Where will agriculture take you?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Agriculture Media Summit

This year the Agricultural Media Summit was an extra special event for me because I had the honor of serving as a national officer in the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. I was elected as first vice president in which I coordinated the national Critique & Contest. The communications competition allows ACT members to submit their projects in five categories ranging from broadcast media to public relations. Top winners are awarded cash prizes and all entries receive feedback from industry professionals. Coordinating this contest took some serious organizational skills on my part during spring semester. (My garage was literally covered with entries! I am so thankful for my great roomies who were understanding.) 

After one awards ceremony and more than 500 entries, Critique & Contest was finished! During AMS I attended workshops specifically for agricultural journalists, networked with peers and industry members from across the country and explored Buffalo in my free time. The Mizzou ACT Chapter was represented by four delegates and received three scholarship awards and placed second in the national Yamaha Chapter Award. As vice president of the Mizzou ACT Club I was very proud of our membership! AMS marks the beginning of another great year for agricultural communications and I look forward to returning to University of Missouri to continue my education in this field. And, fall semester would not be complete without the annual agricultural journalism department picnic! 

The Mizzou ACT Chapter was awarded second place in the national Yamaha Chapter Award for our ATV safety campaign. Courtney Leeper, Kari Weis, myself and Maggie Hardwick (not pictured) completed the project which included a Facebook page, safety guide and t-shirt design promoting ATV safety habits. The Yamaha scholarship helped us attend AMS! 

The 2012-2013 ACT Officer team dresses "Gatsby style" for the infamous AMS welcome party!

Flapper attack! It is amazing how you can meet students from across the U.S. at conferences. California, Missouri, Kansas and Ohio are represented above. 

Megan and I represent Mizzou ACT at the pool party!

Just 'Winging' it in Buffalo!

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing." -Helen Keller 

Visiting New York City is one of the many items on my travel bucket list and mainly it is just so I can stand at the iconic "The Kiss" spot. So when the 2013 Ag Media Summit location was announced as New York, I was disappointed to learn it would not be held in the big apple but instead in Buffalo. But, during my week long stay in Buffalo I quickly appreciated the charm- and food- of this eastern city!

Buffalo wings are simply one of a kind in this city! I do not think I can possibly eat Buffalo Wild Wings again after the Anchor Bar wings. (This restaurant claims to be the home of the wings.) As a midwest girl, my favorite aspect of Buffalo was the lack of humidity along with the eclectic charm The weather had a permanent spring day like feel which made walking for a Starbucks fix a breeze.

My trip to Buffalo marks the farthest east I have traveled within the U.S. I have always wanted to take a New England road trip. (From the Main lighthouses to Hershey, Pennsylvania!) I believe seeing Victorian houses, civil war sites and early U.S. cities during the fall would be spectacular. And let's be honest I am kind of obsessed with the history of Salem, Massachusetts!

In Missouri we are not in proximity to beaches or another country. While in Buffalo, I did not realize how close I was to the boarder until I started seeing Canadian flags on every flag pole! A 30 minute car ride took my group of national ACT officers to Niagara Falls which marks the U.S./Canadian boarder. Alas, due to conference commitments I did not have time to venture into Canada. (I could have enjoyed the maple syrup and said 'aye Canada!')

For $2 I took a Niagara Park trolly tour which all of my group members agreed was a bargain. The trolly takes you to Horseshoe Falls, the infamous waterfall on the U.S. side which is featured in many movies.  Up close they were just as impressive as on the big screen! A female school teacher was actually the first to survive in a barrel over the falls in the 1800's. Others have survived accidental falls over the waterfall. I am not a fan of heights so I was sure to stay a safe distance from the guard railing. (I would be very cautious brining small children to Niagara Falls!) I enjoy whitewater rafting but after seeing the Canadian rapids I will not be venturing on those! There is also the Maiden of the Mist boating tour which takes you directly under the falls. Visitors are required to wear ponchos because they get so soaked from the mist!

When I finally make it to NYC I hope to once again visit the Niagara! It is one of the great natural wonders of the U.S. (Pike's Peak in Colorado is another great site I recommend. Yellowstone is also on my bucket list which is a potential vacation spot!) I would highly recommend Buffalo as a family destination. Disclaimer: I did visit Niagara Falls during a lull in visiting season so I did not have to push through fanny pack wearing tourists to get my snapshots of the falls. The majestic beauty of this natural phenomena is priceless and totally worth a trip east.

