Closing Remarks

“As I finish my speech, I would like to leave you with my closing remarks.”

A very common closer, used by many a public speaker. Shoot, with as many speeches that are given in this town, it has got to be one of the most used lines around here.

My time in DC is ending today, and tomorrow morning I will be heading back to the house I grew up in, the smell of mucky wetland water, and a Mother who will most likely knock the front door off its hinges when I pull in the driveway (something about I am never home to see her anymore, I don’t know all the details….).

I guess, in some philosophical way, hasn’t my time here been like a speech? There was an opener and the body. Like all sincere speeches, I stumbled here and there, so worried about making the speech smooth and perfect that any small detail missed and before you knew it I was stammering like a teenage boy trying to talk to a cute girl. There were times when I could feel those around me totally engaged and interested in what I was saying. There were times when I was just happy no one was snoring. I had to look around me, feel-out my crowd, and find the path they were going on. I had to be poised, on time, and ready to give it my all.

Yes, my time here in DC has been like a speech. Therefore there is only one piece missing, the closing remarks.

I cannot attempt to convince myself nor my readers that I am not excited to be going home, and then to Kansas. Anymore than I could convince myself or my readers that I am not loathing leaving the Meat Institute and people who seem more like a family than co-workers.

This experience has been more than I ever dreamed it would be, and I feel so blessed to have been privileged to come to our Nation’s capital and work. Words cannot describe what it feels like to walk the streets and halls of our nation’s forefathers, knowing that they once walked ahead you. Personally, I think if you don’t feel the presence of wisdom and national pride seeping from those great men and women, than your either not paying attention or not focusing on the right things in life. Always remember brothers and sisters, those who paved the roads ahead of us never leave us, for souls are eternal.

I have listened to some of the foremost agricultural minds discuss and debate this summer, I have stood right next to some of the most famous and powerful individuals our country has ever seen. Yet, it pails in comparison to the lump that reaches up in my throat every time I visit the World War II memorial. Or how I feel when I step into the capital building. Nothing can equate to seeing the Washington Memorial regularly.

You see, those symbols of our nation have stood strong through it all. They are so much more than reminders of brave men and women. They are deeper than some well designed stone.

Our country has seen a lot of divide and struggle in the last couple of years. Political views, personal endeavors, religion, and Lord knows what else have caused chasms to run through our society like the rivers that run through our nation. Folks, I hope that if you have read my previous posts on this blog, or know me at all, that you know where I stand. Just to be clear, I am a proud, God-fearing Christian man. My principles and decisions are rooted in those beliefs, and I am not afraid to stand up for those beliefs.

Yet, I don’t want to hate those who don’t share my beliefs, and I hope they don’t hate me.

You see, I used too. I used to look at others and see everything different about them, decided if their beliefs and personality were close to mine, and treated them accordingly. As if it was my right to decide their judgement or what they were worth as a person.

It took me looking at the Washington Monument everyday and feeling the presence of our forefathers in our Capital to finally realize. We are all human. We all bleed red. We all deserve the respect and honor that we expect given to us. I think in many ways, God sent me to DC for much more than career development and a good experience. He sent me here to remind me of what fighting the good fight is all about. To remind me of why I believe in the Lord and must stand strong in my faith. Part of that involves loving generously, and leaving the judging part to God.

I have always admired individuals who live with conviction, who stand to their principles and beliefs. Men and women who choose their cornerstone, and don’t move their foundation from it. Well, maybe in some ways I had moved my foundation, and it was time to bring it back. I am still surprised as to how much I have grown in my faith and relationship with God through just being here. A man has to make a lot of decisions when he is on his own in a strange place. I am thankful for choosing to let God guide my choices.

I am in many ways, better for coming to this city and working. I have been given this great gift, and I hope I didn’t waste it. I have learned so much, become more knowledgeable on agricultural policy and current issues within the industry. I have learned to work in an office. I am pretty dang good at getting around a city, and I have even learned how to ride the Metro at maximum efficiency. Overall, no matter how much I am ready to step on good Western Ohio dirt, no matter how ready I am to get to Kansas and see those beautiful sunsets, I will always be thankful for my time in the District of Columbia.

I would like to foremost thank my parents, who are my greatest support system, for giving me the support to have the confidence to chase my dreams. Without you two, I certainly wouldn’t be here, let alone experience all the wonderful things I have in my short life.

