Agvocating doesn’t have an age

Western Illinois University (WIU) agriculture student Kinsey Tiemann, far right, urges everyone involved with agriculture to advocate for the industry no matter their age. Tiemann started as a young 4-H’er and continues on her university campus. (Photo courtesy of WIU Visual Production Center)

How many of us can remember back to our high school years, specifically our senior year of high school? Regardless whether it was just a few years ago, or even a few decades, we can all probably recall the dreaded question that was usually asked when someone learned of our upcoming graduation. “What do you want to be or do when you graduate?”

Our parents wanting assurance of a successful and happy future, our school counselor wanting validation of a well thought out career plan or a friend simply starting a conversation, all triggered a tighter knot in my stomach as I secretly knew my career aspirations changed every month or two.

Attending college after high school was always in the plan. However, it was the end goal that I could never finalize with any certainty.

Instead of asking what I was going to do, I deeply yearned for someone to ask about the things I felt were important in that moment, the things that fueled energy for the activities and causes that I spent my time with, the things that I felt important in life.

Somewhere between the urgent need for a major life decision of transitioning into adulthood and living in the moment, I realized the window of opportunity to bring meaning to my life. For me, this meaning during my high school years was to agvocate.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term “agvocate,” you are not alone.

Webster’s dictionary does not know how to define this term either. If I could submit a definition for the dictionary, I would define this word as “passionately spreading one’s voice and experiences within the agriculture sector to plead one’s support in the industry.”

This is closely related to the terms livestock enthusiast and plant nerd. In short, an agvocate can be described as an advocate for the agriculture industry. This, in a nutshell, was what I was yearning for during high school as well as the catalyst for my future career decisions.

As a freshman in high school, I jumped headfirst into getting involved within my school’s FFA Chapter. Leadership conferences and conventions, career development events, public speaking and even discussions with state legislators were things I felt naturally drawn toward. The common denominator between all these FFA events was the need for those involved in agriculture to speak on behalf of their experiences. Thus, the industry needs agvocates.

Hearing these inspirational calls for action through FFA led me to pursue my own method of agvocating.

In the summer of 2017, at the end of my sophomore year in high school, Square Rooted, a licensed food service business was formed with the aid of local investors through the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy in Hannibal, Missouri. To this day, my small business named Square Rooted, continues to sell locally produced and processed meat and canned fruit products.

As a small agriculture business owner, I have never felt such a strong connection to my community and a desire to provide a high-quality product and service. This provides me the opportunity to use my business as a platform to share my ag story with the rest of the world through social media posts and engaging in conversations about my knowledge and experience on agriculture issues.

Not all forms of agvocating are through launching a business. Some can simply be striking up a conversation with someone struggling between two products in a grocery store aisle or volunteering to teach ag in elementary school classrooms.

While my story has been advocating through a variety of FFA events as a high schooler, agvocating does not pertain to a set age range. Each person has the ability to reach consumers the next person might not reach.

“Your story, whatever it is, is a story the consumer has never heard before. So, tell it,” Andrew Campbell, Canada Agvocate. Similar to Andrew Campbell’s quote, if each person’s story is not shared, then that is one less perspective for consumers to hear in their search between true and false information within agriculture.

If we all make a continuous effort to focus on what we can do in the present moment instead of down the road, it might be shocking the impact agvocates of all ages can have.

Kinsey Tiemann of LaGrange, Missouri, is a junior at Western Illinois University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education with a minor in agronomy. Her plans include obtaining a master’s degree in agronomy while continuing to be a passionate agvocator.