Let’s Hear It for the Girls: Meet Brandi Buzzard Frobose!

For as big as the world is, it’s always funny to me when you realize that it’s actually really small at the same time. I definitely had one of those “small world” moments when I met this week’s “Let’s Hear It for the Girls” guest. Brandi and I met through #agchat (a Twitter conversation for people involved in agriculture) but we have only met in real life a couple of times. Despite that, within a short time of knowing her, I learned that I already knew her boyfriend (now husband) from my internship with the National Swine Registry. Yup – small world.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to learn more about Brandi and one thing no one can deny is that this girl lives her passions day in and day out. I hope you enjoy learning more!

Background

Current location:
Manhattan, KS

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Brandi Buzzard Frobose is passionate about a lot of things (including rooting for K-State!). She definitely puts her passion for the cattle industry to work in her role with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Originally from:
Colony, KS

Education (college/major):
B.S. – Dual major: Animal Sciences and Industry/Agricultural Economics – Kansas State University
M.S. – Animal Science; Behavior, Well-Being and Health – Kansas State University

Job title and company:
Manager, Issues Communication – National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)

Brief description of NCBA:
We represent the American beef producer and work diligently to promote and maintain  consumer confidence in beef.

Where were you before NCBA?
Kansas State University/Beef Cattle Institute

How did you become interested in working in the cattle industry?
As long as I can remember I’ve been interested in animal science. During my first year of graduate school, my passion for talking to people about animal science elevated to new levels and that started my journey to where I am today.

Around the Office

Office culture in a few words:
Extremely laid-back; but my office mates, Rooster and Cricket, keep me company and  drive me crazy all at the same time.

A day at work looks like:
A normal day contains one or more of the following: checking major news outlets for hot button issues, coordinating appropriate responses to issues with our team, writing  content for any one of a number of projects, researching issues or events, editing and a  smidge of social media.

Favorite part of your job:
I am privileged to represent America’s beef producers AND I get to do something  different every day!

Biggest challenge you face at your job:
Being a remote employee makes it difficult to pull away from the computer. At the end of  the day, I sometimes forget to unplug and ‘go home.’

Apps (or other tech) you can’t live without:
Actually, I could pretty easily live without social media and the internet! I could absolutely not live without my iPod, though (although I did own a Discman back in the day).

Style

Your personal style in a few words:
Purple. Laid back.

Office dress code:
I work from home so I can either be found in jeans and a K-State t-shirt or running shorts and, you guessed it, a K-State t-shirt.

Go-to work outfit:
When I am going to be in the Denver or D.C. office or if I’m going on a work trip, I’m  almost always wearing a bright blazer, khakis and square toed boots.

On-the-go kit:
Right now my purse contains my wallet, check book, three tubes of Chap Stick, bobby  pins, a coozie, a lint roller, pens, a notepad and my sunnies.

Next splurge item you’re planning for:
A saddle for my barrel horse

Lifestyle

Morning routine:
Brush teeth, grab a banana and make the long commute to my office down the hall.

Favorite spot for brunch:
Early Edition – Manhattan, KS

On Saturday, you can be found:
Outside!

Favorite spot for a 10-minute break:
Outside, throwing a ball for the mongrels of the house

Hobbies:
Rodeoing, vehemently cheering for my K-State Wildcats, visiting friends and family,  planning my next globetrotting escapade

When you have a day off, how do you spend it?
Since I work from home, when I take a day off I use it to get out of the house – ride my  horses, go golfing, visit family or friends or go with my husband to a stock show.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A vet – young people who want to be in animal science really only know of one or two jobs in that field and veterinarian is the leading option.

Dream job:
I cannot wait to buy cows and start ranching. If I could stay home, raise cattle and rodeo  that would be perfect.

One thing everyone should do when visiting your city:
Go to a K-State sporting event – we really are a family out here on the plains. The  camaraderie and team spirit is contagious!

