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Worthless Piece of Sh . . . Steak?

When it comes to steak, high-quality is the BEST.

Picture from http://tinyurl.com/a3ywtbt

A steak for me has to have flavor, juiciness, and be cooked medium rare. I prefer it to be Prime, too, or the best it can be. To me agriculture is similar … today’s agriculturists are pushing for agriculture to be the best IT can be, helped by growth and advances in technology. This makes me happy.

But Yahoo! Education ran a story a while back that said an agriculture degree was worthless — #1 most useless, actually. (Read more about what you just heard, here.)  If more people populate the world, then more food and fiber must be produced and distributed.  If more food is produced, then the land we have must be used with great care. This paradigm shift has actually reinforced what agriculturists have known all along: An ag degree is an important degree, and not surprisingly, university enrollment in agriculture programs is on the rise according to various media news sources, which you can view here, here, and here. And here.

As a new semester starts at Missouri State University, I am reminded of how many types of degree programs are offered: the basics which are not really basics = animal science, agribusiness, agronomy, and agriculture education. Let’s not forget to add wildlife conservation and natural resources.

Furthermore, agriculture cannot sustain and expand without agriculture law and agriculture communications. While it is important to grow the crops, we must also be able to market those crops and continue to protect our agricultural interests. As I have learned in my agriculture public relations class, it does not matter your background — we all have that same goal . . . to tell a compelling story about how agriculture affects us!

Politicians — and Yahoo! journalists (everyone, really, who hates on farmers and ranchers) — should take their feet out of their mouths and walk through rural America to get a REAL picture of what’s happening behind grocery stores and farmers markets.

Agriculture IS important; it is what sustains us. This need will always create a demand for jobs. Agriculture is, and will always be, the prime choice for degrees and jobs.

Rock on farm on,


Taylor Short is an undergraduate student studying agricultural communications at Missouri State University. When she hears people talk about the futility of an ag degree, she places a slab of beef over her forehead to cool her temper. Find us on Facebook. Find us on Twitter (@ilovefarmersorg). Got a story to tell? Get it published by sending it to anthony@ilovefarmers.org.

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The Anti-Gun

I try not to but from time to time I watch the mainstream news show Piers Morgan Tonight. It’s on CNN in the evenings. The show is named for the British guy, Piers Morgan, who reports news to an non-British audience . . . that would be us; do the Brits watch a non-British-English person who speaks the American dialect? It’s weird to think a British guy reports American news. That’s diversity though I guess. It would be cool to have a Jamaican guy report the American news to Americans.

Food brings people together. Photo from http://tinyurl.com/buwo4ex


I enjoy the show, but I try not to watch it because my 2013 resolution was not to watch news channels that, though better than others, still report the stuff that’s not the main issues which affect our society. Mental health never really is considered. So others go mainstream.

Lately The Brit has been talking ‘bout guns. (Read more about the guns for food drive here.)

He’s definitely on a mission. Democrat or Republican I’m not sure. He seems like a stradler somewhere between the two dominant parties. I’m there with him. Some of these other parties like Tea Party and Libertarian should continue their missions. Recruit Piers Morgan! Everyone’s got a mission. GO FOR IT!

On the show, Piers Morgan (I have to call him by both names, have to) had the guy from America’s Most Wanted, John Walsh, tell him to keep up the fight. Keep up the fight — talk about words that are both powerful and ironic. One part inspiring and another humorous; quite humorous and often times awkward too. I used to LOVE America’s Most Wanted.

After I laughed for a bit, I remembered what I was thinking about while watching the show. I thought, What matters to the media? What matters is not food. Mostly the news is about death and violence, and sometimes one ridiculous segment that attempts to add bright colors to the negativity. Maintain a constant state of fear. Control the masses. Piers Morgan Tonight is the show for everyone!

Yeah he’s talking about guns and not food. But it’s not his fault because no one is dying from starvation. No one in the U.S., that is. You’ll see statistics about hungry children. I see them all the time. Please support your local food bank as much as you can. Donate food or form a community potluck and use the picnic area at a local park. Invite everyone and share food and fellowship.