Traveling Aggie's top picks of Buffalo:

-Niagara Falls
-The Anchor Bar buffalo wings
-Jack's, a downtown eatery, sweet potato fries. Total YUM.
-The Chocolate Bar with a menu ranging from chocolate pasta to chocolate martinis
-Perfect 70 degree weather with minimal humidity

Eating at the Anchor Bar, a famous buffalo wings restaurant, with the national ACT officer team.

Standing at the 'official' marker for the U.S./Canadian divide. The boarder patrol stations were just around the corner. 

The Niagara Falls garden is worth a walk through. Shaped like the Great Lakes (which dump into the falls) the garden is filled with flowers like these Black Eyed Suzanne's.  

Exploring downtown Buffalo by the convention center for the 2013 Ag Media Summit. 

A Maiden of the Mist tour boat is following the rainbow! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Waiting in Detroit...

In the airport terminal I can typically be found reading the latest Jodi Picoult novel or frantically searching for a Starbucks near my departure gate. Chances are I am on the phone with my best friend Sunny... our longstanding friendship joke is that our hectic schedules only allow us to talk while en route. Due to my obsessive nature, I usually arrive at least an hour prior to boarding time and in today's case I am two and a half hours early. I am headed to Buffalo, New York for a week as part of my duties as a national Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow officer. Three other Mizzou ACT members will be joining me later in the week and I am excited to see these ladies after a summer apart! Now, let's just say I have the airport waiting game down to an art since my first flight to Florida to a Disney World vacation at age 14. (Please, no judgement because even as a teenager and now young
adult I love Disney!)

I am excited to be at the 2013 Agriculture Media Summit! It is the nation's largest gathering of agricultural communicators. Last year the conference was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I was elected as national ACT first vice president. My term as a national ACT officer allowed me to travel to Oklahoma, Arkansas and plan events like the ACT Professional Development Conference. I spent many hours on conference calls throughout the year. As first vice president I was in charge of the yearly critique and contest. For the entire spring semester my house was filled with communications projects submitted by ACT members from across the country! Last year at AMS I also served as an intern for the firm, Cummins Consulting where I helped with conference planning and this year I completed freelance work.

Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of MCI airport in Kansas City I am reminded of the last time I sat in the Delta departure gate when I was headed to Mozambique. Unfortunately, that experience ended early but I have enjoyed recuperating at my farm during the remainder of summer. It has been a wonderful (and rare) opportunity to relax and recharge my batteries before fall semester beings. I finished the entire Gossip Girl series on Netflix, finally read Gone with the Wind, made trips to the lake and enjoyed country activities like horseback riding and fishing. I was even able to attend the Daviess County Fair, an event I have not missed since my first show at age 8. I have been warned by many to 'take it easy' and have reexamined my fall semester calendar to prioritize and better focus my energy.

This will be my last full year of my bachelor's degree and I am greatly looking forward to my third year at MU. Once again, I am living in a college house with my best friends. Although I am anxious to be back in 'CoMo' (the loving nickname for the college town of Columbia, Missouri) I have enjoyed this summer. From Africa to my hometown this has been a summer of unexpected events. I realize that few other college students have obtained an international internship, working with orphans in rural Africa was a life altering opportunity.

Somedays I find myself looking through my photos of the children and miss them terribly. (I do not however, miss life without electricity, running water or a rice/beans diet!) This will be my first time in New York. Visiting New York City on New Year's Eve is an item on my infamous bucket list. (Really it should be dubbed a travel dream list as most of the 205 items involve going to far-off places. Yes I have more than 200 things I want to do before I expire.) I caught the travel bug in high school and have been on numerous flights since those days (I honestly could not tell you an exact number.) A secret about me; I am afraid of heights. So, you would think flying would absolutely terrify me. Not a chance. I adore traveling, some might say I am obsessed with the concept of wonderlust. Traveling is an adventure; by boat, train or airplane arriving to your destination is a part of your travel story. So I am going to enjoy 'The StoryTeller' while I wait for my flight... and the next Nicholas Sparks novel to finally appear on bookstore shelves.

