I'm No Farm Girl, But I Am an Ag Communicator



For the majority of my pre-adult life, I knew I was going to be a veterinarian. I grew up with a mother who worked at a small animal practice; I watched surgeries, helped with heartworm tests, asked questions and eventually became an employee. I was so determined, yet I was never motivated. I had gone through high school with my sights set on earning a DVM from Purdue University. My mind changed a few times about the type of veterinarian I would be, but I never acknowledged that maybe veterinary medicine wasn't for me. Not even when my mother, my best friend, and woman who knows me better than I know myself, told me that I was not passionate enough for this. She told me, "Sheradan, you are going to end up doing something with writing or English." I didn't listen. Not until my senior year came, and my entire world came crashing down in a matter of months.

The Dark Days

Purdue University was it. It was my dream school. The only veterinary program in the state and not a bad school to go to, either. I never considered other options and I knew that was where I was meant to be. Problem was, I sucked at math. I failed Pre-Calculus and I was doing poorly in College Algebra. So, when it came time for Purdue to decide whether or not they wanted me, they decided they needed wait and see how I would perform during my first semester of senior year; they deferred me. Fine, it wasn't a no, right? I resubmitted my transcripts and waited. A few months passed and I finally got an answer. Ironically enough, I was at work when everything crumbled; I was at the vet clinic when I finally realized I wasn't going to be a veterinarian. I wasn't going to Purdue.

I was crushed. And I had no idea what to do. I cried. I got angry. I was afraid to tell anyone at school. What happened? It was so bad, that I refused to read the official letter. I had been accepted to Iowa State, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State, but not Purdue. Not my beloved in-state university. I was ready to pack my bags and become a die hard fan of Pistol Pete, but my mother was not having it. She made me do my research and search my soul for other options. That was when I discovered ag comm and everything started making sense again.

Once I discovered my interest for this new-found field, my mother forced me to read the official rejection letter on my useless Purdue account. I did not want to; I did not care. However, it turned out that I had options. They suggested an Indiana-resident only agriculture program that would allow me to be a part-time Purdue student and a full-time community college student. Sounds great, right? Well, I was still mad. I had a terrible mindset that community college was not good enough. Stupid, stupid, stupid! No, it wasn't where I wanted to be, but it got me to Purdue. I earned my associate degree in 3 semesters and just finished my first full-time Purdue semester this spring. Things aren't always pretty, but I made it! That's right, I'm a Boilermaker.

Finding My New Passion

Now that you have a decent idea of the chain of events that led me to where I am now, let me tell you why I was so intrigued by an agricultural communication major. As I said before, my mom said I'd be a writer. Even though I hadn't really listened, growing up I did have the intention to be a part-time author. I wanted to be the next James Herriot, you see. So, I did have an interest in sharing my story, but that was the extent of it before I discovered ag comm.

Agricultural communication is a broad area. Journalism, public relations, event planning, graphic design, marketing, so on and so forth. I was a bit terrified when I first declared this as my new major, my new career. What was I going to be when I grew up? I didn't grow up on a farm; all I'd done was show cattle that weren't even mine. How could someone like me be a communicator for the agriculture industry? How could I ever be credible?

During my freshman year of college, I had a bit of a relapse because of these doubts I'd formed in my head. I was worried I was giving up on my dreams; that I would never be enough if I didn't become a doctor. So, I met with a pre-vet advisor, realized that there was no way I could successfully take a Purdue physics course and I have had zero regrets since. Sometimes doubts don't go away, but you can't deny your passions.

By the end of my sophomore year, I had a plan and a new direction for my novels. I had created a new career outline for myself: I will work at an animal health company as a social media expert, travel the world to experience different types of animal agriculture systems and write incredible books about my adventures trekking across the globe. Now, instead of being the next James Herriot, I aspire to be an agricultural version of Bill Bryson.

I chose agricultural communication because as someone who was not exposed to agriculture growing up, I understand how distant we can be from our food source. Less than 3% of the American population has direct contact to the ag industry and less than 1% are actual living farmers. Times have changed. I have changed. I chose ag comm because I want people to not only love their food, but understand it. I want them to ask questions and expect real, accurate, credible answers. I am an agvocate, communicator, student, whatever you want to call me, because I am passionate. I get angry. I talk a lot. I write too much. I crave to learn more. This industry creates livelihoods and keeps us alive! How can I not be passionate for that? How could I not stand up for that? Our world has become so instantaneous, yet we are so disconnected. No one wants to read or research or explore. We want fast facts and many times we don't even care where these facts are coming from. We don't have time to ask questions, but curiosity has literally changed the way our world functions! If Einstein or Thomas Edison didn't have any curiosity, what would our world look like?

So, I have decided I will find a way to truly engage with people and make animal agriculture exciting, not scary. Because it is not a scary thing. More people are beginning to ask questions about their food, but are they actually curious about where it is coming from or are they just concerned about the colorful labels on their milk cartons and meat packages? It goes so much deeper than what we see on the shelves.

Animal agriculture will never be glamorous, but it will always be real and authentic. Livestock producers are kind, gentle and care so much about the well-being of their animals. Family-owned farms still exist and new technology is amazing. It isn't "big ag" or "factory farming." It is real life and it is amazing. That is why I chose ag communication. Someone has to start the conversation. If it takes a city girl who just happened to fall in love with beef cattle, fine. I won't bite my tongue any longer just because I am not a farm girl; I am an ag communicator.

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