Revised Youthful Voice
Everyone has horror stories about being lost on campus as a freshman. This month, my Mom and I attended one of the University of Missouri Black and Gold days where we had our fair share of getting lost. After safely maneuvering the big, family suburban into the car-sized parking garage, Mom and I began our brisk walk through campus. As we walked my mother was taken down memory lane and I gladly followed her listening to the stories of her college days at Mizzou. Her emotions and voice exclaimed with joy as she pointed out the McDonald’s she and her friends ate at every Sunday night. She was thrilled and shocked to see that it was in the exact same location. Then, her face paled remembering almost failing Biochemistry class with “all the doctors and nurses”.
Heading to the Agriculture building, in search of one of my moms old friend, we promptly became lost in a labyrinth of hallways and classrooms. Eventually, we found our way to the main desk of the Agriculture building, where my keen-eyed mother found a poster proclaiming, “Women in Agriculture Symposium: Guest Speaker, Chris Chinn”. Being on campus again must have made her giddy, because she quickly unpeeled the tape from the front desk and asked for a copy, while saying to me, “Sierra, this would be so fun…its next Thursday. Oh-my-gosh, they are having a silent auction, I just love those. Now we have to go!” After that, my mom forgot all about being lost and we went on our way to a “free” campus lunch at Eva J’s.
Next Thursday came quickly and Mom and I headed back to campus. Having three sisters is lots of fun, but it is nearly impossible to talk with mom one on one without countless interruptions from pesky, little sisters. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have mom all to my self--for a second trip--to Mizzou’s Campus. Deciding she did not want to get lost again, my mom called and asked for directions. After being at Centralia high school for four years I have become comfortable and confident with the people around me. Walking into this roomful of chattering college girls, I quickly recalled the awkward and timid feelings of a freshman. Lets just say, I was glad my “mommy” was there with me. The girls quickly proved they were nothing to be afraid of; we were even met with a handshake at the door, “So you’re the prospective freshmen that called, I am not good with directions, so I am glad you found us.” Naturally, we gravitated to the free food table and mom made her silent auction bids. The “social hour” passed quickly and the group headed to the Monsanto Auditorium to hear Mrs. Chinn speak. As we sat down mom and I met another two girls, asking what I thought of the school, offering email addresses and questioning me about a possible major choice. After they turned around, mom and I commented about how unbelievably nice everyone was being. Then, Mrs. Chinn began speaking.
Mrs. Chris Chinn manages the production and financial records for the family’s 2,400 sow farrow-to-finish hog operation near Clarence, Missouri. She has two children, Rachelle and Conner, and is married to Kevin Chinn. On top of her duties on the farm and with her family, Mrs. Chinn is also a passionate advocate for agriculture. She is an extremely active member of the agriculture community, serving on EPA’s Farm, Ranch and Rural community Advisory Committee. In 2007, she served as chair of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Rancher’s Committee. As soon as she began speaking, a listener could pick up on Mrs. Chinn’s passion for animal agriculture. After a few minutes, Mrs. Chinn revealed one of her deepest concerns: who is telling the story of agriculture? As many of you have been reading recently, groups like the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) are very willing to tell the story of agriculture; however, as cattleman and farmers we know this image is often completely untrue. She questioned, “What are you doing to stop them?” For most of the people in the room--including myself--the response was nothing. Mrs. Chinn encouraged the group to start battling these negative and false images of agriculture. With a serious and somber tone she said, “We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.”
Mrs. Chinn went on to explain that every person involved in production agriculture must become an “activist for agriculture,” while laughing she made clear, “activist is not a dirty word!” She told us about the first time her husband teasingly called her an “activist”. She explained how she had instantly recoiled at the thought of being called such a bad, unholy name. After thinking about his comment for a few days, Mrs. Chinn decided her husband was probably right. Today, she has embraced the name activist as she shares her message--the true story of production agriculture--to people where ever she goes.
By the end of her speech, Mrs. Chinn had convinced me of the urgency of this issue; cattlemen must speak out and defend themselves, there is no longer any other option. Occasionally, Mrs. Chinn sounded like a doomsayer as she spoke; however, she was aware the sometimes depressing tone. Mrs. Chinn fights to protect her current way of life, because she loves her lifestyle. Farming and raising livestock has always been a challenging occupation, but it is equally rewarding and pleasant. She discussed the freedom of being self-employed and the opportunity to raise her children on a farm, teaching them responsibility, work-ethic, and a respect for animals. Finally, she expressed what great fulfillment she gets from raising quality products. In the cold, dreary month of December or a particularly challenging calving season…it is easy to forget Mrs. Chinn’s points.
By stating these points, Mrs. Chinn reminded me that--even though the battle may seem overwhelming--we are defending a lifestyle and profession of great worth. She advised that producers would have their “30 second elevator speech” prepared and ready to share with everyone they come into contact with. She reminded us, “Don’t assume because you live in rural community people understand.”
Mrs. Chinn’s most important point of the evening, a fact all producers must consider, was that in today’s world producers must share their story of agriculture with the public, because if we do not someone else is going to. As it turned out, getting lost on campus worked out pretty good for mom and I. It led us to find out about the Women in Ag evening, which we greatly enjoyed. Then, while trying to prevent becoming lost again mom made a phone call to one of the organizational members for directions. After giving us directions, the girl must have informed the entire chapter we were coming. We found the two most magical words at Mizzou: prospective student. It must be a good school, the way those girls were trying to get me to attend next year…you’d think they were each making a commission on my tuition! Even better than Mrs. Chinn’s powerful and informative message and the overwhelmingly nice girls, was our steal from the silent auction. Mom headed home with six racks of ribs for only $36 dollars and they were tax deductible!