Share food — for food is the anti-gun.

Adios Compadres,


Anthony Pannone is an agricultural leadership, education, and communications graduate student at Texas A&M University. He speaks with a British accent from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., which is of course tea time. Tally ho! Get your story published on the ILF website. Send to anthony@ilovefarmers.org.

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One Conversation

I was talking with my friend Kyle the other day and pretty much convinced him that he too takes place in agriculture—he serves the food that farmers grow.

As a Georgia gal living in Texas, there is one debate I have constantly battled in over the past 18 months—Bar-B-Que. I am often asked “What’s your favorite kind?” or “Do y’all even have brisket in the South?” In addition to the type of meat (pork vs. beef), the sauce is discussed. Regardless of the type (pork vs. beef) or the cut (Boston butt vs. ribs vs. brisket), there is one thing I know—I love BBQ, and I can thank agriculture for this delicious meal.

The power of words. One conversation is all it takes to connect emotionally through food with other foodies.

In the recent conversation with Kyle, who runs Lew’s BBQ Food Trailer in College Station, Texas, it hit me: One cool thing about agriculture is it touches and grabs everyone, even those who haven’t thought about the connection before. A lot of times (as we should) we typically focus on the producers, the farmers, of our food. Those that labor 24/7/365 to ensure that we have the safe and most affordable food supply in the world. However, we also need to recognize the individuals who help farmers get their product(s) to market.

Being raised in the beef industry, I appreciate those who create foodstuffs that showcase the flavors of our agriculture. When beef was on the menu at the Black house, when terms such as rib eye, top round, brisket, T-bone, and sirloin were mentioned, not only did I realize they were beef, I knew where they were located on the animal. Although this knowledge might seem strange to the average consumer, it helped me help Kyle connect with agriculture.

I know back home we do Georgia style cook-offs, so I just got excited to connect someone to agriculture that had never looked at it in that way before.

When this connection occurred, I realized again how easy it is to start conversations about agriculture and make connections. A classroom full of students does not have to be your only avenue to spread the news about an industry that drives our country’s (and others’) economy—you never know, an avenue might just be an afternoon smoking a few butts for a Saturday night cookout.

Food and fiber touch everyone’s soul. So thank a farmer, producer, processor, marketer, economist, veterinarian, salesman, and consumer.

For together we keep our industry strong.


Caroline Black is a graduate student studying agricultural leadership, education, and communications at Texas A&M University. She’ll steal your bbq brisket off your plate when you’re not looking, so eat up! Share your story with us. Send to anthony@ilovefarmers.org.


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I’m Hot. I’m Sweaty. We Ran.

I’ve run a half marathon but never a full one.

Sign up for the nearest marathon or half marathon and wear your bib proudly! And pick a nickname that means somthing. . . .

About full marathons, I heard from dedicated marathoners that they are gnarly and will leave your legs shaking and your heart pounding—plus you sweat a lot; a half will do just the same, trust me.

A group of us ILF Nationers ran a half marathon recently; a full marathon is roughly 26 miles, a half is roughly 13. Catalysts for Conversation from Arkansas and Texas who consider American agriculture the best signed up for the Bryan-College Station Marathon + Half Marathon. We represented I Love Farmers because we wanted to, and  we were proud to do so. If you have a chance, thank Arkansas’ Sara Mills Landis for setting up the event. Without her initiative, ILF would not have been motivated to represent American family farmers and ranchers while running and panting and sweating.

Before race day on Saturday December 8th, we ate a pre-race dinner at Luigi’s Patio Ristorante. The Texas Beef Council hosted the dinner and we’re thankful they invited us. On the menu, spaghetti and meatballs and veal parmesan; some chose s’ghetti and some veal. How cool that we got to choose what we wanted to eat. Both options came with pasta, and pasta is carbohydrates, and carbs give you energy and should be eaten before any athletic competition.

On race day we gathered near the starting line. The race was set to begin at 7 a.m., which meant the sun had yet to make an appearance. Though it was dark, we were anxious to run and you could tell we were excited to be there. After the National Anthem, the race began! Everyone shouted and the vibes were positive.