Next, a big thanks to the American Society of Animal Sciences. Your organization’s choice to support young people is not in vain, and I am so grateful that all those who support this internship have chosen to do so.

Furthermore, I would like to thank the Cropp family for taking me in this summer, sharing the supper table with me, and allowing me to work on your cattle farm. Coming home to a warm family atmosphere was something I needed, and giving me the chance to do what I love, (farm work) gave me a comfort that made the transition easy. I am forever in debt to you guys.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone at the North American Meat Institute. You all have been so welcoming. Never once did I feel unwanted or in the way. Everyone made sure to include me in some fashion of their work, and was always so thankful for everything I helped them with. Let me tell you guys, you owe me no thanks. It is I who owes all the thanks to you. You have made this summer one I will never forget, and I know this experience will help me in my future. You all have a special place in my heart, and I will forever consider myself a member of the Meat Institute family.

So there it is, my closing statement, my time to step off the stage. This speech is done, and I am excited to surge forward into the next one. Thank you to everyone who have been keeping up with me through this blog, social media, or personal contact. Your support and prayers have been wonderful.

God bless you today and always,

Pierce

Advertisement

Sparks and Fires

We have all been there. When we think we should have something to say, but the words can’t come to our mouth. It’s that weird feeling you get when your brain is like a blank wall. You try to look inside of it and find the words, but nothing. I have felt this way since I wrote my last post on this blog. Every time I try to think of something to write about, I see that blank wall. I guess, there isn’t much to say.

For those of you who know me well, it is probably very hard to think that Pierce Bennett has nothing to say. I mean, I am the guy that has a snarky comment ready to go at all times, the guy who can carry on a conversation for an hour even after it’s blatantly obvious that the conversation was over at the ten minute mark. I rarely have trouble coming up with something to say.

I guess maybe the trouble I am having is that when I write I need some sort of spark. I need a small idea that can grow into something. Everything I have ever wrote has started with a small train of thought. So, why can’t I find that spark now all of the sudden?

I truly have no idea.

However, the thought of a spark is an interesting one. As humans, we really like to use the spark as a synonym for a lot of things. There are sparks between people, ideas can be a spark. I mean it’s logical. Sparks are small little things at first, but they are significant because they lead to a big fire. They turn nothing into something, they can bring light where there is darkness.

Another thing about sparks is that they often require work to obtain. Someone has to make sparks fly to start that fire.

Funny enough, how often do we think about that part of the equation. Don’t we normally talk about these sparks as though they just appear out of no where. Even the term “the light bulb just came on” has a requirement for someone to flip a switch. Why is it then that we often times just wait around for that spark to show itself. We wouldn’t stare at wood expecting a fire to start.

So why do we sit around waiting for that spark?

Maybe we can’t see the spark through the quick pace of our lives, maybe right now isn’t the time to need a fire started. Shoot, maybe we just need to work a little harder to really get the sparks going.

That work doesn’t have to be physical. It could mean paying more attention to this amazing Earth God has placed us on. Seeing the beauty in nature, watching people do amazing deeds in not-so-amazing circumstances. These are beautiful things, but are we noticing them as much as we should? Are we willing to take that extra breathe and clear our minds of the craziness of life?

Maybe we can’t find that spark because everything is too wet from the rain that is life. Instead of building a shelter to block out that rain and get a good fire going, we continue bounding through the storm. We never give ourselves the chance to take cover and figure out the best way to weather the storm. It is times like these where the pressure of life gets to us all.

Now I am not advocating to stop living life just because it is too crazy. I mean the fact of the matter is life isn’t easy, quitting won’t make it any easier. So please, don’t quit your job and run-off chasing that spark. More often than not, that spark is right there in front of you, just waiting for you to make it.

Take your work seriously, be the best you can be at it, and when the work day is over with spend your off-time carefully. Don’t waste it away with six hours of TV when you get home. Find an activity and participate in it. Start a hobby that keeps you outside and in God’s country. Never take for granted the fact that this is a beautiful Earth to live on. Volunteer somewhere, help the youth around your local area. I know in my busy schedule that sometimes the best part of my week is when I get to look at myself in the mirror and think “I worked hard today, and I hope it helps someone else”.

This is not meant to be a self-gratifying thing, it is meant to be a joyous thing. I could care less if the feeling is warm and fuzzy, because it is not about me. If my intentions are true, it will be all about someone or something else. Typically, a big fire is made with that spark.  That fire is the joy that is supposed to come from doing good deeds. I say lets cherish that feeling, you can never get enough of it.

