The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Lyndsey

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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Happy Monday friends! My next guest is a great example of how this series continues to inspire me and allows me to get to know people in my network a bit better. I vaguely knew who Lyndsey was through ag communications stuff in college, and then I actually met her when I moved to the Washington D.C. area. She was so kind to me as a new kid in the city and I wish I had gotten to know her better before she moved away.

But Lyndsey’s story is such a great example of someone having an idea of how to build a career and life around a passion… and then actually making it happen! Lyndsey is hard working, ambitious and after starting her own business just over a year ago, she has a lot to share about taking risks and growing through experiences. Personally, I think her business is a wonderful idea and something we could use a bit more of. But I’ll let her share all about it 🙂

-Amanda 

Name: Lyndsey Murphy
Age: 28
Hometown: Mechanicsburg, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): Bachelor’s: Agricultural Communications //Masters: Agricultural Communication
Current Location: Mechanicsburg, Ohio
Current Job: Owner and operator of The Market at the Hive

Background Story: I was raised as the fifth generation on our family corn, soybean and beef farm in a small town in western Ohio. I was fortunate to find my home early on in FFA and participated heavily there throughout high school, culminating with a year as a state FFA Officer. I then traveled onto The Ohio State University where I discovered my love for communications and traveling. I graduated with my bachelors in 2011 and started my masters degree later that fall at Ohio State. My first big girl job was as Communications Director for the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, where I spent two and half years managing every bit of communications for the organization and cutting my teeth in the industry. I then moved to Washington D.C. to accept the position of Social Media Director at American Farm Bureau, an opportunity that not only grew me professionally but also greatly expanded me personally. Then, just over a year ago I returned home to Mechanicsburg to help my family run the farm and start my own business. I also taught junior high agriculture for a year in 2016-2017. Phew, I appreciate teachers so much more now! 

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
Growing up just 45 miles from campus and being the daughter of an OSU grad, it’s hard to say that it wasn’t in my blood from the start. I really made the decision though after going on a catering job with my mother to the animal hospital as a sophomore in high school, I loved every bit about the campus, the people and all the opportunities. I just knew it was the right place for me.

Like many Ohio State agriculture students, I chose Animal Science originally to be my major. After my first chemistry class, I knew it was not going to be the major for me. Luckily enough, I stumbled across a Communications 101 class and fell in love with it immediately.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I’ve always loved being part of a bigger group trying to accomplish something and I think student organizations are one of the absolute best ways for you to get the most out of a college experience. I was in our Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow club, Saddle and Sirloin, Collegiate 4H and president of the College of Food Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences Student Council.

Being slightly new to the communications field I also wanted to do as many internships as I could, (plus I was very poor). In college I had internships with the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, ABN Radio, Local Matters, Ohio Farm Bureau, and the Ohio State BioProducts Center.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I would have to say my biggest challenge was trying to enjoy the moment, often I was too worried about getting the next job, having the best resume, etc, instead of truly enjoying the moment. If I could change anything I would give myself the wisdom that whatever I was doing that day was enough.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Solidify your relationships with your classmates, you never know where you’ll see them down the road and many of them might be in the same industry or area as you. Those will be invaluable in the years to come.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
As mentioned above:

My first big girl job was as Communications Director for the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, where I spent two and half years managing every bit of communications for the organization and cutting my teeth in the industry. I then moved to Washington DC to accept the position of Social Media Director at American Farm Bureau, an opportunity that not only grew me professionally but also greatly expanded me personally. Then, just over a year ago I returned home to Mechanicsburg to help my family run the farm and start my own business.

My business is creating and facilitating experiences (mainly cooking classes, farm to table dinners and the day to day business of the market featuring local foods and goods) that connect food and the people that grow/raise it with their customers.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
There are so many points where I look back and I’m so glad that I made friends with a wide range of people with a wide range of views. These people have helped me shape a better business because I ask for their input. I also think the communications skills that I gained in college, like web and print design, are invaluable when trying to work on a shoestring budget.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I thought that after all the busy-ness of clubs and classes, I would be able to relax a little when I entered the workforce, alas that was not true. I’ve learned it’s so important to carve out personal time, travel time, family time — because if you don’t make time for it, you’ll burn out in a hard way.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I’m a huge fan of the Google suite of products. I have a Google phone, regularly send and organize documents and pictures in my Drive, and use it to edit documents between multiple people. I’m also a big fan of Buffer as a social media scheduler, their free option is wonderful and their paid is cheap enough to work for any budget. It’s easy to use, well laid out and available for any device.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: I feel that my patience and perspective have grown, along with my ability to keep a cool head. I think I’ve also become much more fiscally responsible, and since buying a 117 year old building (that is often trying to fall down), I’ve become much handier and self reliant with tools. 🙂

