Ethics: Walking the Fine Line

In my multimedia journalism class on Monday, we discussed the ethics of journalism. Ethics in journalism can be very hard to define and very hard to practice depending on the story and the situation. When it comes down to it…I have to ask myself, as do many other journalists, “would you publish this? Would you deal with the consequences of social media? Would you deal with the possibility of getting fired?” Many questions come to mind.

So, when it comes to making a choice, it is a very hard thing to do. You can either publish something legendary and make yourself known, or lose credibility in your work, lose your job or even be banned from the industry completely. It is honestly a personal choice. You make the call, that’s why it is your ethical decision.

In class, our professor used this picture as an example:

Image

Would you as a journalist allow a famished child to lay there as it is prey for a vulture? The food chain is backwards and it is an incredibly moving and honest photo that captures the ideas of how many people are dying from starvation around the world. But still, as a human being, would you allow another human to be eaten by an animal? That is where I would personally draw the line.

In agriculture, there are new laws in progress to protect farms, CAFOs and different large operations from outside media that could be used against the industry. Critics call them “Ag-gag” bills. One of the group’s model bills, “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” prohibits filming or taking pictures on livestock farms to “defame the facility or its owner.” Violators would be placed on a “terrorist registry.”

These undercover videos have caused immense damage to our industry over the past 5 years and will continue to be produced. However, as an agriculturalist, it makes us seem like we have something to hide.

This is where ethics plays in! On our farms and ranches, we do everything for a reason. There are many practices and jargon we use that the common public doesn’t understand and can be hard for them to take unless they know the purpose behind it. I feel like if consumers can’t come out to our farms, we should bring our farms to them. Then they would feel more comfortable with why and how we do things. Through video, we can be completely honest about these practices instead of making laws to stop others from coming in and manipulating farmers and ranchers’ situation.

I completely understand why these are in the process! We need to protect our farmers and ranchers from media which can tear down our industry. However, I feel through honesty and ethical actions we can be openly honest about why and how we do things in agriculture.

For more information about making the taping of farm cruelty a crime visit: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/taping-farm-cruelty-becoming-crime-1B9251810

-TAL

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#Agvocate

The famous music video parody “I’m Farming and I Grow It,” could not have peaked at a better time. 

When I first discovered the video, it only had 200,000 hits. Now, it has more than 3 million views. I admire the Peterson Brothers of Kansas for their short and sweet message that consumers easily understand. “I’ve got passion for my plants and I ain’t afraid to show it…” Now that’s something that I like to call “agvocating.”

What is agvocating? Well, it morphs from the word advocate which is defined as a person who upholds or defends a cause; supporter. Now, switch the d with a g and you get one of the biggest trends in agriculture today. It is a movement in which agriculturalists, farmers, ranchers, and many others involved in the agriculture industry can tell their story.

How can you agvocate? You can agvocate in any positive way. It’s easy. Start a blog (like me!) Tweet about your agricultural lifestyle or how you take care of your plants and animals (maybe even add a picture!) Give your friends an ag-related and informational Facebook status! You can agvocate by word of mouth. Share your stories with your friends at school, on the bus, on a plane… anywhere! Consumers want to hear what we have to say–we just need to learn to share.

Any agriculturalist, of any nature, is born with a common inborn passion for their land, animals and family. Sharing how your family farm operates is great because it is easier for consumers to relate to. (Can you say free advertising!?) But overall, making the sale isn’t what our agricultural industry is about. We aren’t trying to only make money for ourselves, but we also care immensely about what we produce, and that is a fact! (since it’s ag fact friday!)

I am honored to serve as the current president of the Missouri Junior Cattlemen’s Board of Directors and last week we hosted our 4th annual Missouri Junior Cattlemen’s Association Show-Me Beef Leadership Conference in Columbia, Mo. The MJCA board joined with about 17 attendees to share their passion for the cattle industry. Our theme for the conference was #Agvocate. This conference was in progress while  the “I’m Farming and I Grow It” YouTube parody was going viral. It was the perfect thing to show to the future of our industry how they can tell their story and agvocate when they return home.

The conference featured a trip to the Mizzou meat lab where we had the opportunity to watch how a steer was butchered into different wholesale cuts. We also had several speakers like Dr. Jim Spain, agriculturalist and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies at MU, as well as Garrett Hawkins, the Farm Bureau National Legislative Programs Director. We even had lunch at the University Club, where we were given a presentation how to prepare the food we were enjoying. Overall, it was a very successful conference for the board and the attendees.

My time at the conference led me to ponder if I was doing my job as an agvocate. I believe The Ag Lady is the best way I can share my stories with my friends and consumers. I also have a twitter @the_ag_lady where I tweet about current events in agriculture and I also share my Ag fact Fridays on there as well.