I hope my little monologue about sparks has given someone reading this a spark, whether it be the idea that has been forming for a long time, or just a feeling of something better on the horizon. I hope that we can all have the opportunity in our lives to do things that make sparks, so we can all have warm fires in our hearts. I also hope and pray that the warmth of those fires stems from the warmth of God’s love, and our acceptance of him in our lives.

I think in writing this, I have found a spark!

God bless everybody, thanks for reading, and go make sparks fly today.

Work smarter? Or work harder? Maybe both?

“Pierce, you got to work smarter, not harder.” 

I’ve heard this phrase many times in my life. My Father, my tennis coaches, and my mentors in the sheep industry have used that catchy phrase many, many times. Sounds pretty smart, makes a lot of sense when it’s said, and by God I like the idea of less working and more thinking. You see, I tend to wake up less sore and tired in the morning if I’ve been doing more thinking than working. 

If there is one thing I can say about the city, there is a lot of smart work going on around here. There are more folks who can analyze data and writing materials than Carter’s got liver pills, and boy the decisions they make from their analysis are rarely wrong. As a plus, they can do it all with their butt in a chair and face in front a computer. 

Whether it be my parent’s hard working influence or my stubborn “do it the hard way” nature, I have typically found myself doing more work than is necessary for a project. I see that in every aspect of my life. For reasons unknown I would rather trudge through a long bumpy road with grit and determination than do some thinking and pave a shorter, smooth road. Maybe it is the satisfaction of the soreness I feel in the morning, or the little cuts and calluses on my hands that make me enjoy hard work. Maybe it is the fact I love to be outside doing something, or just moving in general. As I have stated in previous blogs, sitting in an office isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. 

I guess, for whatever reason, I enjoy hard work. 

As I said earlier, most work around the Nation’s capital is smart work, and if a person can’t think on their feet than they may as well not come to work in this town. It is a thinker’s game, where being three steps ahead is two steps too short. It can be a ruthless lifestyle. I have observed that many lunch and supper events folks go to in this town are used for work. I am still baffled by how many important discussions are held over drinks at happy-hour. I mean, can’t folks of age just enjoy a good drink without having to work? The answer most of the time is probably not, because that time spent enjoying a drink puts a person one step behind, which is something you can’t afford to be.

Now sure all this “smart work” can be a good thing, I mean don’t we want the nation’s brightest working in our capital? Shouldn’t their intelligence and education be more beneficial to making the complex decisions that shape our country every day? Even if it’s over a drink, isn’t it better knowing they are the brightest minds around?

I don’t bring this up to say that one way of doing something is better than another, or that folks who work smart are lazy and folks who work hard are stupid.

I bring this up to ask, “Where is the balance?”

You see, with all of its beautiful luxuries, working smart brings on an idea that working with your back and hands is a bad deal. The idea that because you can use your brain to pave that shortcut makes you above trudging through the bumpy road. I can personally say I have experienced this over this summer. For the first time in my life, I started questioning why in the heck I was so willingly covering myself in muck and manure doing farm work at the Cropp Family Farm. I thought, “It’s 98 degrees today and I have already put in ten hours, can’t I go send emails now?” It struck me awful hard, because I have always been proud of my willingness to work with my hands. “How lazy have I become”, I thought. The truth was, I wasn’t necessarily being lazy, I simply have been in a different mindset. When I head into the city, no one is asking me to move cattle and swing axes, they ask me to google voting outcomes and organization positions on issues. I was becoming accustomed to a comfortable chair, and nice, loose muscles in the morning.

On the flip side of all this is what being solely a hard worker can do to a person. Before my office days this summer, I took much pride in my desire to outwork anyone and anything around me. I wanted to do everything the hard way. It didn’t require any thought, and a little muscle and elbow grease would get any job done. When someone I was working with would talk about how they couldn’t wait for an office job in their future, I would automatically write them off as lazy and useless in my mind. I mean, if they can’t even roll a little fence without complaining, I wouldn’t want them around right? I put too much stock in my own ego, in my work ethic, and my lack of flexibility.

I know somewhere in my head there is intelligence (I may have to dig a little deeper in my brain than others to find it, but I guarantee it is there. I promise.) Yet, I would tuck all that away and just work until I could barely stand up anymore for the day. I’ll pay for all that abuse one day in my future, but trust me when I say it’ll be worth it in my mind.

