Our Story: Michelle Keyes

Michelle KeyesHello, my name is Michelle Keyes and I come from a fifth generation family farm located just outside of Springfield, NE. I am currently a freshman at Kansas State University majoring in Agriculture Communications and Journalism. I have two other sisters who are majoring/majored in Ag Comm at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. (I know, I’m a traitor, but I have my husker pride mixed with a little Wildcat fever.)

I attended a high school located just outside Omaha, Nebraska where you could count us “farm kids” on one hand. In fact, most of the kids in my school didn’t even know that FFA existed let alone knew that 4-H wasn’t just crafts, sewing and baking. I was called to Ag Comm by my drive to share my story of agriculture with others my junior year of high school.

One day in Foods, my teacher got up in front of the class and said we were going to watch the film called, “Food Inc.”. I had previously viewed this film and knew it did not portray the agriculture industry favorably. I decided I had two choices: I could leave and let my peers be brainwashed into believing every word of Food Inc., or I would stay and educate them on what actually goes on on the family farm. I chose to stay and it was that day that I realized my dream was to be a spokesperson for the ag industry.

Food Inc

Today I am so much more aware of the growing gap between consumer and producer. I urge each and every person in agriculture to step up, and speak out. Our generation will face the greatest problems agriculture will have to overcome. If we come together, we will come out on top. #agvocate

Meet the Class: Topanga McBride

Topanga2Agriculture is in my blood. That much is clear. However, for a long time I did not think that agriculture was the future for me. I was going to be a band teacher. Or a politician. Or a journalist. But certainly, I was not going to have a future in agriculture. That was what was expected of me and I did not like being predictable. I was going to make an impact on the world, not become a vet like every other farm girl dreamed of doing.

Things changed when I hit high school. I left the rural, community-based school district in Windsor and transferred to the new, shiny Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins. It was only 6 years old and filled with students who primarily came from families of doctors and engineers. There were more options for advanced classes and much more room to explore; the only downside was that it did not have an FFA program like Windsor. But I was not going to go into agriculture! Not being able to participate in FFA was a small price to pay for a more challenging education.

Fossil Ridge was a culture shock for me. I got some weird looks when I came walking in with my boots and my belt buckle. When word got out that I raised dairy cattle, the questions came flooding in. “How many cows do you have?” “Do you milk them yourself?” “Can you ride a cow?” “How many udders does a cow have?” I even was asked in many of my classes to teach my classmates about my cows.

The day my pigs were butchered, I brought in fresh bacon to share – that’s how I made friends my first year. Shockingly, one of my best friends from high school is a vegetarian. In fact, I made plenty of vegetarian friends at school. While we disagreed on many things, I was able to share some insight with them and we were able to bond over our love for animals.

Topanga McBrideOver those four years, I realized how different life could be just on the other side of I-25. There was no education about agriculture available for any of these kids. I had taken for granted how lucky I was to grow up raising cattle. I also realized how fortunate I was to attend a high school with an urban mindset. The agriculture community is not reaching out to urban society; we are too afraid to reach outside of our comfort zone to our own consumers.

I am so thankful for my years at Fossil Ridge High School. Attending a school where agriculture was not in the vocabulary is the reason why I see my future in agriculture. 83% of the American population lives in an urban area and that number is growing. We need people educated in agriculture and communication to educate the world on where their food, clothing, and other necessities come from. We also need people who can bridge the gap between urban and rural society so that producers and consumers can work together to make a better product and improve practices. We need people not scared to venture outside of the comfort of agriculture and into the rest of the world. My experiences raising livestock combined with my experiences at Fossil Ridge have inspired me to become one of the leaders in bridging the gap between urban and rural society. I am incredibly grateful for my past, because it has helped me realize my future.

Agriculture is in my blood. That much is clear. Now I know that agriculture is the future for me.

Why I Advocate: Loagan Rodvelt

Logan RodveltMy name is Loagan Rodvelt. I grew up in Horton, KS, a very small town where everyone knew everyone. It was rough living there, but I knew I wouldn’t regret it and here’s why. One day I overheard some of my classmates talking about agriculture. They weren’t really supporting farmers in any way, shape, or form. These were the type of people that if they didn’t like you, they wanted to “teach you a lesson” if you said a “sarcastic” comment, when it wasn’t even sarcastic… it was the truth. It really was a challenge to stand up to them and to at least say what I felt about the situation.

I didn’t say anything to them for the longest time. I just let it go right past me like nothing was ever said, but one day I decided to stand up to them. I showed them what I did for agriculture and told them that without farmers, we would starve. I told them about 4-H and how it has impacted my life. I stood up to them, because I wanted to stand up for agriculture. That’s what I have been around all my life so that’s the only thing I know. Honestly, it felt good standing up for agriculture because I was standing up for what I believed in.

Moral of the story, don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because you have heard some bad things about it, doesn’t mean any of it is true. Take time to realize that there’s more to that subject than just what you have heard. Farmers are doing all this work to help feed people all over the world and they barely get any credit for it. So the next time you see a farmer, thank them for your meal. You’ll make their day a million times brighter!

Our Story: Kendal Peterson

Kendal PetersonAs a college kid who grew up on a family farm in central Kansas, I am well aware of how much work goes into producing that bag of groceries shown in this picture. However, I am one of the 2 percent of the population that is still involved in the production side of agriculture. My name is Kendal Peterson and I am a student at Kansas State University and the youngest brother in the trio of the Peterson Farm Brothers.

So the question is… does that other 98% of the population consider the work put into those products in their grocery cart? Maybe only 2% of the population is directly involved in production agriculture now, but it wasn’t always that way. Most people can go back a few generations in their family history and find a grandpa or a set of great grandparents who ran a farm. In those few generations however, the understanding of the role of the agricultural industry can be lost.

This may sound like a small problem to some, but it is growing more and more every day. The ag industry is expanding, but so is the world population, so our industry needs to stay ahead of the game with advancements. This includes advancements in production agriculture, agricultural communications, and everything in between. So as a farm kid who wants to return to the farm after college, I am definitely passionate about the potential of this industry as it grows and adapts to the changes in the world.

I loved growing up on a farm, but I didn’t realize how unique and critical the “field” of production agriculture (Haha, get it?) was until about 2 ½ years ago. When my brothers and I created a farming parody music video that went viral we were launched into the forefront of the agriculture industry. I was 15 at the time we released our first video and I have been learning more about advocating for agriculture ever since. We were blown away by the reaction to the first video and have made 5 more since then. The crazy thing is, the more I learn about the ag industry and the problems that it is currently up against, the more passion I feel towards supporting and promoting it now and in the future.

My goal as an advocate for agriculture is to challenge people to find that source of passion in their own lives. When I talk to someone about something I am passionate for such as the beef industry or K-State sports, I often talker faster, louder, and use more inflection in my voice. I can almost feel the passion I have for the topic as I describe my point of view. When you find your own passion, that passion may grow out of control and you may find yourself communicating it to others, and that it when your passion turns into something bigger.

Welcome to K-State!

The student of the first-ever Leadership in Agricultural Advocacy CAT Community course are starting class Thursday, August 28!

Check here to read their blog posts and learn more about how they are learning to become advocates for agriculture. They will also share experiences from their first semester at K-State!

Be sure to check back soon for more!

-Nicole, the learning assistant