Weaknesses: I’ve never had so many people to deal with at one time, so I sometimes have calls or emails fall through the cracks for a few days. I can also find myself getting so tied up with the day to day motions that I need a wakeup call to step back and see the bigger picture.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Well, I’m of the belief that there is no such thing as motivation — you just do it or you don’t. That being said, I often try to set my work space up so that I feel more creative, by organizing it, making lists, and setting it up with things that make me feel comfortable but not distracted. I also try to follow through on smaller tasks that with make jobs down the line easier.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
As a new entrepreneur that lives above her business it is definitely difficult to find a balance. I try very hard to set specific times that I work and don’t (try is the key word there), times that I will answer my phone and email and others that I won’t. I also try to stay in contact with friends, go visit them in their homes or business — it’s really an activity that gives me perspective and leaves me feeling fulfilled and refreshed. I can’t overstate the importance of physical activity either, shoveling out a pen or just being in the pasture with the cows gives me a sense of peace that is hard to find other places.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’m proud that I’ve trusted enough in myself to listen to my gut and follow it towards my dreams.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
As of now, I’m a year into creating my own business and still learning everyday. It consumes much of my time and energy. Outside of the business, I am running for town council right now (I’ve got the politics bug), I spend a lot of time on the farm helping out and as much time as I can afford traveling. Truly, I’m most passionate about agriculture and involving every person in it, no matter their background, I’m lucky enough to have that as part of my job and life.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Next! The official ‘Market at The Hive’ opens in February, a market that will feature local meat, produce, coffee, beer/wine and ready to eat meals. Our town has been without a grocery store for nearly ten years and I’m hoping to fill some of that void. Long term, I hope to expand to a larger on-farm operation, giving people the opportunity to see with their own eyes where their food is grown and get information about larger or different operations.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Coffee, NPR and some sort of physical activity (yoga, a walk, etc).

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Absolutely. I’m a BIG coffee drinker. 🙂 I also love to have music playing all the time.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
All limitations aside- I’d love to be a photographer for National Geographic. Travel the world, see beautiful places and people, just looking for the next best photo.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss all the people! Having so many incredible people who love agriculture, yet come from so many different backgrounds around me all the time was something I truly cherished. I miss that being the most important part of my life, instead of trying to make money haha.

*****

Interested in checking out Lyndsey’s business? Find The Hive at:

Website
Facebook
Instagram

Lyndsey, thank you so much for participating as a guest on this series, especially with such a busy schedule. I hope I can visit The Hive in person someday!

Cheers!

Career/Professional, Friendship, Kansas

A Week in the Midwest

This past week I made a trip back to the Midwest for a week full of learning and professional development, catching up with friends, fun and work. Other than the fact that there wasn’t much relaxing, I’d say that it was a pretty well-rounded (and very full!) trip.

AFA Alliance Forum

If you know me at all personally, chances are you’ve heard me talk at some point about Agriculture Future of America (AFA). This collegiate organization was a game-changer for my college experience, and continues to have a huge impact on my life today. Every year during the annual Leaders Conference for students, there is along a forum for the AFA Alliance, the organization’s alumni branch (but you don’t have to be an alum to join!) of which I am a lifetime member. I was so excited to be allotted the time from work to attend this year’s forum. Simply put, these are my “people” and I always leave my time with them feeling refreshed and with new ideas and tools to implement in my work-life and environment. This year’s forum focused on “Trust.” Trust between the agriculture and food industry and its consumers, trust in systems and working through what we don’t understand, trust between colleagues in the work place and more. We heard from speakers on time management, negotiating (on many levels), cultural intelligence and asking better questions. We also spent time chatting with each other about the high’s and low’s of what we are facing as professionals in the agriculture and food industry, which fostered opportunities to learn from each other.

If you are a professional in the agriculture and food industry and are looking for a opportunity for professional development I would highly recommend joining the Alliance and I would love to answer any of your questions!

I ALSO am very excited to share that my peers selected me to be a part of the Alliance Planning Committee, so in 2018 I will be serving as its Vice Chair and in 2019 I will be its Chair. So basically… be prepared to hear a bit more about all this in the time to come 🙂

Kansas City is one of my FAVORITE cities!



Boulevard Wheat is my FAVORITE beer so I was pretty excited that I finally had the chance to visit its brewery in KC. On the last evening of the forum, we had a joint reception there with the AFA Track 4 students (so primarily senior getting ready to graduate in December or next May.)


