Telling Our Story by Aubree Beenken

Last month I started another semester at Iowa State University where I am double majoring in animal science and agriculture and society. During my time at Iowa State, I have been fortunate to be involved in many different groups and organizations. Some of my activities include taking part in Iowa State Freshmen Council, the University Honors Program, Vermeer International Leadership Program, and serving as an ambassador for the College of Agriculture. Through all of my experiences I have met a multitude of people, each with their unique background and experiences.

I grew up in a small town, like many of you, where everyone knows the same friendly culture and holds the same values and morals. I went to college with the mindset of meeting new people but expected them to still share many cultural similarities with me. I had not been prepared to be met with so much cultural diversity at the main agriculture university for the state of Iowa. I was not set back by all the diversity surrounding me; rather I saw it as an opportunity to be an advocate and share my story with others. College was my first true experience working with people who did not believe in or support the industry that was the livelihood of my family and many others in my home community.

Through the organizations I participate in at Iowa State, I work alongside students from all across the United States and the world. Each student has their own background and experiences that have influenced their perspective on many aspects of life. Working with people who share different values than you can be quite difficult, but the most important part to remember is to always be respectful. Often when having discussions with other students the topics of GMOs, CAFOs, organic vs. non-organic, and animal welfare were brought up. All of these issues are very
in-depth and have many scientific studies to back them up. However, the scientific data meant little to my classmates because they do not fully understand the situation; rather, their opinion is based on emotion. For many of my classmates, grass-fed animals seemed better than grain-fed because it seemed more natural to them, my classmates never considered the greater long-term environmental impact and land resources required for grass-fed. Being able to explain the situation in a way that people outside of agriculture can understand is going to be critical to the future success of the agriculture industry.

As a beef producer, it is my responsibility to share with others what actually occurs on my family’s beef operation and general aspects of production agriculture. This includes taking the time to explain why male animals are castrated, why antibiotics are used for livestock, and what the label hormone-free means. Many times these discussions tested my patience, but every time I reaffirmed that as livestock producers we CARE and we are CAPABLE of producing high-quality, wholesome food while providing the highest quality of animal welfare.

The ability to share your story with someone you may run into at a grocery store, sit next to on a plane, or meet at the doctor’s office is essential for promoting a positive aspect of agriculture. In today’s world people are constantly exposed to articles through social media platforms that tear down the animal industry and farming. Whether you are a seedstock producer, commercial cow-calf producer, feedlot manager, or grain farmer you all have a critical role in making sure there is a positive future for agriculture to hand down to the next generation of agriculturalists. Agriculture is continually changing from new advancements in technologies and new regulations, but there is no industry more rewarding than the agriculture industry.