All of us finished the half marathon. No one raced against each other; though we passed each other and got passed, we encouraged each other along the way. The route led us all over Bryan-College Station, and we weaved through the Texas A&M University campus. Aggieland WHOOP! . . . Thanks and Gig ‘em.

If you’re wondering what you can do to promote food and fiber, farmer and ranchers, I encourage you to think outside the box and find ways to make U.S. agriculture crazy sexy cool. We hear this often, no doubt. However, what does it mean? It means you establish relationships with people and enjoy the ride. Use social media or face to face communication. After all, life is an unpredictable run and you never know what might happen.

Adios Compadres,


Anthony Pannone is a Texas A&M University Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications Graduate Student. After he ran he sat down on his couch and could not move because his legs were way too sore. Share you story with ILF by sending it to anthony@ilovefarmers.org.


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A Cranberry Crime Story

As you work on finishing off your leftover turkey and potatoes, here’s a bit about how Thanksgiving works around the DeGroot household:

Like many American families, my family eats a standard Thanksgiving meal. Potatoes, green beans, stuffing, and pies all surround a huge turkey. It is the same meal whether we make it at home or go eat with relatives or friends. Variations in recipes or ingredients are acceptable, and even add some variety to the table, but there is one dish that my mom will not let anyone make but herself. If we are coming to your house for Thanksgiving, you better save a spot on the table for my mom’s cranberry dressing.

Everyone in my family loves to pile the cranberries alongside the turkey, so they are a mandatory part of the meal. My mom would argue that there is a very thin line between under-thinking the cranberries and over-thinking them. Let’s begin by discussing how they might be missing their potential.

If a Thanksgiving police unit existed, my mom would apply for the job and make it her number one priority to get rid of all canned cranberry products in the grocery store. She almost finds it insulting to put a dish of cranberry jelly, usually still shaped the can it came in, next to a beautiful turkey that has a lot of love and cooking time in it. It is worse than putting ketchup on an expensive steak. These cranberry products often include more extraneous ingredients than they do cranberries. Unless they were homemade and put in a jar by someone who loves you, it is probably not worth putting on the table.


There is another crime that can be committed in the Thanksgiving kitchen, the overloaded cranberries. This concept is one that equally bothers my mom and me. I love turkey, and the rich, savory experience it brings to my taste buds. That flavor is only is enhanced by the addition of lightly sweetened cranberries. The experience, however, can be completely ruined if those cranberries bring all their friends to the party and overcrowd the place. I’m talking about superfluous ingredients in the dressing. This becomes a problem when we go to a new place for Thanksgiving. Someone hears that my mom is picky about her cranberries, so they look up and prepare the most extravagant recipe on the Food Network website. The addition of oranges, other dried fruit, nuts, anything green, and apples is what transforms it from a condiment for my turkey into an autonomous side dish.

We have some very simple rules for creating a good cranberry sauce. The first rule: It must be home made. Don’t heat up a can and pretend you made it yourself. We are smarter than that, and we will point out your deception. Second rule: There are only 3 ingredients you may use — whole cranberries, sugar, and water. Don’t use orange juice, because then you are making orange sauce with cranberries in it.

I wish we had a great reason for our cranberry sauce purism, but the truth is that we simply think it tastes the best that way. If it really came down to it, I would argue that we are trying to keep Thanksgiving “historically correct.” I have researched the topic, and cranberries are one of a handful of fruits that grew natively in North America. At the time of the pilgrims, they probably didn’t have things like oranges and almonds available to add to the meal, but they had plenty of cranberries. I know that there are other elements of the meal that are historically inaccurate, and that conversation would make for some good mealtime entertainment.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and have Happy Holidays!


Luke DeGroot is an agribusiness senior at California Polytecnic State University, aka Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo. Don’t try to sneak canned cranberry sauce into his Thanksgiving traditions; he’ll catch you and make you sit at the kid’s table. Your voice matters so we we hope you share your story with us. Send it to anthony@ilovefarmers.org.

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Feed the World

I will ask two questions.

Question #1: What does “Feed the World” mean?