Cheers to my first visit to the 'empire state'!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Smiles from Africa!

"Smiles are the language of love."
~David Hare

This summer I encountered many new experiences- from local customs to foreign food. (Goat meat by the way really is not that bad!) I was on a new continent without my family and friends and little comforts of the modern world. My time in a third world nation was life altering. I learned how to adapt to a lifestyle that included showering with cold water from a bucket, lacking social media and wearing traditional long skirts. I had the chance to emerge myself in a new culture by bonding with individuals who came from a different walk of life.

While I did stick out like a sore thumb (there were not many American blondes in Mozambique!) I found I still had much in common with the orphans; we all loved to smile. These orphans became my heros and quickly stole my heart within my first days in Africa. Many had heart breaking stories; they came from broken homes with as many as 7 to 9 siblings and were abandoned by parents. Yet, these people were very happy. This is a collection of the smiles I found in Mozambique. When anyone questions the safety of my experience I just show a few of these snapshots. :)

The last photo I took in Mozambique. Saying goodbye to the orphans was very difficult!

A market vender proudly displays his produce. 

This boy struck a pose as he tried to persuade me to purchase his food. He was full of spunk! 

A shy smile from a local village child. 

Junior (orange shirt) and his friend liked to borrow my American sunglasses. 

An adorable young girl!

Anna and her sister at the recreation field.  

How can you not love this smile? 

Baby Ontasia had the sweetest, biggest eyes. 

An orphan smiles after receiving a treat from Sunday school.

Fatima and her daughter Monica, who is a two year old with AIDS. 

A young girl waits for her family during food distribution day. 

What grins! 

This girl is proud of her ability to balance her items!

Siblings watching an ongoing soccer game. 

A very sweet little girl. 

That's the smile of someone getting into mischief. 

One of my favorite photos of the trip.

I asked this women if I could take her picture and she shed tears upon seeing it. This was the first photograph she had seen of herself. 

Fernando enjoys a snack at preschool. 

10 Favorite Moments in Africa

I am the type of person that can never decide on a 'favorite.' When asked my favorite holiday, color or food I will always name the list of my top favorites. (My high school senior farewell speech is a great example!) This is also true with my experience in Africa. I could never name a specific time that I loved more than others because each moment was treasured.  So here's a list (in no particular order) of ten favorite experiences in Africa. Trust me, it was hard to narrow down this list! 

1. Market visits were the highlight of my week! Here, I bought my first capalona, a traditional African outfit. I paid 350 metacash which is roughly $10. Capalona's are pieces of colorful clothe, pictured in the background of a market stall. 

2. Bonding with orphans during afternoon walks is a memory I treasure. They loved to hold hands and considered it a privilege to carry a visitors water bottle. 

3. Nap time: because everyone gets tired after a game of soccer. This little guy literally fell asleep on the sports field. 

4. I woke up at 4 a.m. one morning to enjoy a mountainside sunrise.

5. Working with the goat herd which was a new livestock experience for me!

6. Papaya picking with a 15 foot bamboo poll is a challenge! Part of the excitement is wondering if you can actually catch the papaya because the trees are so tall. 

7. International Children's Day was a giant birthday party for all orphans. Here, a preschool instructor is helping me gather the children for a game of 'duck, duck goose'. (One of several American games I taught them including 'simon says' and 'red rover, red rover'.

8. Women often sing and dance during their work, which I encountered on this day. They can even dance while carrying their baskets, I was very impressed!

9. Mozambique agriculture was vastly different from the U.S. I am standing beside a cotton crop while I am used to midwest corn fields!

10. During playtime I was always recruited for the boy's basketball team because of my height. (I was taller than most of the teenage boys at my 5' 6'.) Junior and I are pictured in our 'victory pose.'

A Typical Day in Mozambique

A day working at Orphans Unlimited in Mozambique began at 5:00 a.m. sharp. I lived in a bunkhouse with other female workers, who ranged from age 18 to 75. We arose before the sun had risen so we relied on solar powered lights to get ready. Breakfast was served at 5:30 a.m. and if you missed it well, you missed a meal. The meal consisted of bread but weekends french toast or pancakes were made which was a great treat! I was highly impressed with the meals Linda Stanley, our cook, prepared with her limited resources in the African bush.

