Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sustainability - A Global Buzzword...Part 3

This is the final post in the three-part series on sustainability. I hope you have enjoyed learning about agriculture and sustainability in Ireland as much as I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you. To conclude this series I want to leave you with my main takeaways from my travels in Ireland.

  • Sustainability is a global buzzword, especially in the agriculture industry.
  • Ireland and the U.S. have very different approaches to dealing with sustainability in agriculture.
  • The agriculture industry, on a global scale, believes it is crucial to demonstrate their sustainability; however, countries have different ways of doing this.
  • Farmers around the world work hard every day to be more sustainable than they have been before. 
  • Farmers care deeply for the land and animals in their care and are proud to produce food for families around the world.
  • Farmers and agriculturalists are working to be more transparent with consumers about their production practices.
Although this concludes this mini-series on sustainability, below you will find more pictures from my adventures in Ireland.

Until next time,

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sustainability - A Global Buzzword...Part 2

I'm so glad that you have come back to read Part 2 of this three-part series. As I mentioned in my last post, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Ireland in November for a short-term study abroad tour. It was a great experience, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to mark 'travel to Ireland' off my bucket list.

While we were in Ireland, we traveled across a large portion of the country. We stayed in the cities of Cork, Galway, and Dublin. Driving from place to place was one of the best parts of the trip - it was so neat to see the lush, green countrysides and the various sheep and cattle grazing in the stone-fenced pastures. In addition to touring cultural sites such as Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, and Cliffs of Moher, we had the opportunity to tour two universities, two farms, the Department of Agriculture, Irish Examiner, and the Farmers Journal. At several of the stops I had the opportunity to visit with the hosts to ask about their views of sustainability and sustainability initiatives in Ireland. Below, I share the views of some of the incredible individuals that I had the opportunity to meet.

Billy Nicholson- We traveled to Billy Nicholson's beef operation near Crosshaven on Monday, November 24. This farm will be 100 years old in 2015 and Neil, Billy's son, will be the four generation to manage the farm. Nicholson has a 182 hectare property with 94 hectares in grass, 40 hectares in tillage and fodder beets; with a 100-cow herd of Charolais and Simmental. All the calving on the Nicholson farm occurs in the spring. Male cattle are typically finished as young bulls and they do not keep heifer calves as replacements. The Nicholson farm is part of the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme and has been since the program was introduced. Nicholson said joining the program was an easy decision because of the price incentives they receive as part of participating in the program.

"Sustainable farming is being able to make a comfortable living, while still being able to re-invest in buildings and farm infrastructure," - Billy Nicholson, third generation Irish farmer

On Monday we also toured Teagasc at Moorepark. Teagasc is the semi-state authority in Ireland responsible for research and development, training and advisory services in the agri-food sector. Moorepark is one of the leading dairy research centers in the world and specializes in pasture based systems of milk production. Next year the EU is eliminating milk quotas and Ireland is working to double milk production by 2020. This is putting pressure on Teagasc to provide more intensive services to its clients. The growing global population was the primary driver in the decision to eliminate milk quotas. Ireland's goal is to be one of the top 5 dairy exporters in the world (currently they rank 28th).

"Sustainability from an economic/financial perspective is about a farmer's ability to make a profit and environmentally it's about protecting the environment..socially it would probably be important to consider work-life balance," Tom O'Dwyer, Teagasc dairy specialist.

On Wednesday, November 26 we visited the Department of Agriculture Press Office and met with Ultan Waldron, press and information officer for the department. The mission of the department is to lead the sustainable development of a competitive, consumer agri-food sector and to contribute to the rural economy and society. Waldron was so helpful in explaining the sustainability initiatives in Ireland and even followed up after our meeting with additional information.

"Being sustainable is about producing more with what you have; inputs and outputs," - Ultan Waldron, Ireland Department of Agriculture press and information officer.

I greatly enjoyed my time visiting with these individuals and so appreciate their willingness to share their thoughts on agricultural sustainability. Although their definitions varied, they each stressed the importance of sustainability in the agriculture industry on a global level. Based on the research I have been doing for my thesis, I knew that the literature suggests that sustainability is an increasingly important topic. However, I really enjoyed hearing it directly from these agriculturalists and learning about their individuals views on the topic.

Next time I will conclude this mini-series, I hope you will come back to check it out. I plan to share my main takeaways from the trip, as well as compare and contrast agriculture in Ireland and the U.S.