So, which way is better? Shall we as people choose to save our bodies and use our minds? Or shall we work until we drop? For myself, the answer is simply, “work smarter, not harder” does not translate to “pick a work ethic”. The fact is, sometimes you have to trudge down that bumpy road to find a better place to pave your shortcut, and sometimes you have to have the ingenuity to realize life would be a lot easier if you’d just use the brain God gave you and make that shortcut. There will be times when you don’t have the choice but to walk that bumpy road, other times the paved road will be so obvious you don’t even have to think too hard.

As I have grown older, I have noticed that as humans, we don’t like work. No lying or blowing smoke about it. Even though I like looking at my old dirty hat and thinking about all the hard work it took to stain that thing, I’d rather just sit down and rest my legs. It is human nature, it is a part of how we think.

We often times in modern culture look down upon those who choose the road less traveled, the guys and gals who make their living on their back with their own sweat and blood.

In contrast, those folks tend to look down upon the folks in fancy business clothes who make a living with their brains.

Another question for us all to ask, “Why in the world do we have to look down on anybody?”

I mean, good Lord, don’t we need everybody in this world to keep it turning? Lord knows I can’t do the math to properly design a gps system for tractors, but I know a lot of happy farmers who are very thankful for those systems. It took somebody using their brain to help design those systems, and somebody not afraid to use their back to use that system in a practical setting. A gps in a tractor would be useless without a farmer to need a tractor, and farmers couldn’t be as accurate as they are now a days without that gps. Brain and brawn go together pretty darn well, and in my humble opinion, do a lot more good together than on their own.

So, let us think about how we like to work, and what kind of work we do best. Then, let us all learn the willingness to work hard when necessary, and smart when necessary. I believe at the end of the day, that’s what makes us good workers.

Go ahead and give that fella mowing ditches a good wave as you drive to your office job in the morning, and be sure to give an extra thank you to the secretary at the doctor’s office as she sits in her chair. We need all of us to make it work folks.

God bless everyone, and thanks for reading!

A Smile

This week has been quite a busy one. My primary job has been to hand deliver invitations for NAMI’s annual hot dog lunch. These invitations were for all Congressman and their Legislative Assistants, as well as Congressional committees. Let me just say, that 96 degree day on Tuesday absolutely stunk (literally, I was sweating like crazy).

From Friday afternoon of last week, until Wednesday afternoon of this week, the only time I wasn’t walking through a congressional building or the Capitol building was when I was eating lunch. It was a lot of walking, and I went through every single office in each building. Trust me when I say, I DIDN’T MISS A SINGLE ONE.

The process had its charms, like being out of the office and able to move around. I also got to explore our Nation’s capital some more. This is something not very many folks get to do in their lifetime. It turned out to be quite a neat experience, and I really enjoyed all my time spent on the hill this week.

I look at my experience in DC as an investment in my education. As my grade school and high school teachers could probably tell you, I was never the “book learner” in class. I firmly believe that the Good Lord did not make me to be a studying, book learning type of person. I have tried to learn in that style, and I always find myself never really learning, but memorizing. After awhile, I forget everything I memorized, and then I am back to square one. However, let me work with my hands and be engaged in my learning, and results will come. My high school calculus teacher will still talk about how I used to walk in circles in class ever day, and that is how I learn best.

I say all this because this week I really received quite the education. I didn’t learn anything about policy making or DC, but a lot about people and human experiences.

As I made my way from office to office, it was clear to me that all those people skills my parents told me would be so important in my future really were important. I have never had to be around so many people in so short of a time, and I really learned from the human interaction overload.

Our hot dog lunch is invite only, simply because we only have so much money and space. Therefore, when I delivered invitations, I couldn’t just slide them into the mailbox. I had to give a short introduction of who I was and what I was doing, and then make sure to say who the invitations were for. In other words, I was attempting to clarify confusion. I have been told that every year we have to turn back a lot of people at the lunch, because they don’t have their name on the guest list.

As one could guess, congressional offices receive a lot of invitations on a daily basis. Not only was my invitation just another one coming on through, but now I was taking up intern’s and staffer’s time by giving them my spiel. I know for myself, if I had to deal with categorizing a bunch of invitations all day while managing the phone, I wouldn’t take kindly to some intern from off the hill trying to tell me what was what.

This is where the educational part of my post comes in.

