Agriculture for Life: How I got Here and Where I’m Going

Hello, all. My name is Daiton but you probably already know that. I grew up on a beef cattle and row crop farm in the rolling hills of Northeast Iowa. I’ve been an “ag kid” from day one. Some of my fondest childhood memories include riding in the combine with my grandpa, bottle feeding baby calves with my dad, delivering late night meals to the fields with my mom, and showing steers with my brother. You could say we are a pretty stereotypical farm family, but my future in agriculture may not look just like this.

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100 years ago, not everyone farmed. But whether they lived just down the road or across town, everyone at least knew a farmer because they were everywhere. This is not true today. Consumers have never been more disconnected from their food because so much of the population doesn’t live near food production. Today, the world needs agricultural communicators.

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Everyone still eats, so why does it matter if they know a farmer? People want to and need to understand where their food comes from and how it is produced. Misconceptions about food and agriculture are being spread faster and more aggressively than ever before. I want to help people understand that everyone in agriculture, from the farmer to the processor and everyone in between, cares deeply about the quality and safety of the product they work so hard for.

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This is why I chose Iowa State University for college and Agricultural Communications as a major and career path. This is why I’m so excited to participate College Aggies Online, and to build my design and short-verse communication skills. It’s why I’m so committed to AGvocating every single day. I want people to know that farmers care and that’s why they work hard every day to feed the world.

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Advocating for agriculture isn’t always easy. In today’s fast-paced media climate, it’s very difficult to capture your audience’s attention and even harder to engage with them. People of all ages have a shorter attention span than ever, and this brings all types of communicators a challenge like never before. It’s up to us, as people involved in agriculture, to be our own spokespeople. We need to be relentless in the pursuit of helping people understand the industry that we all love.

“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words, but of deeds.”

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What I Wish People Knew About Eggs

When you go to the grocery store, what do you typically buy? Maybe some milk, bread, eggs, vegetables, and meat? Do you wonder how these foods are made or where they come from? Are you concerned with the nutritional value of the staple items you buy every week? If you’re curious about the origins of the foods you eat every day, you certainly aren’t alone. Lately, the US and global poultry and egg industries have been under attack for many reasons- from Salmonella to humane caging systems for the chickens. Today, the consumer-to-farmer disconnect is bigger than ever, mostly because larger concentrations of people live further and further from the farms that produce food. Some people think all animal agriculture is terrible and should be illegal. But consumers aren’t to blame here- they simply want to know more about their food. I want to now introduce you to the top five things I wish people knew about eggs.

1. The egg is one of nature’s most complete and wholesome foods.

Each egg packs six grams of powerful protein for building and maintaining muscles in the body. Eggs have no carbohydrates and no sugar, with only 70 calories. Additionally, these tiny powerhouses provide with many essential micronutrients that most people don’t consider, yet are very important to a healthy diet. Eggs provide Vitamin B12 (for energy!), Biotin (for healthy skin and hair!), Choline (for a healthy metabolism!), Molybdenum (for enzyme activity!), Selenium (for cognitive function!), Zinc (for a healthy immune system!), and Riboflavin (for cellular respiration!), just to name a few (American Egg Board, 2016).

2. All eggs are nearly identical in nutritional value.

Some consumers today think the brown-shelled eggs are healthier than white-shelled eggs. The only difference between brown and white eggs is the breed of the chicken that laid it. Additionally, there is no difference in the nutrition of an egg that came from a caged hen versus an egg that came from a cage-free or free-range hen. The only thing that may possibly alter an egg’s nutritional content would be the diet of a hen, but this is very minimal. For example, a free-range hen kept outside for most of the day will scavenge for insects, grasses, flowers, and different types of grains. Because of the addition of insects in the hen’s diet, the eggs may have a slightly higher fat content than commercial eggs. Due to different kinds of plants the free-range bird may snack on, the yolks of its eggs may be darker yellow, but the nutritional value will not be impacted.

3. Animal welfare is of the highest concern of the farmer. 

There’s no one that is more concerned about the safety of the hens than the farmer. As a result of the intensive research that has gone into poultry housing systems throughout the years, several types of caging systems are now used. The most common system is called the battery cage system, which you may have heard of on the news or in pending legislation. Battery cages sometimes earn a bad reputation because they give the birds less room to move around, but also keep them much safer from other aggressive birds than other caging systems. Enriched colony systems typically group several hundred birds together in one very large cage. This space is decked out with laying pads and other do-dads to allow the hens to exhibit natural behavior, but still be productive. The other typically used system is a cage-free aviary where several thousand birds are put in each barn without cages. There are perches set at all levels of the barn so the hens don’t all sit on the floor. While this system allows the bird to exhibit it’s most natural behaviors, it also sees the highest rate of bird injury and disease. Every type of system is inspected daily to meet very high standards of bird welfare so you can rest assured knowing that your eggs came from a happy and healthy hen.

