Last Friday, I received a call from Daren Williams, executive director of communications for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and dean of students for the Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) Program (MBAP). MBA, of which I am a graduate, is an online course offered by the beef checkoff equipping farmers and ranchers with the tools they need to be positive, effective ambassadors for everyone in the cattle business. Williams called to give me a heads up about an article appearing in Mother Jones entitled, "Big Meat Vs. Michael Pollan," which basically describes MBA graduates as "crusaders for the big-ag movement, causing pro-beef backlash on college campuses." I decided to devote some effort toward developing a true definition of who we are in the MBA gang.
So, I asked my fellow producers who have taken the course and joined a diverse alumni group of beef and cattle enthusiasts, ranging from ages 11-80 and living in every corner of the U.S., why they joined MBA. I received 25 responses to my question, and here is a small sampling of what they had to say:
"I am a busy cattle rancher and mom from Kansas. Historically, ranchers are busy people -- filling their days with the chores of caring for livestock and the land. A very small percentage are able, and willing, to take the time to advocate for agriculture. Not only does the MBA program teach you important facts about beef and our industry as a whole, but it gives you the ability to find the correct information and communicate it to people who want to know," says Debbie Lyons-Blythe, a natural-beef producer in Kansas.
"I became part of the program to share my love of cattle and rural life with folks that might not be accustomed to it," says Jacob Geis, large-animal veterinary medicine student.
"Amanda, I was interviewed for the article and from the beginning I could tell that they had an agenda. I still feel that my quotes were twisted despite how careful I was in my responses. I think that is one of the things that I really grasped from the MBA course was how to talk to the media and consumers. The MBA course has also been an amazing resource for beef and agriculture facts. It is always important to tell your story and what agriculture emotionally means to you, but you are also going to have to have some facts to back that up," says Crystal Young, assistant director of public relations for the American Angus Association.
"I got involved in MBA because our farm directly sells to consumers in Kansas City, and they were coming to me with all kinds of questions. I wanted to be able to answer those question with confidence and truth. The MBA program has given me a place to find the answers. People are hungry to know the truth about our industry. The farmers market I go to has about 3,000 people walk through each day," says Mark Sconce, Missouri beef producer marketing locally-grown beef.
I encourage you all to take part in the MBA Program and equip yourself with quick facts and figures for sharing the wonderful story of farming and ranching with our consumers. For the courtesy of the folks who may read this blog about the MBA who aren't a part of our agriculture community, answer me this: What beef myth would you like to correct?