Midmorning consisted of working on projects for Orphans Unlimited. Primarily the corn and bean processing was occurring during my stay. Danielle, Melissa and I were the summer team and we assisted with providing the yearly food supply to the orphanage. The work was long, hot and dirty it was vital to the widow's food program and orphan's meals. We would work until 11:30, lunch time. Meals included rice, beans, fresh vegetables, fruits and any leftovers from previous meals.

The hottest time of the day occurred after lunch so we would usually work indoors or rest until afternoon activities commenced. I would usually write letters and read until 1:00. Each afternoon varied depending on the day. Saturdays included trips to the local market, Monday, Wednesday and Friday were preschool class, Tuesdays I conducted an English class, Thursday was food distribution day and Sunday was the prayer walk. Life eventually became a routine that was centered around the needs of the children and Balama village. My favorite days were spent teaching English lessons and exploring the local market.

However, one consistency was activities time. At 3:00 p.m. every day we played games and sports with the orphans (the children would find us if we were not timely!) They enjoyed basketball and soccer the most while I was able to teach them how to use frisbees. I also introduced them to American games such as 'duck duck goose', 'simon says', and 'red rover, red rover.' There was a language barrier as most Mozambiquans speak Portuguese primarily.  The children always wanted to teach me words in their tribal language of Macoa and they enjoyed a good-natured laugh at my expense. By 4:30 we had to depart the recreational fields for supper.

Each week we rotated as kitchen help for Linda. During one of my weeks I helped make goat enchiladas, one of my favorite meals in Mozambique! After supper everyone would return to their bunk houses as it got dark quickly at around 6:00 p.m. In third world country life becomes much more quite when the natural light disappears as there is no electricity. I was very glad the orphanage facilities had solar powered lights. Bedtime approached 7:30 p.m. which I would have never considered in my lifestyle at college! Showering at night was interesting without running water. Buckets of water from the well were heated on a gas stove. Bathing consisted of washing oneself with washcloth and bucket of water. I packed plenty of toiletries as I knew there would be no replacements in Mozambique!

In all, there was nothing "typical" about Mozambique. Each day brought a new adventure, which I tried to capture with my camera. The children adored having their photos taken. However, it did become a problem when they would nearly mob you for their picture. The children do not have access to a mirror so they literally do not know what they look like. (Also, there are no large water sources in the area so even viewing their reflection was not an option.) So, when I was being a tourist the children were only too eager to have their photo taken. I know I will look back on my photos and always treasure my time in Africa.

Sleeping arrangements include mosquito netting over beds to prevent from insects. 

Laundry is washed and dried outside by local women. Orphans Unlimited offers job opportunities to the Balama community through services such as guards, tailors and drivers. 

Weekly English lessons are given to Nelson and Bertino (pictured) and Junior. (Nelson's brother.) Nelson aspires to be an English translator in Mozambique where Portuguese is the national language. 

Saturdays are market days where produce is purchased for the weekly food menu. 

A typical Mozambiquan home made of mud bricks and grass rooftops. Multiple family generations will live in one hut.

All water is pumped by hand from a well and filtered before it is safe to drink. (The average well costs $10,000 to construct.)
Preschool is held three days a week during the afternoons by Madelenia and Carlitos George (pictured teaching a lesson.)

On Wednesdays preschoolers line up in their uniforms where they learn colors, numbers and color.

Thursdays are food distribution day where local women are given weekly rations of household supplies. Many families rely on the stipend which is based on need and family size.

A widow, who cares for dormitory orphans, is given her bean allotment. She will also receive firewood, soap, corn and medicines.  

The typical method to carry items in Mozambique is on your head! From a young age (5 years) children are taught how to carry heavy loads 'headfirst'. 

Each afternoon between 3:00-5:00 pm children gather at the soccer field for games. 

Most children go barefoot in Mozambique. (Not by choice.)
A typical sunday school class includes 130 children! 

"Bush churches" are located on the outskirts of large villages and serve rural populations.  Multiple bush churches have opened since Orphans Unlimited began. 

Church services are colorful experiences filled with music, dancing and even drums in the congregation! 

Sunday school averages 130 children, who are given a sucker at the end for good behavior.

Women's ministry class is held Sunday afternoons followed by a prayer walk to visit the sick.