We see what has become agriculture’s noble cliché in advertisements, posters, memes, and on social media sites that promote only a few segments which comprise U.S. agriculture.

So what does it mean?

To me it means something different than what it means to you. People in the world are starving, have been for years and years, and hey! oh! hello! here in the U.S. we’re hungry too, so I question if “Feed the World” is anything other than an ego booster for a select few American farmers and agribusinesses

Maybe “Feed the World” is a lofty goal that’ll never be reached but a goal nontheless that provides direction for the directionless, and hope for the hopeless.

An answer to my first question requires you to think critically and systematically about our agriculture. It is difficult to break the agro-economy into pieces, because agriculture is everything and everywhere so wrapping total brain matter around the millions of tiny bits that try and are said should feed the world is no doubt a cerebral feat. Perhaps let’s start with a predictable thought: U.S. agriculture is food and fiber, and without family farmers and ranchers you and I are hungry and naked. Really?! But, please, I encourage more thought. Agriculture is also the pages of a book. The ink in a pen. The turf in a stadium. The tires on a car. Even the computer screen you’re staring at right now began as something else—a plant, a rock, a mineral, perhaps an animal?

These and countless other objects comprise the world of agriculture, the Agrosphere.

Think beyond what you know about the Agrosphere. What pieces must we fit together to complete U.S. agriculture’s feed-the-world puzzle? Farmers and ranchers live in the Agrosphere, called production ag. Customers live inside the sphere, called consumption ag: By the way, farmers and ranchers are customers too, so maybe farmers and ranchers should thank customers just as many times as customers are asked (told, advised, guilt-tripped) to thank farmers.

Thanking people is not what this story is about though.

Like jigsaw puzzle pieces, the sectors within the Agrosphere contain sharp corners, flat sides, round juts, asymmetric bodies, and they differ in color. We know the process of building a jigsaw puzzle takes time and challenges patience, often forcing us to concentrate to the brink of insanity and frustration. Dang it … I know this goes there but why won’t it fit! We sort like pieces with like pieces, segregating into piles, and through trial and error finally match two pieces together, maybe three or four. Progress! The puzzle then begins to make sense.

Each jigsaw piece carries its own message, its own story. Unique—just as each farmer and customer. To feed the world, if that truly is the goal and not just a catch-phrase used as bait to attract people to agriculture advocacy groups, to like social media sites, to donate money, or to buy products, we need all the pieces of the Agrosphere on the table, no missing or broken parts, no mixed messages that may deter us from completing the puzzle.

The agriculture I’ve come to know has room for all types of perspectives and opinions. Though some may be wacky, rude, rational, clueless, sad, happy, spiteful, superficial, or expert . . . none are better or worse than another. They are what they are until you and I determine their worth.

Question #2: What does “Feed the World” mean to you?

Adios Compadres,


Anthony Pannone is an ILF Catalyst for Conversation and a Texas A&M University graduate student studying agricultural leadership, education, and communication. He wants to sail to Alaska and live with bears on Kodiak Island. Help his dream come true. Send you story to I Love Farmers via anthony@ilovefarmers.org. Your voice matters.

Photo from http://true-wildlife.blogspot.com/2011/02/brown-bear.html

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Right Meow, Agriculture

I was recently asked why I chose a career in agriculture.

I was at rehearsal for our community theatre’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS, in which I sing first soprano, and had been popping off high Cs throughout rehearsal. I have studied voice for almost 10 years, 5.5 of those were specifically opera. I absolutely love singing and performing, and I was blessed to find this community of incredibly talented people to join when I moved up to St. Joseph, Missouri, for a job at the Angus Journal almost a year ago.

The answer I gave to the why-I-chose-agriculture question is twofold. The first, simply, is that I am passionate about it. I grew up showing cattle, sheep, and rabbits, and we had a small, diversified operation. My best summer memories are working in the barn with my older sister and her best friend, belting out to our “barn CD”; working for showmanship out in the front yard as my parents gave tips and encouragement (even starting a few showstick sword fights, which meant our heifers were fazed by nothing); or our traditional McDonald’s breakfast at almost every show after we had the heifers inside, fed, washed, and dried.

