions start rolling your way!
If you married into the farm and are representing the farm at all on social media – make sure you have a pow-wow with the decision-makers on the farm to clarify and come to a consensus on what you will post.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or twitter chat?

I attended the #AgChat conference in Austin last year, as well as hop onto the weekly Twitter chats as much as my schedule allows. The Twitter chats are great for connecting farm/ranch bloggers with consumers. The conference was a way to bring SoMe to life – literally! I met so many people that had only been Gravatars to me before! J This was by far the biggest takeaway, as well as some AMAZING keynote speakers.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation is another “tool in the toolbox” so to speak. I look to the Foundation as a resource and model for conversations, posts, and other engagements.

BrianLaurenCows2015Lauren Arbogast is an avid agvocate and blogs about her story in agriculture at www.paintthetownag.com. Her description: City girl meets farm boy. Asks no less than 7 million questions. Has first date on a tractor. Says “yes” atop a Ferris Wheel. Passes farm wife bar exam. Sprouts 2 mini-farmers. Trades religion for a relationship. Finds the joy in life. Realizes she has a chapter to tell in the book of agriculture. Catch up with Lauren on her blog and on Twitter @PaintTheTownAG.


Featured image photo credit to Anna Spears Photography

Farm and Ranch Agvocate Database

ag blogger database image

You asked, we listened! We have received many requests for a resource guide which organizes agriculture agvocates’ blogs and social media pages by production type, methods or area of food production. There are numerous aspects of agriculture and this will provide a resource when you’ve received a question pertaining to an area which you unfamiliar. For example, a turkey farmer has received a question about the side dressing process. The turkey farmer can access this document and find a row crop farmer who can assist in answering the question.

Just click on the image to link to the Farm and Ranch Agvocate Database, or click here! Are you a Twitter lover? Then click here for a list of the agvocate’s Twitter handles (in a Twitter list, of course!).

Do you write an ag related blog or agvocate on social media on a page that isn’t included in the list? Please leave your blog URL, your twitter handle, Instagram handle, and/or Facebook page link in the comments below and we will check it out!


New Series: Why do I agvocate? – Farm Barbie

We are pleased to bring agriculture advocates a new series called “Why Do I Agvocate?” Often times we can become caught up in the numbers, likes, views, rates and the excitement of social media. We set expectations for ourselves, our blogs, Facebook farm or fan pages and at times become driven by metrics. When the metric benchmarks aren’t achieved we become frustrated or discouraged. 

Some may find success in their stats or metrics expectation. However before many “agvocates” realize it their original reason of “Why Do I Agvocate?” is gone. Social media then potentially becomes a numbers game. Social media should never be about the numbers but the connections and the impacts you make, big or small.

We can forget why we began advocating for agriculture, telling our stories or agvocating, whichever descriptor you prefer. Others may hold certain expectations of what you should be accomplishing in your advocacy journey. In either case, you cannot let that detract you from your original goal of Agvoacy. The hardcore truth is that there’s a high likelihood that at some point we have all fallen to the numbers and expectations. In an effort to bring the ‘why’ back to advocating, we want to share each other’s ‘whys.’ This week we are beginning with Farm Barbie who has a fantastic story behind her ‘why.’

The Why Behind Farm Barbie written by Barbara Siemen

I didn’t grow up in a small town, or even on a farm. My family lived on a beach, with a lake as our front yard. I attended Catholic school. Everything I wanted or needed was within a 20-minute drive. I consider myself a true city-girl at heart, but now I’m living the life of a country-girl complete with cows in my backyard, more tractor traffic down our road than  cars, and straw, random bolts, and other lovely surprises in my washing machine. How did that happen? Love.

I went to Michigan State University as a Criminal Justice major. After spending my high school years involved in my local police department’s Explorer’s Program, I was bound to be an officer. I had respect and admiration for the law and those who uphold it on the streets. I was determined to remove criminals from society. I loved the feel of a Glock in my hand, the weight of Kevlar on my chest, the look of a fresh-pressed uniform, and the scent of the locker room. We had regular monthly meetings and our own uniforms. I went on ride-a-longs every weekend. I knew the LEIN system, proper search procedure, and could take down and cuff a 250-pound man in seconds. I loved it.

One day, Freshman year in South Hubbard Hall at MSU, I was in the cafeteria eating with my friends, decked out in camouflage pants and a white t-shirt, when I spotted him. Fresh from the weight room wearing a white tank top, yellow mesh shorts, and black lifting gloves, he sauntered into the cafeteria like a boss. I pointed him out to my friends. I was in love.

Dorm dates turned into weekend trips “back home” where I spent time alongside him in a tractor, the milking parlor, or at his family’s frequent gatherings. I was in love with him, but I was falling in love with this occupation and his community. I knew I would be with this man for the rest of my life, but being a cop in a small town would be a super tough job. I decided my future family was more important than my own career aspirations, so I changed my major to English, since language was the only other strength I had and loved as much.

After graduation, we married and moved “back home” to where generations of Siemens’ had lived. We live in the same house he grew up in, on the same parcel of land that his family has owned for over 100 years. We continue the family farming tradition with our three children, in the hopes that they will someday carry on the legacy. Though I don’t have a job outside on the farm, I take care of the office stuff and I blog about agriculture as a way to reach consumers. The reason I do it is really all about love.

Darrin works hard, long hours, and puts all our investments in Mother Nature’s hands, hoping to reap a reward in the future. It takes an enormous amount of faith and love to do this every year. After being married for almost 14 years and watching him toil or triumph over and over, his pure love for agriculture has been transported to me. His love is my love, it’s our family’s love, it’s our future love.

On my blog, and across social media, I share various facets of our life. I show readers our daily happenings, so they can see that we are just like them. I share facts about agriculture, so they can understand that we use science and technology in addition to hard work and dedication to provide quality food to them. I offer recipes, so other moms like me can have options for feeding their family, too. I do all of this out of love, and because it also gives me a creative outlet, a purpose in life apart from my husband and kiddos, and a connection to others I wouldn’t otherwise know in life.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that everyone has struggles and is passionate about something different, which is what makes us all so interesting and unique. A woman that lost her mother to breast cancer might be a prominent voice for breast cancer awareness and research. Someone that has suffered at the abusiveFarm barbie and family hands of a loved one might be a volunteer at a domestic violence shelter. Farmers areno different than anyone else. We are a voice for that thing that we love so much, that thing that has touched our lives and changed us forever. We yearn for the opportunity to reach one more person, to show them our farm, tell them about our animals, to dispel any myths. We get offended when someone questions our intentions or integrity, because we are deeply hurt by the accusation.

I hope through the mirror of their computer screen, readers can see themselves in us; we are human and we make mistakes too. Every day we get up and try our best. We strive and struggle. We conquer and celebrate.
At the end of the day, that thing that makes it all worth it, is love. Farm Barbie is human, and she loves.





Barbara Ann, also known as Farm Barbie, is a city girl turned country chick, thanks to falling in love with a farmer. Now, she’s a stay at home mom and professional farmer’s wife. She is also an amateur photographer, chef, and fashionista and an aspiring children’s book author. Read more about Farm Barbie on her blog www.farmbarbie.com, tweet with her @BarbaraSiemen, and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.