Until next time,

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sustainability - A Global Buzzword

Today I'm launching the first of three posts about agriculture in Ireland, specifically agricultural sustainability in Ireland. Those of you who know me know that I'm extremely passionate about sustainability, especially in the agriculture industry. For those of you that didn't know, let me explain.

In January 2013 I had the amazing opportunity to attend a Bayer CropScience Sustainability in Agriculture Executive Course on behalf of the Red River Farm Network. This course brought together agricultural stakeholders from across the country to talk about sustainability in agriculture. This course both challenged and excited me and, at the time, I didn't realize the profound impact the course would have on my life. To learn more about that course check out the blog post I wrote.

This course sparked my interested in the concept of sustainability and how farmers are sharing their sustainability stories with consumers. I am passionate about every aspect of sustainability: how it is defined, how it is measured, how consumers view the sustainability of agriculture, how businesses practice sustainability, and so much more. My passion for this topic led me to basing my thesis on sustainability along the agricultural supply chain. In addition, I am working on a project with some colleagues aimed at understanding how consumers and agriculturalists perceive sustainability at the farm-level.

Last spring I signed up for a short-term study abroad in Ireland. As part of the course I was instructed to identify a topic of interest that I wanted to investigate while in Ireland. Any guesses on what topic I selected? Of course, it was sustainability! I couldn't wait to learn about agricultural sustainability in Ireland. After a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Ireland and learn about agriculture and agricultural communications, I wanted to share what I learned. I learned so much that I'm breaking it into a three-part series. This first post is focused on the key takeaways about agricultural sustainability in Ireland.

  • The word sustainability has certainly become a buzzword in the U.S. and it has also become a popular term in Ireland in recent years.
  • Just like in the U.S. there is no universal definition of sustainability. While many of the people I visited with had similar definitions, each definition was unique.
  • Sustainability is affecting the lives of consumers. It's what they want to hear about and what they want farmers to practice.
  • The concept of sustainability is changing the way farmers farm. A majority of Irish farmers are involved in some sort of program to help them demonstrate their environmental sustainability.
  • Ireland has sustainability programs for every area of ag/food production.
In my next post, I will be introducing you to some of the farmers and agriculturalists I visited with while in Ireland and sharing their views of sustainability. I hope you come back to check it out!

Until next time,


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Never Forget Your Roots

It’s hard to believe in two weeks I will have completed my third semester of graduate school – seems like just yesterday I packed up my belongings and moved to Kansas. I guess it’s true what they say, time flies when you’re having fun!

With graduation peering around the corner, a growing number of people have started asking me what I will do after I graduate. The truth is I still don’t have a solid answer to that question. I’m learning not to place limits on what I can do or where life can take me.

Over the last several years I have had the amazing opportunity to travel and experience life in a variety of places including Milwaukee, Nicaragua, Manhattan, Brazil and, most recently, Ireland. While life has taken me to these places for a variety of reasons and for different lengths of time, I always take a piece of home with me wherever I go. The lessons I learned growing up have helped prepare me for a future that has no limits.

Thinking about the future can be nerve-wracking and brings with it all sorts of uncertainties, but I know that wherever life takes me my roots will always be planted firmly on the beautiful North Dakota farm where I was raised. No amount of miles can take those lessons away.

If I could offer one piece of advice to you it would be this- dream as big as you want but never forget your roots. The lessons you’ve learned along the way will give you a strong foundation to be successful wherever your dreams take you.

“There’s no forgetting my humble beginnings; where I’m going, God only knows” – Small Town Soul by Gwen Sebastian

P.S. Next week I’m launching a three-part blog series called Sustainability – A Global Buzzword to highlight my recent trip to Ireland. Be sure to check it out!

Until next time,

Saturday, May 3, 2014

It's About the Journey

Today I was prepared to be productive and finalize the second chapter of my thesis. Unfortunately, after eight hours of reading books and numerous articles all I have to show for my efforts is two lousy paragraphs and a messy desk.

As I was packing things up, discouraged and frustrated, I was reminded of this quote:

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow. -Mary Anne Radmacher

Life is full of days where things don't go as planned, but that shouldn't get in the way of you accomplishing your goals. Don't let a setback deter you from chasing your dreams. Life is about the journey just as much as it is about the destination, and I can assure you the journey will be filled with potholes, traffic jams, dead-ends, and detours along the way. But all of the experiences build character, and I promise the destination will be worth every curve ball thrown your way.

If you've experienced a frustrating day, week, month, or year, don't give up. Take heart knowing that tomorrow is a chance to try again. Don't lose sight of the destination, but remember to appreciate the lessons learned along the way.