My dad, affectionately known as the Cow Whisperer, was a hoof trimmer, the back-breaking, low-stress kind that picks up each individual foot and trims exactly what needs to be trimmed with a hammer and chisel. He trimmed so many champions of all of the major shows. I traveled with him during the summers and learned quite a bit from many of the beef producers around Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Now he works as the livestock manager at a living history museum, getting to follow his passion for livestock welfare and restoring historical breeds.

My mom has her doctorate in agriculture education with distance learning, and she is my family’s technological guru. She had taught at Texas Tech University, and has contracted with Texas Tech and Ohio State Universities, making more classes available for distance learning. She achieves the admirable goal of making agricultural education available to those who can’t be on campus.

My family is a great example of the many facets of agriculture. My sister is a vice president of loans at an agricultural credit bank, and I’m the associate editor at the Angus Journal. This diversity in all of our interests, but still being in the same industry, leads to my second point.

My second reason for choosing agriculture was because of the opportunities. Agriculture will never go away. Feeding and clothing the world, while sounding a bit cliché at times, is such a noble endeavor; and, even feeding those immediately around you is an under-appreciated accomplishment. However, the best part about U.S. agriculture is that it is so diverse.

Take my family for example. My dad is interested in production ag, animal welfare, and history. My mom is interested in education and technology. My sister is interested in economics, and I am interested in journalism (which, I am quickly learning, means that I must be interested in all of those!).

Agriculture is one of the few careers that thrives despite its many challenges. Market volatility, weather challenges and consumer agricultural illiteracy are, and will continue to be, major obstacles. Desptie it all, the passion, science, and tenacity of agriculturalists will continue thriving.

What agriculturalists must keep in mind, though, is not to self-destruct that which has sustained and sustains us. In the livestock industry especially, conventional, organic, low-stress, direct marketing, feedlots, gestation crates, growth promotants, non-hormone treated, what have you, are all different agricultural styles that in turn offer us customers choices in our food and fiber marketplaces. I trust that (for the most part, because there are always bad apples) animals are produced humanely and with respect for the nourishment of humans, regardless of production style.

I will always be passionate about singing and performing. I know there will always be talented people — musicians and scientists and agriculturalists — making their living and dying to perform their best. I know, too, that I will combine my passion of agriculture with current career stability. Who knows, maybe I can use singing in this Aggie endeavor?

Cultivate your passions,


Associate Editor at Angus Productions Inc., Kasey Miller is part of the Fighting Texas Aggie Class of ’10 and ’11. She studied agricultural communications and journalism at Texas A&M University, and she will sing you or your herd a lullaby. Tweet tweet her @kasey415 and @AJEditor. Contact her via anthony@iovefarmers.org.


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Dude, It’s Meat

Meat means Man: M for masculine. E for egotistical. A for awesome. T for truth.

You should roll what I said into a corn tortilla and enjoy the meat-man taco with a side of queso and warm red salsa or spicy green sauce greatness.

Because if meat disappears so will Man. And Woman too. Without each other the two are hopeless. Whether or not you believe, God knew Man would be a circus freak without Woman’s guidance, intuition, advice, love, discipline, nurture—and money. Thank God for women, and also for meat.


O.M.G. (photo from IBTimes.com)

Technically, chicken and other avian are not meat; they are poultry. Crab, fish, shrimp, and other aquatic beings die and become seafood. Pork is the other white meat, while beef is what’s for dinner. What is alligator?

When Man eats he wants meat. Even when he eats a Twinkie, he 1) is thinking about steaks and  hamburgers, or 2) is wishing Hostess would come out with a bacon flavored line of sugary cake foods. When buying meat you don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s meat. You might think Spam is meat (it is, you’re right), but to me Spam is what I get in my Yahoo! inbox. Read the label on a package of meat, and if it says USDA Choice then you know it’s beef that’s better than Select but below Prime. If the package says Tofurky then you know you have an imposter on your hands — immediately place the deceiver back on the shelf, walk away, and tell no one you thought about buying fake meat.