For the most part, my invitations were met with a professional indifference. The person behind the desk would listen to what I had to say, look over the invitations, thank me for delivering them, and then move on as I headed out the door. Very professional, very straight-forward. My way of doing things. However, there were a select few individuals who not only acted as though my presence was a burden, but as if what I was telling them was hogwash. One young lady even tried to hand an invitation back to me, sighting that in her office they post all their invitations on a wall for everyone to attend. When I told her it was invite only, and she needed to keep that postcard for that LA, she got a little upset. That was my cue to get out of there, and I have strong confidence that the thud I heard was not the sound of her tossing the invites into a mail box, but rather a trash bin. On the flip side, some people would stand up when I came in, give me a hearty “Hello!” and proceed to treat me as though I was the only thing on their agenda that day. Not only did my message go through to them, but it was a pleasant experience. Also, those interns and staffers obviously got the message. I never walked out of a office from which an engaged person would be saying “free hot dogs for everybody, sweet!”. Due to the fact they chose to listen to me and be engaged, they didn’t miss the little “invite only” detail. It will save them and their office a lot of time and disappointment come our event.

I talk about this as an educational experience because it really opened my eyes as to how important being an engaged person is to an organization. I can tell you right now, I sure as heck never want to have to go into that young lady’s office ever again. The folks who acted excited to see me, I would gladly visit. Finally, the folks who were indifferent I could professionally work with, and get things done in that office. Notice how I discuss things in terms of “that office”. You see, from my perspective, I assume that that person’s behavior reflects the office’s character. Those people at the desk give me a glimpse into what that office is like.

This my friends, is a extremely important educational lesson, at least to me. I have never thought of how my behavior and actions could speak for so many people, typically because I am just speaking for myself. How wrong have I been. It is not a person’s achievements or talents that give them good character. It is the standards they hold themselves to. One of those standards, is how they treat others.

I know there have been times in my life where I haven’t been a smiling cheerio person. I know that I have not always treated people with the respect and attention they have deserved. This past week has been a great reminder for me as to just how important it is to treat people the right way.  This is regardless of what is going on in my personal life or in the office. As a member of an organization, and as a human being, I have to uphold the fact that everyone deserves to be treated with the right amount of respect and attention.

No matter how exhausting this week was, I am very thankful for the chance to be reminded of this very true fact.

God bless everybody and thanks for reading!

Routine

At this point in my summer, I have became used to the every day realities of my internship. I wake-up at 6 am, brush my teeth, shave my face, and then go put on my clothes I had set out from the night before. I grab a quick breakfast, and out the door I go.

From there, I make my way to the metro, hop on the red line, and read a book until I reach Farragut North station. I hop off, walk the rest of the way to work, and begin my day.

When my day finishes at 5:30, I go back to Farragut North, get to Shady Grove Metro, and drive home. It’s a pretty simple lifestyle.

However, I have never been a person who likes the routine in life. Ironically, I hate change as well. You see, if we are talking about what meal I eat at Cracker Barrel, it would be craziness to suggest I get anything but the fish with fried okra and mashed potatoes. Yet, if you want me to stare at the same computer screen and catalog research all day, everyday, that is also seen as craziness. I guess, I really do like to have my cake and eat it too.

As I think about this routine I have developed, I can’t help but to attempt to be negative, to say to myself “this is boring, somebody get me to the farm!”. However, it doesn’t take long to think of something else, something much more important. My Dad, and Grampy, have spent their whole lives living a routine. They are up and gone before most folks are even an hour away from their alarm clocks sounding off. To this day, they are the cheeriest morning people I know of. I guess 40+ years of waking up early can do that to a man.

Both of them, like me, make their way to work, work all day, and head home. Now I am almost positive that they would love to spend everyday doing something a little different, to be able to explore and be on the move. I can guarantee that if given the option, both men would happily spend everyday in the woods hunting, or on the water fishing. That is a routine I can guarantee they would happily get into.

Yet, both of them keep working, both of them never cease to quit that regular routine to do something more fun and exciting. In a world that is so concerned with personal obligations and “making myself happy before others”, these men sacrifice daily. They never ask for something greater, they never take off to chase another rainbow. If you asked them, they would both proudly tell you that the day they got married and decided to have kids was the day they lost those exploring privileges.