Cause you’re passionate about:
Breast cancer – it’s nasty and doesn’t care who it affects. It needs to be fought with more force than what it uses to attack.

Encouraging Other Women

Inspiration:
I draw inspiration from some of my favorite Bible verses: Joshua 1:9, Romans 5:3-5, 2 Timothy 4:7 and Hebrews 12:1.

Best advice you’ve ever received:
“You have to make things happen, you can’t wait for things to pop up on your doorstep”
– my dad

My mentor(s):
Jackie McClaskey, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture
Daren Williams, Sr. Executive Director of Communications – National Cattlemen’s Beef  Association

In 10 years…
My husband and I will have some cattle and farm ground; maybe even a few kids.

Career wisdom for young professional women:
Be kind – work hard – be humble – never, ever, ever give up

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Let’s Hear It for the Girls: Meet Robyn Smith!

This week’s “Let’s Hear It for the Girls” post is all about one of my oldest and best friends. Robyn and I grew up in the same town, but didn’t really know each other until we started carpooling to gymnastics practice an hour away from where we lived four days a week. It’s crazy to think where our friendship started on those long car rides to where she is now as a successful physical therapist (I guess now I should start calling her Dr. Robyn!).

Meet one of my best friends, Robyn Smith, who is now a physical therapist near in Grand Haven, MI.

Meet one of my best friends, Robyn Smith, who is a physical therapist near in Grand Haven, MI.

Background

Current location:
Grand Haven, MI

Originally from:
Brown City, MI

Education (college/major):
Hope College, BA in Exercise Science
Grand Valley State University, Doctorate of Physical Therapy

Job title and company:
Physical Therapist, Mercy Health

Brief description of Mercy Health:
Mercy Health is a non-profit hospital that serves the Muskegon and lake shore community.

How did you become interested in physical therapy?
It’s hard to pin-point an occasion or moment that led me on my career path, but I give a lot of credit to my early years in gymnastics and developing an interest in human movement and helping people. I loved learning anatomy and understanding how our bodies functioned to do the incredible tasks we challenge them to do. Slowly it became clear to me a career in physical therapy would be both challenging and rewarding.

Around the Office

Office culture in a few words:
Relaxed, independent, and supportive.

A day at work looks like:
Every day I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with individuals for about 45 minutes each. My day can vary from evaluating them to determine the cause of their impairment or pain to helping them manage their diagnosis. I work with diagnoses varying from back and neck pain to knee surgeries to shoulder injuries. Plus, there’s always the daily pile of paperwork documenting everything I do.

Favorite part of your job:
I love that I get to help people live their life to the fullest and pain-free. It’s rewarding to know that I can make a difference in how someone is able to function.

Biggest challenge you face at your job:
Every day I am faced with individuals I struggle to help and many who continue to live in pain or aren’t responding well to physical therapy. It can be frustrating and disappointing at times.

Apps (or other tech) you can’t live without:
FaceTime, my alarm clock, and the Weather.com app. I also can’t leave home without my watch!

Style

Your personal style in a few words:
Classic? I love to dress up and feel comfortable and confident in what I’m wearing.

Office dress code:
Business casual is the standard at the clinic, but tennis shoes and athletic gear is considered appropriate (gotta be able to move well and demonstrate exercises).

Go-to work outfit:
Black dress pants paired with a cute and comfortable top or cardigan.

On-the-go kit:
Lip gloss, dental floss, cell phone, and wallet.

Lifestyle

Morning routine:
After crawling out of bed I hit start on my coffee pot (prepared the night before), shower, hair/make-up/get dressed (I should start laying out clothes the night before), followed by eating breakfast before grabbing lunch and heading out the door for a short commute to work.

Favorite spot for brunch:
I’ve only lived in Grand Haven for a few months now, but I have to say my favorite is a popular place called “Morningstar Cafe”.