Walmart sells fake meat and real meat. How cool is it that you can buy real meat and a shotgun in one place?! Fake meat seems like an oxymoron to me. Kinda like happy vegans. Deep down, eating meat is primal human instinct, and, though they pretend not to, vegans desire to eat hot dogs and honey, and drive cars or ride bikes whose tires are made from animal by-products. Are bees considered animals or insects? Annoying buzzing furry blobs?

Of course I respect people who choose to abstain from meat: More meat for me! The real meat section at Walmart has many choices. Bolonga (baloney?), pepperoni, frozen burger patties, sliced ham and turkey. You want to experiment with lengua (tongue) or the lining of the stomach (tripe) of cattle or other ruminants such as sheep or goats? Wamart has a hook-up for that. Just ask Eric Zimmerman.


All this talk about meat has made Eric Zimmerman hungry. Thank God Walmart is close. (photo by Anthony Pannone)

Thing is, Eric wants real meat, not the faux pas that MorningStar Farms sells. Between the produce and meat sections in the local Walmart, I asked Eric, “You eat meat?” No hesitation, he replied, “Absolutely.”

Eric is an Aggie who spent 16 years working as an agriculture and natural resources expert for Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension. Now he’s the manager of acquisitions and special projects for Circle X Land and Cattle. He believes the meat market in ten years will be “stable and viable.” Time will tell, and I hope he’s right because, dammit, I depend on Whataburger for every meal. And Chick-fil-a, too, but remember chickens are poultry, not meat, and they taste like chicken.

More important than knowing Eric’s favorite cut of meat, or that Chick-fil-a supports Man-Woman marriage, I asked what superhero power he wants. “Being able to predict the future,” he said. Then, laughing, he said maybe knowing the future would be a negative thing because he’d know his demise.

Which is why, if asked what superhero power you want, you always say X-Ray vision. That, or the ability to be positive and not whine about our food system.

Adios Compadres,


Anthony Pannone is an agricultural leadership, education, and communications graduate student at Texas A&M University. He has Aggie Swag, and he wishes the football team would win a National Championship soon, real soon. Find him on Facebook. Tweet him @agrospheric. Contact him and share your story via anthony@ilovefarmers.org.


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Agriculture Buzz

I started a new school year, and I am overwhelmed at the classes I have the opportunity to take. This got me thinking, and my Mom gets nervous when I “get to thinking,” but, hey, I like to believe I have some great insights.

As a child, one of my favorite Disney movies was Toy Story.  Recently I entered one of my ag classes and was reminded just how vast our agriculture is. In my mind, I could hear Buzz Lightyear shouting “TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!”


Up, up, and away and together we go! (Image from squidoo.com)

This fact sheet, provided by North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, shows “American agriculture provides jobs — including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing, along with retail and wholesale sales — for 15 percent of the U.S. population.” Pretty impressive if you ask me.

Furthermore, the sheet states that 22 million people are directly or indirectly involved in ag. Even more shocking is only 4.6 million of that 22 million people live on farms and ranches, with 2 million people actually farming or ranching. When you think about it, these 2 million people have a huge responsibility.

I am grateful for and in awe of the number of jobs that are in or related to agriculture. To some, the food and fiber system consists of farming or ranching. High school and college students know this is simply not the case. While the good old standard degrees of animal science, ag business, ag education, agronomy, meat science, and horticulture are still pursued, there are many more degree options such as biotechnology, ag engineering, viniculture,  ag communications, ag law, and ag policy. Again, we know agriculture is much more.

Colleges offer various degrees related to agriculture, and options increase as technology advances and innovations emerge.  Many young people with or without a background in food and fiber are pursuing agriculture related degrees, and this is exciting. This encourages me to continue my college education in ag communications. I see changes in the education system as a good sign for me and those of you reading this. I see these changes as future employment opportunities.

Our society changes, and so must the food and fiber system. The NC State fact sheet shows that about 83% of farmers and ranchers have computers that are used daily to stay updated on on market trends and, in general, agriculture trends. Even in tractors or combines, many farmers depend on the latest technology while in the field! In addition, Facebook and Twitter help connect farmers with customers, which leads to a learning opportunity for both. This is great news. And, customers are using their computers to find more information about where their food comes from. Not every farmer or rancher uses social media, but as the image of agriculture gets misrepresented by agenda-driven activists hell-bent on ending what we love, we aggies need to share our story every chance we get!

