The Truth about Women in Ag

This is not a “woe is me” I am a woman in a man’s world. This is a post about how to make yourself stand out as a woman in agriculture. 

Women are making a difference in agriculture, on the farm and in the office. According to the USDA, 31% of American farmers were women. But that does not even cover the women that are involved in the industry, not as farmers.

When researching women’s involvement in agriculture, I found some interesting information. In the state of Alabama (where I live) state youth organizations have a high level of female involvement – in one organization, 64% of the presidents in the last 14 years were female. However, when I measured the state “young” agriculture organizations the numbers were closer to 25% of past leaders were females. In state organizations less than 10% of leaders (on average) were female.

I do not have the answers to why, or how to change this. But I think a lot of it involves support and confidence. This blog will hopefully inspire you to make yourself stand out and feel comfortable joining the conversation.

Own your shit

women in agriculture
Whether you’re good at something or bad at something, own it. Don’t ever be embarrassed by not being good at something. But definitely never be ashamed for being great at something. Be proud, don’t let that get overshadowed or oversimplified by others.

This is one that I have realized all people, but especially women struggle with. The biggest piece to this is believing in yourself. If you don’t believe you can do something, no one else will either.

Accept your differences

So many women aim to do everything guys can do, but that is not necessary. Aim to do the best you can at everything that you do. For a great example of how to do this, read this post from Adrian Brannan, Buckaroogirl. It is one of my all time favorites.

If you don’t have time to read it, here is my favorite excerpt: As a woman, you were created to be something more. Someone tough in ways that are almost impossible. Someone that can handle more than she should be able to.

But also realize, no matter your gender, you will never get something you don’t ask for… a job, a raise, a promotion, a bigger piece of land, a portion of your family’s farm.

Share your story

Step up, stand up, take a seat at the table to create change. Sharing your story allows you to impact consumers by teaching them about agriculture.  Bruce Vincent, author of Against the Oddsexplained in a talk recently that agriculture cannot operate without the social consent of the public. This means we need the public to understand what we do. To read more about why advocating is important, visit this past blog.

Women supporting each other.
But more importantly sharing your story shows other women what a strong, successful woman in agriculture is capable of accomplishing. One of my favorite quotes from FarmHer is “Images change perceptions. Perceptions become reality. A new reality means equal treatment, pay, opportunities, involvement and recognition.” So share images and share your story in a way that allows others to see the truth about women in agriculture.


The Truth about Ground Beef Temperatures

This weekend is Memorial Day, which means a time to honor the fallen that have protected this great country that we so love. It is also unofficially the start of the summer grilling season. National Hamburger Day also falls on Sunday. This provides us with a lot of different reasons to grill.

We all have our favorite things to grill, but I would argue that hamburgers are the most popular. But the proper cooking of ground beef is incredibly important to food and family safety.  All ground beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Grilling temps for steaks and ground beef

Photo courtesy of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Facebook page

Why can I have my steak medium-rare, but not my hamburger? Bacteria. Bacteria can only exist on the surface of the steak – and they get killed once it gets cooked. But Erin Beasley, who has a Master’s degree in Meat Science, explains how ground beef is produced differently.

“To make ground beef we begin with whole muscle cuts such as chuck meat and we place it into a grinder. Once we grind and mix it into ground beef, any bacteria present on the surface of that product will exist throughout the ground beef because of the grinding process.”

Beasley says that is why it is imperative to cook ground beef to 160 degrees and ground turkey or chicken to 165. Doing so will prevent food borne bacteria. Beasley is also the assistant executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and is affectionately known as the “Beef Girl.”
Another common issue that arises with grilling hamburgers is leaving them out on the counter or out in the sun for too long. Beasley’s suggestion is to practice the 40-140 rule.

Cheeseburgers on the grillThis means keep all products under 40 degrees or over 140 degrees. “Meat products that sit in the danger zone between 40-140 degrees can create an environment for bacterial growth and increase your risk of food borne illness,” explained Beasley.

If you follow the 40-140 rule and cook all ground beef to 160 degrees, then the odds of a food borne illness messing up your meal, family time or holiday weekend are much lower! And makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

If you’re at a loss for what to cook this Memorial Day weekend, then look into the “Beef Girl’s Special.” Erin pats out two thin burgers, and then places a large slice of cheese on one of the patty’s. She then places the other patty on top and forms the two to make a good size burger with cheese inside. Once it is grilled to 160 degrees she likes to top it with bacon and a fried egg. Top it with a good bun and you have a delicious and safe burger that supports a couple different animal agriculture groups!

If you are worried about hormones in your meat, then read this post. Happy grilling and remember the truth about ground beef temperatures!