The last night of the conference, a couple board members and I gave refections before everyone was released for free time followed by lights out. Justin Vehige spoke strongly about how passionate he was for this industry and no matter how passionate as you are, there are others out there that are adamant about getting rid of your passion. Justin really hit home with me that our battle with animal activists like PETA and  HSUS won’t stop. His ideas blended with my story well–I gave my reflections about a story I had from my FFA trip to Washington Leadership Conference.

It was the day we were visiting the nation’s Capitol and we were on the Metro. At one of the stops, a couple of PETA activists got on our car and were conversing with each other. Soon enough, I found myself getting off my metro seat and going to make a conversation with them. We talked casually about what we were each doing that day. They shared they were protesting the use of cosmetics on monkeys and I shared how I was going to tour the Capitol. (Remind you, in FFA official dress!) Soon, we were talking about our mutual love for animals and I enlightened them about how I take care of my cows and what I do on my farm. They seemed very interested to hear what I had to say and wanted to hear more but unfortunately it was their stop to get off. The point of my story was to tell your story anywhere and everywhere you can to whoever will listen. However, forcing facts and numbers won’t exactly catch the ear of an unwilling stranger.

Garrett Hawkins of Missouri Farm Bureau shared three simple steps earlier that week for telling your story and how to easily connect with a consumer.

  1. Learn (I learned what the PETA activists were doing that day before I told them about my farm life)
  2. Connect (We shared a common interest with our love for animals)
  3. Share (I told them about my life at home and answered any of their questions)

These simple helpful steps will help you agvocate anywhere!

Hannah Bartholomew ended reflections with the idea to always remember where you come from and keep agriculture wherever you go. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to put my mind at ease because in the end, all you have to explain is exactly what you know and care about.

-TAL

“At any given time, one of us represents all of us.” Charles Kruse

“If not me, then who? If not now, then when?-JFK

In the right place

Here’s my catch up post from last week! From June 19-21, I had the opportunity and privilege to help with the University of Missouri’s Livestock Judging Camp. I joined a few students my age with livestock judging experience, along with the current MU Livestock Judging Team and Coach Chip Kemp, in putting on a workshop to help a few high school teams improve and revamp their judging skills.

To a “non-aggie,” livestock judging consists of the evaluation of a group (usually 4) of animals (whether it be cattle, pigs, sheep, meat goats…) and then consecutively making a decision how to place them by comparing them to the other animals in the class and by determining the standards of the particular class. After recording their placings, the participating team (made of usually 3 or 4 members) has each individual on the team give a set of oral reasons describing why they placed each animal in that consecutive order. Reasons allow each individual to get into details of each individual animal and are expected to deliver those with good tone and diction. From each class placing and each set of oral reasons, the individuals are given a score of one to 50. The team scores are combined and compared with other team scores for the final placings.

Livestock Judging not only teaches you how to correctly evaluate livestock, but it also helps improve your public speaking, self-confidence, and decision making skills. Perhaps my favorite part of livestock judging is the people you meet along the way the quality of animals you have the opportunity to see.

I joined my FFA chapter’s livestock judging team my freshman year and I quickly learned I had a keen interest for the contest. My team qualified and competed at state but we fell short of our goal of placing in the top 10. I had taken a break from livestock judging until the summer after my senior year of high school where I was asked to be on a 4-H livestock judging team with a few other people from my 4-H district. In September 2011, I joined my team-Will and Zech Moore of Belle, and Tara Fountain of Centralia-in judging at the state contest against many other competitive teams. To our surprise, we pulled away with first place medals and a trip to Louisville, KY to compete at the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest held during the North American International Livestock Exposition.

After a lot of practice and reasons, our team took about a week off of school later that year in November to travel to different farms in the Louisville area and surrounding states to look at some of the best livestock in the country. It truly was one of the best experiences in my life, along with the actual contest. We we ended up placing 4th nationally- only one place away from having the chance to travel abroad and judge internationally, but it was still an incredible experience. As for my team members and others I met through 4-H and FFA contests such as this one, they are irreplaceable.

I hope the students who attended MU’s Judging Camp created stronger bonds with their team and made new friends, just as I did. You don’t find many opportunities  that allow you to compete and make friends at the same time, along with finding a source of preparation and confidence for your future. A chance where I get to “place” is one of my favorite places because there is aways someone to meet and something to learn.

From Left: Coach Nathan Martin, Centralia; Zech Moore, Belle; Shannon Yokley, Jefferson City; Will Moore, Belle; (Not Pictured) Tara Fountain, CentraliaThe official Livestock Judging Team Picture at Nationals.
From Left: Coach Nathan Martin, Centralia; Zech Moore, Belle; Shannon Yokley, Jefferson City; Will Moore, Belle (Not Pictured) Tara Fountain, Centralia

The “unofficial” team picture.

Thanks for reading! Can’t wait for Ag Fact Friday!

-TAL

“Judging animal shows is an honor. Judges have the opportunity to teach, help develop young people, showcase animal agriculture, and even provide a social and entertaining event to those in the crowd.”- Ken Geuns, Michigan State University Extension Specialist and Livestock Judge

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”-Masanobu Fukuoka