You see, they would rather sacrifice for other’s happiness and joy, than retain their own. Now that my friends, is a defining message. You see, it is a man who leads the family, a man who stands guard over his wife and children, to protect and honor them, and even correct the kids when they step out of line. This isn’t a easy job, nor a glorious one. From changing diapers to driving sheep to Louisville, Kentucky at 2 AM, my Dad has a long list of jobs that won’t be on his resume any time soon. My Gramp, not only raised his three children, but never hesitates to be a part of his Grandchildren’s lives. You won’t find very many events my sister and I participated in that Gramp and Dad weren’t in attendance.

These men, regardless of their personal feelings, set everything aside to sacrifice daily for my family. They never ask for anything in return, and if they do make a request, it is always, “please call your Momma, she is missing you”. Again, life isn’t about them, but someone else.

So, I guess my so-called “boring” routine isn’t all that bad, and heck, I get to spend my time in the Nation’s capital as a bonus. I have learned so much in these last four weeks, and I am looking forward to continue my education. I have a lot less riding on my routine than my Gramp and Dad did, and if they can do it and find enjoyment, then so can I. I am blessed for my internship, blessed for the life I have been granted by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and I am bless that God chose to put these men in my life.

Have a GREAT Father’s Day Dad and Gramp, do a little fishing for me, and be picky about what is for supper tonight. It is time for you to have your cake and eat it too.

God bless everyone, thanks for reading, and happy Father’s day to all those Dad’s out there!

Disconnection

I am two weeks into my internship, and although it is going by fast, I feel myself learning things at an even faster rate. For example:

  •  If you want to get on the metro during high-time hours, memorize where the doors stop.
  • If you don’t want to get honked at every 30 seconds, do not drive less than 10 miles an hour over the speed limit (I promise though, I just get honked at a lot, I would never speed).
  • Finally, if you don’t want to catch some weird looks in the city, don’t say excuse me when you bump into someone.

Now certainly, I am learning more than just how to survive the city life. My professional development has already started to grow throughout this experience, and the amazing part is I still have month and a half left to learn. For example:

  • When you are taking notes at a meeting, never forget to write down each attendee’s name and profession. It’s good to know all the talking points, and just what is going on in a specific situation, until you need to know who discussed those facts and that information is lost.
  • Never ever walk into a meeting without answers to questions you are about to ask. Although you must be willing to create discussion and be open to new ideas, walking into a meeting without answers to questions is like going hunting in December in your boxers (it won’t work out to well).
  • Those “open deadlines” aren’t all that open. Just because you have time to do something doesn’t mean you have time not to do it. Take every opportunity possible to continue working on current projects, whether their deadline is tomorrow or next month.
  • Don’t be one step ahead of the game, be about five. If you are told to analyze something and have a briefing on the subject later, don’t just read the articles and sources you’ve been sent. Read them, and then search for more, find out what others think about the topic, and how it will affect your organization. You see, you can bet a plump nickle that all those things will be brought up in the briefing, so why not already know them?

I hope everyone reading this has noticed I titled this piece “Disconnection”. Although the beginning of my post may not seem like anything is disconnecting anywhere, I can promise you that all the new-found knowledge comes from a disconnect. A disconnect of how different things are in a fast paced office compared to a farm setting. A disconnect of how people from other places act and think. A disconnect from the full-time work place. I think many of these disconnects are fitting, and understandable. However, that doesn’t make them excusable. With a little preparation and study, I very-well could have been more prepared for my time here in DC. I could be spending less time learning the basics, and more time learning the specifics.

Some bridges have to be built when you go to cross them, some you can have built before you get there. It is all part of life, and learning. Thankfully, I am a quick learner.

As I am discussing disconnects, this brings up something very near and dear to my heart, how consumers and farmers are disconnected. Everyone has discussed it, everyone has listened to a webinar or presentation about it. Yet, are things getting better or worse? Truthfully, I don’t know. What I do know is that we have a lot of confusion in our society. Working at the Meat Institute has forced me to be up-to-date on Ag issues. I no longer hear about something on a “week later” basis.

So, I have gladly been diving into COOL, TPA, and dietary guidelines. These subjects have brought me into the realms of international politics, policy making, and consumer issues. I am planning to discuss consumer issues in this post.

Throughout my research, I have noticed a reoccurring theme about the current consumer in today’s society. It is a simple theme, but no doubt stands out. The consumer wants clean healthy food, but in the reality they choose to live in. The reality in which the food in their supermarket was freshly picked by a happy farm hand after naturally just popping out of the ground and being ready for our needs. The idea that meat and its by-products don’t come from animals, but simply show up in the grocery store. The idea that pesticides and herbicides are harmful no matter what, and that is why we must grow organic (even though organic growers must use pesticides and herbicides as well for cosmetic reasons, they are just natural products, or those that aren’t synthetically created).