The Truth About Feedlots

Feedlots are depicted as gross, dirty, small and dangerous. That is not the case at all.A feedlot is a type of animal feeding operation, or AFO. Feedlots actually allow for 125 to 250 square feet of space per animal. This may not sound like a lot, but cattle are gregarious animals. They enjoy the company of other animals. Even cattle in large pastures will group together.

How confining are feedlots?Feedlot pens allow for 125 to 250 square feet of space for animal

Here are some numbers that a farmer who runs a concentrated animal feeding operation calculated.

New York City, NY spans 302.64 square miles and is home to 8,405,837 people which equals 27,775 people per square mile.

Manhattan, New York spans 22.96 square miles and is home to 1,626,159 people which equals 70,825 people per square mile.

The feedlot portion of her farm spans 0.156 square miles and is home to 2,772 bovines which equals 17,769 cattle per square mile.

Cattle are more confined in a feedlot than they would be in a pasture, but that does not automatically mean that they are unhappy and unhealthy.

Why/How are feedlots used?

A feedlot in Texas

A feedlot in Texas.

Feedlots are used to help cattle put on weight quickly. At feedlots cattle are fed grain with varying levels of protein that are adjusted over time. The lowest level of protein and grain is fed when the cattle first come into the feed yard. This provides the cattle’s digestive system with time to adjust to their new diet. This is necessary, not because grain is bad for a cow’s diet, but because completely changing a diet in any animal, including humans, can be unhealthy.

This type of diet allows the cattle to grow quicker than if they had lived off grass for the rest of their life. This provides for the delicious marbling that we love in our steaks. How is this possible? Because “..we focus on providing a readily digestible, high-energy diet; reducing the amount of energy expended to find food, directing more toward growth, and managing the cattle to minimize stress and health problems,” explain Ryan Goodman, in his blog.

The cattle that come to feedlots come from green pastures. That means that all cattle are grass-fed at one time, they just are not finished on grass.

How are cattle treated? Cow horses in a feedlot.

Cattle are not abused at feedlots, they are actually cared for extremely well. In feedlots there are cowboys whose only job is riding around and checking each pen multiple times a day. This means that cattle in feedlots are constantly being looked at, so if any problem arises it is easily noticed and fixed. Some people might even argue that cattle are treated better in feedlots, because they have constant supervision and care.

I have personally seen many feed yards, mainly out west, that proved to me they’re similar to other farmers and ranchers; they care for their cattle every day, no matter the weather.

If you are interested in touring a cattle feedlot, feel free to contact me and I will put you in contact with someone that can help. Or you can visit this website for a virtual tour! After seeing the truth about feedlots, first-hand or virtually, I hope you better understand why and how they are used. Just because there is a higher concentration of animals does not mean that abuse occurs. 


The Truth About “Agvocating”

44f9172d1c2a1a2acfc895e2730594e6Four generations, two percent and fifty-eight. These are all numbers that apply to the agriculture industry. How so?

Four Generations: Most people are four generations removed from the family farm. This means they are not involved in the day to day operations of raising or growing food.

Two percent: Only two percent of Americans are farmers. This means that 98% use a farmer every day, but they probably do not know one. This combined with the average person being four generations removed from the farm raises issues where people could have unanswered questions about their food. But they don’t know how to get their questions answered because they do not know a farmer.

Fifty-eight: This is the average age of most farmers in the United States. While that is not old by any means, they are not the people most commonly sharing what they’re doing on social media.
These numbers are just a few of the reasons we should advocate for agriculture. Now what is advocating for agriculture? Well it might be easier to explain what it is not.

Agvocating is Not:

It is not bashing organic, conventional or even vegetarianism. It is not telling people they are stupid because they do not understand or agree with you. It is not just blindly sharing articles and statuses without reading or responding. It is not you marketing your farm, ranch or brand.

Agvocating Is:

Being open with your friends and followers about what is happening on your farm. Being willing and ready to answer questions about hot topic
issues (like subway’s antibiotic free statement). Being aware of what is being said about the industry and explaining why you do what you do. Untitled copy

How to Advocate for Agriculture:

A picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures better illustrate the truth of what is happening on your farm. A picture inside your hog barn, showing the cleanliness. A video of you moving cattle to show that it’s done humanely. Share a status about why antibiotics are used on your farm. Allow people to get involved in your everyday practices. I’ve seen farms ask people to name calves through social media, people love that because they feel important and valued in the process. Invite people to your farm, be willing to be transparent and honest.

“If you care about ag being accurately represented, know that we need every voice in the conversation.”

The most important part of advocating is like Nike says, to just do it. There are lots of anti-agriculture groups out there that are bashing agriculture. We need to start standing up for ourselves.

The next most important part of advocating is to not bash other farmers or non-farmers, we have plenty of others doing that for us. People are curious about where their food is coming from, be willing to intelligently, honestly and transparently answer their questions. Join the conversation and share the truth about the agriculture industry.