On Sunday morning, Michael, Ted and I joined Track 4 again for a panel discussion on “Pursuing Lifelong Leadership”…so basically chatting about our experiences navigating our post-grad lives and “adulting”, the importance of staying involved in things that fuel your interests and develop you personally and professionally and anything they wanted to ask about. And they really did have some great questions! I really enjoy these kinds of things because for me, having mentors that get me and a network of people whom I can go to with complicated questions or even chat with about the seemingly little things with has been something I certainly don’t take for granted. I hope that even if it was just for an hour, that something I said resonated with and encouraged someone else.

He wasn’t at the forum, but I was able to squeeze in a quick brunch with my friend Zech who is now living in KC. Zech is one of my sister’s good friends from high school, so it was great to catch up with someone from good old Eastern Oregon and hear about the really awesome stuff he is up to now. I love when we all grow up and my sister’s friends become my friends too, and vice versa.

Wichita

After I was finished with the Alliance Forum, I picked up my rental car and drove the quick 3 hours to Wichita, where Megan, my best friend and college roommate lives. Since I was in KC for the the forum Thursday through Sunday and then had a work event there scheduled for the following Thursday, it didn’t really make sense for me to fly back to DC again in between. I took one of the days off from work so we could get some quality time in together and then spent the other full day working out of her home office. Keeping up with friends when you live so far away from each other and have separate full lives going on is really hard, but so worth it when you have some great ones 🙂

Thank you Megan and Aaron for letting me crash for a couple of days!

Sonic is scarce on the East Coast, or at least in my area, so I went straight for the Route 44.

Megan’s pups Ned (german shepard) and Luna (corgi mix) were never far from the new excited person in their home…

Trade Talk

After a few quick days in Wichita, I drove back up to Kansas City for the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) annual Trade Talk event. This event is a part of a larger conference, but essentially it is a day where organizations and companies across the agriculture and food industry set up booths featuring their spokesperson(s) and broadcasters from across the U.S. cycle through and record interviews all day long. That gives them a bank of content they can use sooner if the topics are timely or they can save it for the next few months when they need to fill in their programs. It also allows us as an organization to focus on a few topics and talking points that are at the forefront for us right now. It was a long, but fruitful day.

I decided the booth needed a bit more flair this year so I made two of these arrangements while I was in Wichita. I was pretty happy with how they turned out 🙂

So I’m back in DC now for a few weeks… until I travel back to Kansas (Manhattan this time!) for another work trip at the beginning of December. Lucky me!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Caroline

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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 I have so been looking forward to sharing this feature with you ever since I heard back from the guest! Caroline is shaking the series up a bit by sharing her story via YouTube! I always tell my guests that I want this feature to reflect their story in the best way possible, so I was excited when she suggested a video. Personally for me, video is something I have yet to venture into on my blog, but I am definitely curious!

I met Caroline early on in college through our participation in Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference, and then got to know her a bit better overtime as we both eventually served on the organization’s national student advisory team (not the same year). Caroline’s journey is inspiring. A few months after I moved to DC in 2015, Caroline called me up because she was a crossroads with what the next step was in her life and career. I was honored that she reached out to me for that kind of advice. I vividly remember her sharing so passionately about these ideas and goals she had, about her values and faith and the challenges she was facing. Fast forward to 2017, and I am so excited to see her living out (and crushing) those ideas and goals, and more importantly, so happy and positive about the road she’s on. It’s contagious.

What has always stood out to me since I first met Caroline, was how friendly she is and how gracefully she wears her confidence, and I think you’ll see that in her video. Caroline is also a regular blogger, so if you read or hear something in her story that interests you, I would encourage you to check out her blog at https://strongsweetcaroline.com/. 

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Caroline Weihl
Age: 25 YEARS YOUNG!
Hometown: Perrysburg, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): May 2014 Agricultural Communication, minor Agribusiness
Current Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current Job: Entrepreneur – starting a meal prep company

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I grew up on a row crop and beef cattle farm and always enjoyed sharing an agriculture story. I was a good writer so it made sense to study agricultural communication. I was fortune to receive a scholarship from The Ohio State University and made the decision simple. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity in front of me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
AFA, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Alpha Xi Delta Fraternity and many other student orgs through college. I interned with Trupointe Cooperative (now Sunrise Cooperative), Ohio State Livestock Judging Team, Bader Rutter, and freelanced for the Ohio FFA Association.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
Anything you would change? Learning to say “no” to the unimportant and make time for priorities.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Make the most to explore new things you want to learn, people you want to build relationships and network with and discover as much about yourself as possible.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I worked three years with Syngenta in corporate seed sales. I left in August 2017 to start a meal prep company in Atlanta, Georgia. Watch video for more details.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Helped me identify my deeper purpose and talents.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Focusing on small steps, one day at a time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Evernote and podcasts!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: confidence, vision, drive, compassion. Weaknesses: impatience and multi-tasking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
YouTube, gratitude, self reflection, vision board.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
It’s not work-life balance. It’s lifestyle.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Having the courage to do something most won’t: stepping out of a “comfort zone” to pursue new challenges.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Very busy but towards things I want!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Start my company and continue to build it from there.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Meditation and 16oz of water right when waking up.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Music.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This one, but with other businesses started and going in the travel and clothing industries.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Close friends and networks.

