An early life crisis and the stress that ensues

To say something hasn’t been nagging at me for a while would be complete denial. The fact of the matter is, though, I have been really fearful to say anything for worry that people or — let’s face it — I would be disappointed in me. Well, I’ve said it out loud to a few people so I guess I’ve reached the point where I can say it online.

I’m not sure that I want to student teach.

Even considering not student teaching makes me feel guilty, like it’s somehow saying I don’t think being an ag teacher is a good job. That’s not the case at all. How could it be? My dad is an ag teacher; many of my mentors and friends are ag teachers. It’s an amazing job to have. Just maybe not the right job for me.

Now, none of this is to say that I won’t change my mind tomorrow or in a year or in five years. However, today and yesterday and for the last few months, I have felt as though life wants me to take another path.

For the past year (as many of you know), I’ve taken on several jobs/internships. Two of them have been very communications focused. I’ve also been doing some freelance writing work that I have really loved and, for the past three years, I’ve been involved in the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA). All of these areas are things that, when I think about turning them into a career in communications, I get excited about. I wish that same thing were true of teaching.

So it sounds like I’ve got it together, right? Wrong. It’s two weeks from graduation and I’m hurtling myself into the great unknown of job-hunting. I’m still keeping student teaching as an option, but – finally – I’m going to start seriously considering some positions with different groups in and out of the state. I want to look at for-profits and non-profits, corporate businesses and marketing/PR agencies. I’m going to keep my options wide open and try to figure out what’s best for me in the long run.

Unfortunately during this same time period, I have a ton of work due for school and projects for my various jobs going on everywhere. Just last night I ended up in tears, mainly from the stress of everything culminating at once. I’m definitely going to be relying on friends and family to talk me through all of this and reassure me that it’s going to be alright. I’ve got a long few months ahead of me and right now the path through the woods looks pretty dark and twisty. Here’s to hoping, though, that there’s light on the other side.

Eureka! Dinner for one

I will be the first to admit that I am not a cook. Sure, like a lot of people, I love the Pioneer Woman and I try to emulate her greatest recipes when I can. However, my own cooking abilities? Not so hot. Which is why, you might be surprised to find out, this post is all about cooking!

As a college student, it is HARD to find meals for one person. Even when I cut recipes in half or have my boyfriend over for dinner, I still usually end up eating leftovers for days. Most websites out there with recipes for two usually involve either expensive items or items that no normal college kid keeps on hand due to a lack of use. And — can I just say? — there are only so many days in a row that you can eat spaghetti.

After years of an inability to find one-woman meals, I finally found a dish that works out great for one! It actually was a recipe from my aunt that I’ve found can be cut down in size to whatever I want. So, without any further ado, below is my recipe for a delicious bean burrito that works PERFECTLY whether you’re single or a college kid like me just trying to keep the leftovers to a minimum!

Super Duper Easy Bean Burritos

Ingredients
-As many chicken breasts as you want (I’ve found that 1 breast=2 burritos, which is perfect if you can eat two in one sitting or only want one night or work lunch of leftovers; also, you can use whatever chicken you want–I actually like boneless, skinless chicken thighs too)

-Bean dip (I buy the Tostitos mild pre-made stuff–no hot, hot, hot for this chica)

-Salsa (any kind you want, but I think the jar stuff works better than the fresh stuff)

-Tortilla shells

-Cheese

Directions
Cook your chicken (any way you want it, that’s the way you need it, any way you want it — i.e. boil it, fry it, grill it: I don’t care. Just get it fully cooked, please.). Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Shred your cooked chicken with two forks. Mix your chicken with as much bean dip and salsa as keeps it all together. Put chicken-salsa-bean dip mix in tortilla shell. Cover with cheese. Close tortilla. Cover with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Ideas from our friends in the north!

For the past two days, I have been at the North American Leaders Session, which is a meeting hosted by the Center for Food Integrity designed to bring together leaders of livestock coalitions from across North America to meet and share ideas. Now, you’ll notice that I said North America and not just…well, America. We were really lucky to be joined by a group of great folks from Canada that shared some of their projects and challenges. You may or may not be surprised, but their challenges aren’t much different than ours here in the States and they brought some awesome ideas to the table.

Now, I tweeted about the fact that the Canadian contingent is doing some amazing things related to consumer-outreach and some people on Twitter expressed interest in what those ideas were. In an effort to both share some of those things with you and as a way for me to remember them :) here’s some of the ones I found extremely interesting:

Farmers Feed Cities
This is a program mainly funded by the grain organization in Canada, but has implications for all farmers. Somewhat like the “Farmers Care” program in Michigan, Farmers Feed Cities is designed to raise awareness and education about how farming affects all of us, not just those in rural areas. What I liked most about the program was the material promotions that they’ve put together. They’ve done what I think is a great job with getting the notion of “Farmer Feed Cities” in front of a lot of people. They even gave us a window decal that I fully intend on putting in my car and a pin that’s going on my backpack! You can learn more about what they’re doing on their website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC)
Throughout Canada, there are Farm Animal Councils. The Ontario branch has done a couple of projects that I thought were really neat. They have put together a 40+ page booklet about Canadian agriculture (which is not all that different from the US) called “The Real Dirt on Farming” that they’ve distributed all through the province. It goes to media members, legislators and–something a little different–doctors and other offices. The booklet covers a ton of common topics and is very good at promoting and explaining all types of agricultural production.

They also have created a website where people can take a virtual tour of farms, which range from egg producers to pig farms and orchards. Heather Hargrave, who works for OFAC, said they’d like to get to the point where they produce a modern/conventional, organic and grassfed video for each species that helps show the differences and similarities between different production systems.

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS)
Saskatchewan’s branch of the Farm Animal Council has done some great projects promoting the message that farmers care about their animals (and subsequently the environment and their families). They partook in a very large billboard campaign throughout the province (the largest agricultural media campaign in North America) with the simple message “On our farm…we care.” Billboards featured young farmers and farm families in a variety of animal industries. They partnered with a photojournalist who took the photos, which helped the promotion of the message through journalism circles and built great partnerships with the different commodity organizations to get them done.

They also chose to put together a puppet show–Tales from the FACS Farm–that is used in elementary schools throughout the province to teach kids about animal agriculture. Adele Buettner, who works with FACS, said they hesitated at doing this because they’re not big fans of talking animals (humanizing them) in any way, but also said it ended up being a great choice because of the educational value. They work with a professional puppeteer company and put on the shows at as many schools and libraries as they possibly can during Education Week.

Sometimes we forget about how important it is to get fresh ideas to promote our industries and build trust between food producer and food purchaser. This chance to hear from other people in the US and Canada was a great opportunity for me to think about what we can do in Michigan and throughout the ag industry across the country.

Do you have any neat projects in your state or country that promote agriculture to non-farmers? What do you do? How do you secure funding? Have you done any projects that crashed and burned?!