On Saturday, you can be found:
Preferably lounging around my apartment catching up on things or heading out of town to visit family and friends for a weekend.

Favorite spot for a 10-minute break:
At work I don’t spend much time at my desk, so when I have a short break it’s a great place to sit and relax and socialize with co-workers.

Hobbies:
I’m still getting used to this question; it’s so weird to have free-time for hobbies once again! I am trying to get into running/working out more, reading, drinking wine, and cooking dinner.

When you have a day off, how do you spend it?
Days off are usually spent with friends or family.

One thing everyone should do when visiting your city:
Go to the beach and walk the pier!

Cause you’re passionate about:
Breast cancer research. It’s a cause that hits close to home.

Dream job:
I can truly say my current job is my dream job.  I love where I am at and what I do. I know there is room to grow and things will change, but for now I am right where I want to be.

Next splurge item you’re planning for:
Hmm, not exactly sure but I have a few ideas floating around. I just bought a new Jeep!

Encouraging Other Women

Inspiration:
I am inspired by those around me and those I am able to help each day. I am fortunate to be in a rewarding profession where I can help people each day. Seeing the great things some many people do and have overcome truly inspires me to be better.

Best advice you’ve ever received:
Do what makes you happy.

My mentor(s):
Professionally, my current boss Dean Millar, as well as numerous other clinical instructors and professors who have guided and molded me. Personally, I look up to many wonderful friends and family who I can always rely on for great advice and support.

Career wisdom for young professional women:
Don’t give up, even if the journey seems long – if it makes you happy, it’s worth it in the end.

“I met a cowboy in the hallway…”

I was recently at a conference with a group of cattle ranchers. It was held at a hotel, so there were other meetings and events going on in the space. One day, while I was grabbing lunch from a buffet in the foyer, a woman (not with our group) came up to a rancher, very excited, and said “Can I take your picture? I’ve never seen a real cowboy before!”

As I smiled to myself and continued to get my food, he let her take is picture. Like most of the ranchers I know, he was very friendly and asked her where she was from.

“California,” she said.

“California!?” he replied. “Don’t they have funny people there?”

The woman laughed kindly and said, “Well, I suppose you could find Californians funny.”

But the rancher meant something else. He clarified, “No, I mean they’re funny. Don’t they all smoke a lot of weed and let the gays get married?”

Now, I want to say that this rancher wasn’t trying to be mean. But, I could tell the woman was uncomfortable, despite trying to answer his questions. As he was pressing incredulously about if she thought it was alright for “the gays” to get married, I wandered away, not really wanting to see where this was going to end (I probably should have stayed, but admittedly I tend to avoid most things confrontational).

Now, obviously I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation, so I’ll give the rancher the benefit of the doubt and say it could have gotten better, but what I heard made me rather uncomfortable. This is not a post about changing what you do or don’t believe. The topics discussed could have been about Obamacare and global warming instead. No, this is about being a positive representation of the farming and ranching community.

This woman had never met a rancher before and, unfortunately, her first experience seemed to me to be an awkward one. Instead of talking about what a real cowboy does on his ranch, she was being pressed for her belief on controversial topics that she may or may not have agreed with. And I would bet she went back to her friends in their meeting and told them all about the cowboy she met in the hallway who could not get over why anyone would smoke a bunch of weed and let the gays go off and marry each other. Would she use terms like “backwoods” or “redneck”? I don’t know. Maybe (hopefully) not. But it’s a possibility, and is that really how we want to be remembered?

In agriculture, we have enough of an uphill battle with our non-farming friends in terms of their ideas around how we raise our crops and our livestock. And it’s no secret that we may have different belief sets than a lot of our urban counterparts. But let’s remember to focus on the things we have in common during initial conversations — compassion, love of family, wanting to do the right thing — and leave the people we meet with thoughts of “We’re in this together.” rather than “That guy is nothing like me.” Because when “That guy is nothing like me…” is combined with “…and I don’t like how he takes care of his animals/crops.” we’re in a losing battle.