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4. Food safety is highly valued by everyone in the egg industry. 

In addition to strict animal welfare, each site that handles eggs or birds is held to extremely high food safety standards. Each barn is sanitized on a regular schedule to prevent the spread of disease and bacteria that can cause infection. Workers in barns are specially trained to identify sickly birds and remove them from production, so you’ll only get eggs from healthy birds. The barns and egg processing facilities are all inspected daily to assure quality and cleanliness. Additionally, all eggs sold commercially are pasteurized to kill any bacteria that could potentially cause food-borne illness from improper cooking. This is great insurance that your breakfast won’t make you queasy.

5. Eggs just make cent$!

Lastly, and perhaps of most importance to you, eggs are an extremely economical choice in the grocery store. At approximately $0.05 per egg in 2017, eggs just make sense. No wonder they can be found in nearly every refrigerator in America and around the world.

There you have it. What other food is widely available, provides an array of essential nutrients, and tastes amazing? Whether you’re looking for a delicious breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight snack, look no further than the incredible edible egg.

#farmfactfriday The Truth About Real Milk

In my scholastic career, I have written many papers and other works about milk. In fact, I wrote a ten page paper my senior year of high school about the nutritional benefits of dairy milk,  with annotations and medical journal sources included. Why? Because 1.) I am a big nerd and 2.) I feel like this is one of the most important agricultural topics that many consumers today are misinformed about. The United States dairy industry produces more than 20 billion gallons of milk annually, yet many consumers are choosing dairy alternatives at the grocery store. For my Animal Science 211 class this semester, we were asked to create an infographic about any controversial animal science issue of our choice. I thought I would share mine with you.

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Why #Agvocating is so Important to Agriculture Today

American agriculture has been under attack over the course of these past few months. I’m sure you’ve seen the news articles; from headlines concerning the Chipotle E. Coli outbreak to the Subway antibiotic-free meat announcement. Just this week, a PETA activist took to the organization’s blog to explain how “FFA is lame AF”. That post fired up many of my fellow agriculturalists, and rightfully so.

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For many of us, FFA is the organization that started our love for all things agriculture. I, myself, grew up on a farm but I never really saw myself pursuing a career in agriculture until I was an active FFA member. Because of FFA, I learned how to be an effective communicator, how to work in a team, and of course, how to appropriately place a class of Jersey heifers (3-1-2-4). FFA took me places I would have never been otherwise. (National Conventions in Louisville and Indianapolis, Washington Leadership Conference in D.C., etc.) FFA helped me meet lifelong friends and even a few business connections, even as a high school kid. It opened my eyes to the fields of opportunity there are in agriculture today. Perhaps most importantly, FFA taught me how to be a supporter of agriculture by being an AGvocate.

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The Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

Advocacy for agriculture, or agvocacy is very important for our industry. If we, the people actively involved in agriculture, don’t tell the truth about agriculture, who will? Someone will- the misinformed media will, the anti-agriculture PETA activists will, and people who don’t understand modern agriculture will listen to them. It’s time for us to tell our positive stories until we outnumber the amount of negative news stories infiltrating our industry.

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One of my favorite Ag advocacy roles was serving as my county’s beef queen. I got to talk to a lot of consumers and talk to them about the health benefits of beef.

That is the challenge facing today’s agvocates; the media and the uniformed consumer. We NEED to have people understand where their food comes from. The only way we can teach them is to tell them our stories. We need to be open and honest, while listening to their concerns. We need to be loud, and use social media as well as face-to-face interactions to connect with consumers in order to set the record straight. We need to use every opportunity possible to get the word out about the truth of agriculture.

How loud can you be?

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Howdy!

Hello! Let me start out by saying I’m so glad you’re here! My name is Daiton and this blog is something I’ve been working on in my head for quite some time now.

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Recently, I attended a GROW by FarmHer event in Ankeny at the FFA enrichment center. It was a conference of 250 young women in the field of agriculture. There were many enlightening speakers throughout the day but the one who really captivated my interest was Cristen from Food and Swine, who spoke about why it is so important to advocate for agriculture and how to advocate while doing what you love.

Later in the day, I attended a smaller session with a panel of well known agricultural bloggers. The ladies talked about how to take the plunge, which is what I was probably the most afraid of. They gave all the young FarmHers some really solid advice about what they do and how they connect with consumers. That was my “Aha!” moment. “If they can do it, I can do it,” I thought. So here I am, and a dash of daiton is born.

What am I going to write about? Excellent question. Probably everything. As a full time college student, I have a lot of interests that range from agriculture to makeup to healthy living. You’ll probably end up seeing a wide variety of topics on my blog, which is part of the reason I adopted the name, “a dash of daiton”. While I’d love to take the credit, I have my mother to thank for that wonderful name. Thanks, mom! 🙂

Let the adventures begin!