The Roots of a New Start

My most vivid memory from kindergarten is when the entire grade gathered in one classroom to hear a local dairy producer talk about her family’s farm. Then we all went outside to pet a beautiful Guernsey heifer calf. (I think we ate ice cream later, too.)

The best day in first grade was the last day of school when we visited several classrooms for various activities. My favorite was the science station, where the teacher stood in front of the class with various objects, and we were to predict whether that object would float or sink. We recorded our predictions, and then she lowered the item into a glass bowl of water.

My second grade teacher was from Louisiana. In math, she taught us to remember how to write “greater than” and “less than” signs by thinking about them as alligators that would eat the bigger number. This picture fascinated me.

In third grade, my mind changed every day regarding a future career. I would say to my friend one day, “I’m going to be a writer!” The next day, I would say, “I’m going to be a vet!” Then the day after that, I’d say, “I’m going to be a writer!”

This went on for some time until she finally turned around and said, “Why don’t you be a vet who writes?”

I thought this was a great idea. (James Herriot did that, after all.)

In fourth grade, a fellow artist would draw Clydesdales in my notebook for me. I still have that notebook.

In fifth grade, my homeroom teacher started a disagreement with me via my spelling sentences. The word was disagree, and I wrote, “I disagree with the movie Babe when they say that sheep are stupid.”

My teacher wrote back, “Then why do sheep need a shepherd?”

In sixth or seventh grade, we got snowed in and Mom and my brothers and me were all at home for the day. Around 4 or 5 p.m., I became frustrated, and Mom pulled me onto her lap and said, “You’re just like your dad. You’re getting stir crazy. Why don’t you go outside?”

That was the best idea ever.

In junior high science, I was fascinated by corny astronaut videos shown by a teacher who dressed up as Star Wars characters every so often. We conducted a lot of experiments, as well, and at the end of the year held an egg drop competition against the third graders. We were to build a container in which an egg could be placed and dropped from a height without breaking. I built a box out of straws and won the eighth grade competition.

In high school, I was the kid who wore Carhartt coveralls to the Halloween parties, took long walks down the driveway with my sheep, and hung out in the agriculture room every chance I had. Senior year, I brought in a lamb that had presumably died from eating too much, and two of my classmates and I watched as a local vet cut open the lamb for a biopsy. The diagnosis confirmed the suspicion of overeating.

At Purdue University my junior year, I was visiting Dr. Taylor of the ag economics department for some help on homework from my farm management class. After we’d finished with the questions, he asked me, “If you could have your dream job, do anything you liked, what would it be?”

“Raise livestock and write and take pictures freelance.”

He smiled and pulled out a copy of Indiana Prairie Farmer. “Well, I suppose that’s possible.” He found an article written by an older agricultural communication student I knew. “I don’t know if she took the picture, too.”

Then he flipped to an article he’d written. “I get a little something every so often for writing an article. It’s not much, and I get a few taxes taken out of it, but there it is.”

As a teacher, I’d see a student’s eyes light up when he or she understood a concept. I had communicated an agricultural idea clearly and helped a young person.

In New Zealand, I thrived on being outside and talking with the farmers I met. I wrote about anything and everything I observed there, tearing through eight journals.

All of these experiences serve as the foundation for my present work.

As I thought about these memories, several themes emerged: animals, science, writing, and learning. These themes could be condensed even further to agriculture and communications.

And that describes my profession.

Recently, I worked my first day as Livestock Production Assistant for the family farm. It’s a dream that’s lived for years, and it’s taken months of conversations, research, and working in New Zealand for it all to come together.

I’m also writing, taking pictures, and more as a freelance agricultural communicator working with several agricultural publications and organizations.

Moving forward, the blog will look a little different as I talk more about farming and agriculture. Life, traveling and more will still be here, but you’ll hear about the farm, too. I’m still thinking about what to do about the blog’s name since I’m no longer in New Zealand.

So, just like I told Dr. Taylor, I’m raising livestock and writing and taking pictures (and more!) freelance.

I’m back in my community, as well, back with my family, some of the students I worked with, and high school friends.

I’m excited to see what happens.

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P.S. If you’d be interested in working together on agricultural articles, presentations, websites, or other communication efforts, feel free to contact me.

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