Missing a friend and a great teacher

Growing up as a teachers’ kid, you quickly learn what makes a good teacher. A good teacher encourages you to think, challenges your beliefs and opinions and helps you gain more knowledge than you ever thought possible.

Chris Raines was a good teacher.

Dr. Chris Raines, 1981-2011

Now, I never sat in Chris’s classroom, but I know this is true. See, like so many others, I met Chris online through his Twitter “handle”  @iTweetMeat. From the get-go, I knew this guy was smart and witty. On so many occasions, he challenged my comments when he could have so easily passed them by. One of the first interactions I remember was when I made a comment about how farmers shoudn’t be held responsible for people who get sick from raw milk, because they knew that danger was there. Chris automatically came back at me, asking if that meant meat processors shouldn’t be held responsible for food poisoning because people should just cook it all the way? It was instances like this where he forced me to re-examine my beliefs, look at them from another angle, and learn something along the way. That’s why I know Chris was a good teacher in his “real life” job as a meat science professor at Penn State. I think he did things like that with his students every day.

Last night, Chris lost his life in a car accident and the online community of “AgChatters” and “Agvocates” lost a great friend. It’s amazing how close of a relationship you can form with someone in the digital space. I’ve spent my day randomly bursting into tears, despite the fact that my actual, in-person interactions with Chris were few. That doesn’t matter, though, because I will always remember his ability to teach us all, while making us smile at the same time. He will be sorely missed.

It looks…kind of like…a light up ahead!

So, looking back on my last post, I realize how scared I was just a week ago looking forward at what my future might look like without student teaching the picture. “Dark twisty path” I think is how I phrased it. Well, now I can confidently say a week later, there is definitely a light up ahead!

I cannot adequately describe how thankful I am for my great friends and network, in person and online. When I said I was switching gears, every single person around me was supportive and willing to lend a helping hand. Professionals in the industry who have only ever met me through the #agchat community were willing to read over my resume and cover letter to offer their advice. My friends in East Lansing helped me set up job shadow visits to get a feel for what working in agricultural marketing and public relations might be like. Everyone was there at exactly the moment I needed them the most. How amazing is that?

For those who are curious, I’ve started applying for positions and have even heard back from one to learn more about me. I’m excited to see where the next few months will take me and I finally understand that things happen the way they should, even if it’s scary when that shift first happens.

BONUS: I was so glad to read this post and know that I’m not the only person who crazily changes gears at the last minute!

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.

Always more to learn

Sometimes when we’re in agriculture, we think we know it all. Heck, we know more about how food is grown that your typical food purchaser, right? Every so often, though, we get a slap in the face that says ‘Come down off your all-knowing high horse!’ and we’re reminded that there’s still plenty to learn, no matter if you’re conventional, organic, big, small, orange or purple (although, orange is still the best, in my opinion!).

A couple of months ago, I was offered the opportunity to do a technical article about a new ag chemical for an agricultural newspaper in the state. Of course, I said I’d do it – no problem. I’m in NAMA, I write for ANR Communications, I’ve freelanced, I’m a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University — I can handle a technical piece about a new agricultural input. No sweat.

Psh, boy do I still have more to learn.

Besides realizing that a single Introduction to Crop Science class four years ago does not make me the next Norman Borlaug, I also figured out real quick that names of chemical compounds and active ingredients make about as much sense to me as Charlie Brown’s teacher. I’m really grateful there are scientists out there that understand how different chemicals and products can help farmers, but I’ll be the first to admit that I will not be joining their ranks any time soon. I will be plenty happy to continue learning as much as I can about segments of agriculture that I’m not familiar with so I can keep developing my abilities as an educator and communicator.

Have you ever run into a moment where you remembered ‘Oh, yeah. I don’t always know as much as I think I do.’ How do you get over it and learn?