Despite feeling defeated and frustrated, I can assure you that I will be back to work on chapter two again tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Living Life Intentionally

It seems like I'm asked about my plans after graduate school on a fairly regular basis. And to be honest, I don't know the answer to that question. There are so many things that I want to do that I can't pinpoint one specific thing.

People say your 20s are supposed to be the time of your life - time for you to figure out who you are, what you want to be when you "grow up" and a chance for you to establish your own beliefs. I'm only 23 so I don't know a lot about being a 20-something, but here's what I do know. While my 20s may be a chance for me to figure out who I want to be and what I want to do with my life, I refuse to let these years pass by without carefully considering the decisions I make. I want to live my 20s intentionally, with clear goals of what I hope to learn in the next seven years. I want to take advantage of these "golden" years, knowing that the choices I make will have a powerful impact on determining who I am and what I will contribute to this world.

Are you a 20-something who is trying to figure out what to do with your life? That's great! I encourage you to consider what you are passionate about, what motivates you and what you want to be remembered for. I challenge you to be intentional with the choices you make, the organizations you're involved in, internships and jobs you apply for, and even the people you spend time with. The choices we make during this time will have a profound impact on our future - personally and professionally. Don't let these years pass you by without letting them mold you into the person you are meant to be.

So while I don't know what I want to do after I graduate yet, I can assure you that I've set some goals for things I want to accomplish and learn before I turn 30. I am also planning to make more intentional decisions regarding my future. I hope you'll join me on my journey and make your 20s some of the best years of your life!

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." -Henry David Thoreau

Until next time,

Friday, January 24, 2014

2013- A Year Filled with Change

Let me begin by apologizing for neglecting my blog. I hope when you read this post you understand why I haven't written a post for a long time. My goal for 2014 is to blog at least once a month (I'm hoping it's more than that though!)

Change is the word that I would use to describe 2013. Let me tell you why:
  • K-State Graduate Student- Last spring I began to consider furthering my education with an online master's program. However, as I began to look more deeply in to graduate programs and visit with various faculty members, I realized that completing my degree on-campus would provide me with a greater learning opportunity. I received my letter of acceptance in the mail, but took a couple of weeks to think and pray about my decision. Going back to school would mean leaving the farm, my family and friends, and I would have to leave a job that I really enjoyed. I decided to take a giant leap of faith and moved to Manhattan, Kansas on August 18th. I just started my second semester towards a master's degree in agricultural communications at Kansas State University!

    For someone who rushed to complete my bachelor's degree in three years, most people are shocked that I went back to school. But in all honesty, I'm enjoying my time back in the classroom. I am being pushed and challenged more than ever before, and I'm loving it! The faculty and other graduate students in the program make it a great place to be. Living 12 hours from the farm has been extremely difficult, but I am thankful for supportive friends and family who continually encourage and support me.
    Special thanks to Scott Stebner for taking this photo!
  • Said Goodbye to RRFN- One of the major drawbacks to deciding to go to school in Kansas was having to leave a job that I enjoyed and say goodbye to the incredible Red River Farm Network team. I started interning for RRFN during the summer of 2010, and I will forever be grateful to Don and Mike for agreeing to take a chance and hire me. During my time as an intern and full-time employee I had the incredible opportunity to "Report Agriculture's Business" on a daily business. I am thankful for the support of Mike, Don, Randy, Jay and Karen as I made this difficult decision. The lessons I learned during my time at RRFN are ones I will never forget.

    First year at Big Iron with RRFN.
  • Promoted to Aunt- Perhaps the most exciting change this past year happened on November 26, when I became an aunt for the first time! The Topp team grew to 7 when Jackson arrived, and we couldn't be happier. I am so excited to teach Jackson as he grows, and I can already envision him out in the field and in the calving barn with his dad, grandpa and uncle. Being 12 hours away is even more difficult now that he is here, but I am so thankful for frequent picture updates and FaceTime. I spent every spare second with Jackson when I was home for Christmas break, and I can hardly wait to spend the entire summer with him. 
    So blessed to be Jackson's aunt
As you can see, the last few months have been busy and I've been trying to adjust to life as a college student again. January is often a time to reflect on the previous year and look forward to a new year filled with opportunities. Change can be a scary thing, but I speak from firsthand experience when I say it's worth it! In 2014 I encourage you to take chances, try something new, travel somewhere you have never been- I promise you won't regret it!

Making a big life CHANGE is pretty scary. But, know what's even scarier? Regret.

Until next time,