Ironically, the reality of the world is simply that food cannot be produced at a mass quantity without modern technology and modern farming methods. The fact that a steer can’t frolic in a beautiful green pasture all its life and still grade premium choice is the truth of the matter. Yet, consumers these days expect there to be ample food, and they like their beef juicy and flavorful.

In an article I read titled “PepsiCo’s CEO was right. Now what”, I found an interesting quote that really sums up the confusion and disconnection consumers have with food and healthy eating. While discussing the new direction PespiCO is headed due to consumer wants,  Pepsi’s CEO Indra Nooyi commented, “If it is non-GMO, natural, or organic, but high in sodium and high in sugar and fat, it’s okay.”

While listening to a presentation by Leonard P. Gianessi (who is a world known leader on pesticide and herbicide use), Mr. Gianessi made the comment that 2/3 of respondents in a shopping survey were willing to pay 5-10% more if foods were pesticide free. However, these same consumers were unwilling to accept any cosmetic damage on their food that would come without using pesticides. Let me digress, these cosmetic damage would simply make the food look poor, like a blemish on a piece of fruit, there would not be any harm to the consumer if they ate the food.

So, what is an agriculturist to do? Consumers are saying they want healthy, abundant food. So that’s what we give them, only to find out that because the steer was in a feedlot and given a shot for a lung infection that it is no longer what is deemed “healthy”. On the crop side, the fear that GMO crops will harm consumers is a popular theme in today’s society.

This drives a disconnect, a “us vs them” mentality.

The disconnect however, I would argue, is a two way street. From my time in the city, I have learned it is completely normal behavior to not hold doors open for women, and to not apologize when you bump into someone or cut them off on the sidewalk. THAT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME. That is not how things work where I am from. No different than why I get a weird look when I jog ahead of a woman at a door to make sure I grab the door for her, and she gives me a weird look. THAT MAKES NO SENSE TO HER.

That same feeling of disconnect occurs between farmers and consumers everyday. In a farmer’s mind, they know that every animal or crop they send for human consumption is healthy and grown safely and correctly. How do they know this? Well, they’ve done it their whole life, they wouldn’t even question the thought. The consumer on the other hand, just wants to eat safe, healthy food. They don’t  want to worry about what is wrong with it, they just want to trust it, but there is so much language and news that modern agriculture is bad, and GMO’s and modern livestock practices are unsafe. How can they trust the farmer?

In this situation, the farmer doesn’t understand how a consumer could even question the safety of what we produce. That is not the side of the street they are used to being on. The consumer, doesn’t understand how the farmer can be so confident, when all these things are being said on social media and the news. Is the farmer lying just to make money? Are all those videos really true? You see, the consumer is not from the farmer’s side of the street.

What to me is lunacy is honest truth to a consumer, and vice versa.

I guess I don’t know if their is a true “end all be all” in this situation that will fix this problem. However, I believe that no matter how hard it can be, we in agriculture must learn to go to the other side of the street sometimes. We must understand what consumers think and why they think it. Who knows, maybe we will be able to bring consumers to our side of the street, so they can better understand us and why we believe what we believe.

God bless everybody, and thanks for reading!

Struggles and Strifes

It has always been clear to me that in the road we walk called life, there will inevitably be bumps and  potholes. No matter how much we dot our i’s and cross our t’s, there is the ever constant reminder that we are human, and with that comes imperfections. For me, I have always feared those imperfections, as though there was something wrong with me for having them.

Now I’m sure your all thinking, “isn’t this just cheerio”. However, I hope that in this blog I can honestly talk about things normally deemed negative, but with a positive understanding of why they can be good things.

In my first week of DC, I can honestly say things haven’t quite gone as I imagined. Although I have always known the city was fast paced, and different than anything I am used to, I truly was not prepared for it. The amount of people all in one place, the quiet eeriness of the Metro, and the constant sound of cars and street performers set an unease in me. It was the feeling I always get when I have been pulled out of my comfort zone, and forced to adjust.

You see, as my mother will tell you, I have never been the kind that bodes well with change. So, when the calm quietness of home (whether that home be in Houston, OH or Manhattan, KS) was replaced with cars, sirens, and thousands of people, I didn’t take to it well. My office, (which is amazing by the way) felt like a box at first. I haven’t spent a lot of time in a space the size of an office. So again, I felt that unsettling feeling.