As the world population continues to grow, an estimated 9 billion people by 2050, our goal as agriculturalists and customers should be to grow and supply enough food and fiber to satisfy everyone.  A big feat this will be. But I know it will happen because we have come a long way from doing everything by hand and pack animal. I think about what the future holds for modern agriculture and it blows my mind. I think of the positive accomplishments of U.S. agriculture, from hi-tech farm machinery to biotechnology to advances in genetics — and so much more.

What lies ahead for our agriculture will certainly be found in infinity and beyond.

Keep it real,


Taylor Short is an ILF Catalyst and an agricultural communications junior at Missouri State University. She once watched the Toy Story series three times in one day. Find her on Facebook and chat about Disney movies. Contact Taylor or share you ag story via anthony@ilovefarmers.org. Follow ILF on Twitter @ilovefarmers.org.

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Farmer Power

Nestled in the San Joaquin Valley, the Friend family has farming in their blood.

As farmers and parents, their time is consumed with managing land and crops and raising children. Over the years, they’ve grown walnuts, prunes, plums, alfalfa, rice, wheat, corn, cotton, and raised cattle. Getting their crops to producers and customers was left to brokers, meaning that once their products left the property, the Friends had little say over its quality and price. One year, a broker ended up selling a large alfalfa crop to a farm just a few miles down the road. That’s when the Friends began working on a better way to buy and sell.

Over a decade later, they’re the driving force behind Horsepower.com. Headquartered in San Luis Obispo, California, Horsepower is shaking up agriculture and giving farmers a new way to market and sell what they grow. Driven by the idea of direct sales, the website is size and practice neutral, which means everyone from large conventional crop producers to backyard organic gardeners will find buyers.

Convincing farmers to use Horsepower can be a challenge though.

Our nation is undergoing a food revolution that spans all aspects of our food production system. Many other organizations and agvocates are tackling one front by educating young Americans about where, how, and why our food is grown. Action can only follow awareness, and so educational endeavors must be supported to ensure that eventual change occurs.


Horsepower is taking on another front. While we don’t expect to put agriculture brokers out of business, we do want farmers to have the freedom to control their business in a couple key ways:
 Managing their online presence.

As a tech startup, the Horsepower team is entrenched in the world of social media, coding, and websites — but our target users are not. Farmers spend their days sowing, branding, harvesting, and producing. They spend long hours on the backs of horses and tractors, getting their fingers dirty grafting and planting. Though Internet use is growing across all age and demographic groups, we’re working on a group notorious for moving slow — and not because they’re not smart, but because they’re busy feeding us.

Just as I Love Farmers is tasked with cutting through the clutter of young adults’ lives, we’re creating a way for farmers to easily and efficiently manage their sales online, for themselves. Farmers have a certain percentage of culls in each crop, and brokers usually can’t take the less than perfect fruit or underweight animal. Traditionally, culls equates to money lost. Supermarket fruit is unnervingly perfect, but not everything that comes off the tree or out of the ground is completely without bruises or nicks, or of the perfect size. Farmers can sell that less than perfect but still good produce on Horsepower.

We’ve also partnered with fairs to allow FFA & 4-H students to sell their underweight animals through the site. Not only does this give them an opportunity to sell their animal, but they’re able to develop some marketing and management skills. At the end of the day, our goal is to educate and support farmers and customers. By cultivating a community of independent growers, we’ll then be able to encourage customers to buy from — and get to know — their food and fiber providers.

We dream of a world where families get affordable, fresh meat, dairy, produce, plants, and more from their farmers while developing an appreciation for farming and food that helps reduce waste and increase knowledge about agriculture.

Got leftovers that you need to sell? Interested in trying out new technology? Visit the online farmers market here. Tweet tweet @horsepowercom. Get updates on the Facbook page here.


Horsepower Crew

The Horsepower crew has developed a solution for maximizing a farmer's profits.



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