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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sometimes All You Need is a Foot in the Door...Or the Barn

My name is Annie Clark, and I was raised in Overland Park, a suburban area outside of Kansas City. I want to share with others who grew up in non-rural areas like myself how I not only got involved in agriculture, but became an advocate for and plan to make a career for myself in an industry I am passionate about.

I am fortunate and proud to say that although I grew up as a “city kid”, I have roots to agriculture through my dad’s side of the family. My dad grew up on a Minnesota dairy, beef, and crop farm that is still operated today by my grandpa and two of my uncles. When I was growing up, visiting  “the farm” was always my favorite summer vacation. Feeding the baby calves in their calf hutches and walking the milking parlor with Grandpa are some of my favorite memories. I’ll never forget seeing a cow give birth, as I watched wide-eyed for hours, and the pride I felt when they named the calf, “Annie”. Although I wasn’t raised doing the daily chores like my cousins (who I envied, they thought I was crazy), I had an appreciation for the hard work and lifestyle that raised quality meat and milk for consumers.
However, it wasn’t until I got to K-State, enrolled in the animal science program, that I was really able to articulate that understanding and grow that passion. I knew I was drawn to study agriculture because of my interest in animals, particularly in livestock, but the more I learned, I realized my draw to agriculture was because I was invested in the effort to produce food for people by raising healthy and efficient animals. While I was never against large-scale farming or confined animal feeding, I lacked exposure to these practices compared to some of my College of Ag colleagues because of where I was raised. Fortunately, I had some experience from family vacations, which is more than many students from urban areas can say. The more information I gained from my coursework and extracurricular activities, the more I tried to share with friends and others around me who were not involved in agriculture. I became determined to make a career in this field, and I am now pursuing a Master’s in swine nutrition, with the same ultimate goal of producing healthy and efficient pigs to provide safe and abundant pork to consumers.

Agriculture is charged with the daunting task of feeding an ever-growing and changing global population, and we need the support of consumers to continue to produce food. Therefore, I challenge any readers that may be in backgrounds similar to myself to start asking questions. Find out where your food comes from. Visit local farms and learn about animal production. Educate yourself and make decisions based on science. What you find may not only surprise and impress you, but also leave you wanting to come back to the barn, farm, or pasture, just like me. 

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