If you ever need a dose of optimism, spend some time with high school kids. I recently had the opportunity to do just at the Nebraska Youth Beef Leadership Symposium (NYBLS), Nov. 2-4 on campus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).
I was invited there to speak to UNL faculty and college students, as well as the high school students attending the NYBLS. And while I was there to address hot topics such as fake meats, consumer trends, regulatory pressures and more, I think I learned more from the kids than they did from listening to me!
NYBLS is an annual event held each fall that is designed to introduce youth to career opportunities and current issues in the beef cattle industry. The symposium features educational speakers and practical, hands-on lesson plans that develop leadership skills for these upcoming industry professionals.
The two-day symposium covers a wide range of topics including current research, meat science, beef quality assurance, marketing, beef industry careers, genetic markers, reproduction, manure management, antibiotics and retail beef sales.
It’s not just lectures either. These high school students donned hair nets and hard hats to fabricate a side of beef, develop a product for retail and compete against their peers in a mock cooking and marketing competition under the direction of a professional chef from Omaha Steaks.
UNL hosts the program, which attracted more than 40 talented young people, all who had to go through a rigorous application process to earn their spot at the table.
With industry support from the Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Beef Council and Kentucky Beef Council, the collaborative event celebrates the cattle industry and truly encapsulates the great work that beef producers do to get a nutritious product from pasture to plate.
Interacting with the students was a refreshing reminder that the future of the beef industry looks very bright indeed. These young people were incredibly knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated to finding their niche in this industry. With a multitude of paths to choose from, I anticipate these names and faces will soon be recognizable leaders in every facet — as beef producers, researchers, retailers, promoters, lobbyists, educators and everything in between.
I’m currently working on a project — a new children’s book — that will come out in the spring, and it will highlight the fantastic people who make our industry so great. So it seemed fitting to spend the weekend with bright young people who will soon make up the fabric of our beef cattle community.
I’m excited to introduce this project in 2019 and continue to celebrate the passionate and dedicated folks who work tirelessly each day to produce and promote beef as the star protein at the center of the dinner plate, here and abroad.
I applaud these young people for taking the initiative to be part of this program. As I drove home from the event, I felt recharged and optimistic about my own future in this industry, thanks to these students’ abundant energy and enthusiasm about this industry.
Feeling glum about market prices? Concerned about regulatory pressures? Worried about transitioning the operation? Spend some time with the next generation. They’ll remind you why you love this business in the first place and renew your spirit to keep working toward future goals.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.