With what felt like a ball and chain dragging along behind me, I drudged through my first week, worked as hard as I knew how to enjoy what was around me, and went through my day.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I came to the realization that not only were things not that bad, but that I have an amazing experience in front of me. However, it took yet another bump in my road to show me.

I was driving to pick up a good buddy of mine who is also interning in DC, we were going to attend mass together. As I neared 270, I heard a clunk, and my ABS light came on. I immediately headed back home, to find my front driver’s wheel smoking (yes I should have just pulled over, but the worried mind of Pierce felt the instinct to just get home). I obviously knew things were pretty bad, and from previous experience and a few calls to those with mechanical backgrounds, I determined my wheel bearing had went out. So there I was, stuck in a place far from home, that doesn’t feel like home, and now I have vehicle issues.

After a while, I felt angry. How in the world could everything pile up on me like this? I move to a new place, I have extra work to do after my nine hour work day, and the city feels more like a mythical world than anything I can understand. I was pushed to the max, bogged down in self-pity and grief, and was acting like my Father would so graciously put it, “a big old baby”.

It wasn’t until I went outside and looked at my pickup again that I finally knew I had to wake-up out of this nightmare. Not the nightmare with the big city and broken truck, but the nightmare I was putting myself in , where everything in Pierce’s world is terrible and his life isn’t perfect. As I stood there, staring at my truck, I realized that about one minute before I heard that clunk, I was hearing my gps say, “In one mile, stay right to enter onto 270”. I could have got on the busy highway yesterday morning, and God knows how bad that could have been. I could not have this amazing internship with NAMI in a city that offers millions of opportunities for my professional growth and development. I could not have an amazing home at the Cropp Family Farm to come home to everyday.

In the end, I am a very lucky man.

So, I put some skip to my step today, gave a few extra smiles to folks on the Metro (even though some were quite confused, I did it anyways), and felt quite at home in my lovely office. Sure, being outside feeling my sweat bead down my back may be the life I’m used to, and the life I love, but this is an experience that is amazing, and I am enjoying each moment now.

As I close this addition of my blog, I would like to end with the thought of my favorite book in the Bible. The Book of Job. You see, Job had every reason to quit, every reason to denounce God and stop being faithful. However, even with every struggle and strife, with every loss and pain he must have felt, Job never stopped trusting God.

I pray that I always have Job’s resolve, and his never ending faith in the Lord our God.

The Big City

“Just a good ole country boy taking on the big city.” Those were the words of a family friend just the other night, after finding out I will be interning with the North American Meat Institute in Washington DC this summer. I didn’t think on that statement much when I first heard it, but now that I am here in DC, and preparing to start my first day of work tomorrow, that statement seems so true.

Growing up in rural Shelby County Ohio, most of my young life revolved around a hunting season, a sheep show, and my athletics.  What came right alongside those passions were the things everyone knew, planters came out in the spring, combines in the fall, and you could always tell where the hog barns were.

After high school, I decided it was time to leave that home, and head to Manhattan, Kansas, where I currently still attend Kansas State University(GO CATS!). The K-state experience has been a wonderful one, and without it I would not be the same person I am today. That experience has been an adventure that has taken me from Denver to Houston, and I have enjoyed the time spent on the wool and meat judging teams, as well as working at the Sheep and Meat Goat Center. However, I was looking for a new adventure for this summer.

So, when I learned that the American Society of Animal Sciences was offering a chance to intern in Washington DC, and learn about how policy is made, I jumped at the chance. Luckily, I earned a spot, and eventually found out that I will be working for the Meat Institute this summer. This is exciting for me, because I find policy making exciting, and feel a calling to help the agricultural industries through sound policy.

Yet, this is a different experience. As I went to the city on this memorial day to get my bearings and learn the ways of the Metro, I couldn’t help but notice there were no cowboy boots, no smell of fresh dirt, no tractor engines sounding off to the start of the morning.

So, as I sit here, pondering what this summer will be like, and just what all I will learn and experience, I can’t help but wonder if this ole country boy can really take on the big city. I ask that everybody follow along with me this summer, as I will be writing on this blog quite regularly to document and share my experience. Share this on facebook, twitter, and with anyone else who you know who loves agriculture, and wants to know just what is happening in our nation’s capital.

God bless, and may I say a great thank you to all who have given the ultimate sacrifice to defend this great nation that I call home.