*****

Caroline, I know you are hustling at life right now, so I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to share your story on my blog! 

Want to follow Caroline more? You can find her on Instagram: @strongsweetcaroline and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strongsweetcaroline/

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Nicole

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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I definitely had a different blog post planned for today, but when Nicole sent me her profile back, I knew I needed to get it posted as quickly as possible. It definitely made me laugh, and even made me tear up a little. This gal has such a GREAT story to share, and I hope after you read it you will understand why I basically want to be her when I grow up. Nicole and I often joke that we practically have the same life story, and while we do have quite a few similarities, it would not be fair to leave it at that. Nicole is talented beyond her age and experience, is a social media guru, puts 110% into everything she does and is often my go-to when I need a creative boost. What I love about Nicole is she really GETS people and the VALUE of relationships. She has a great laugh and I can always count on my conversations with her to be real and fulfilling, whether we are talking about communications strategy or our mutual infatuation and homesick longing for Tillamook Cheese. 

This is a good read folks, through and through.

-Amanda 

Name: Nicole Lane Erceg
Age: 24
Hometown: John Day, Oregon
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Agricultural Communications & Journalism
Current Location: Wooster, Ohio
Current Job: Producer Communications Specialist

Background Story:

I was raised in the Strawberry Mountains of Eastern Oregon where I fell in love with rural life, agriculture and the stories of the people who produce our food. Growing up 2.5 hour drive from the nearest Walmart wasn’t easy, but it did build character. My desire to share the stories of agriculture led me to Kansas State University where I earned my degree in agricultural communications and journalism with a focus in animal science. Why would a girl who loves mountains move to a state rumored to be flatter than a pancake? It turns out, I’ll go just about anywhere with the promise of a great story, adventure and learning more about ag.

When I left my tiny hometown in Oregon bound for Kansas, I was riding shotgun in a little red car next to a boy I’d convinced to come with me. When he agreed to switch colleges and come along for the ride he made me promise he could pick next. His choice? North Carolina. We’ve lived in Raleigh for the past couple of years while he finished a Masters in Swine Nutrition and coached the livestock judging team. Meanwhile I worked from home as the Social Media Director for a livestock marketing and advertising agency.

We planned to stay in Raleigh for the next few years while he finished a Ph.D. program but… I’m writing this from Wooster, Ohio. We didn’t plan to move around the nation so much, but our shared love of agriculture has taken us from one end of this country to the other — from small rural towns to an apartment in the city and back to rural life again. I am one of the few people who understands the pain of living somewhere too remote to get high speed internet and pleasure of living somewhere so urban, I can get Taco Bell delivered to my door.

Currently, I’m learning to call Ohio home while working for the Certified Angus Beef Brand and running my own communications and consulting business on the side.

College:

How did you choose your college and your major?
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve told this story…

I had my heart SET on Purdue University. I knew I wanted to do Agricultural Communications and Oregon State didn’t have the major so even though I’d been raised to be a beaver, I knew I was going out of state. I applied to several of the big ag schools like Texas A&M and Oklahoma State but really wanted to go to Purdue. I honestly can’t tell you why, I just really wanted to be a Boilermaker. Kansas State wasn’t even on my radar until we took one of those college tests in class. You know, the kind that is supposed to tell you the PERFECT school for you after answering a million questions? All my friends got pages of lists of hundreds schools for them. Want to know how many showed up on my list? One. Kansas State.

My senior year of high school, I was elected to serve as an Oregon FFA State Officer which required me to defer college plans for a year. I contacted Purdue to let them know I wasn’t coming and asked to defer my admission and if they could hold my scholarships. All I got back was a cold email saying they couldn’t help, wouldn’t defer anything and that I could reapply next year.

Then I let K-State know I couldn’t make it in the fall and asked the same thing. Could they hold my scholarships and defer my admission for a year? Not only were they happy to do so, I got a HANDWRITTEN NOTE from a past Kansas FFA Officer congratulating me and letting me know they couldn’t wait for me to come to Kansas when my year of service was through. I had never been to the state of Kansas but I knew I would be going to school there.

When I attended National FFA Convention that Fall as a state officer, I knew I had to seek out the K-State booth. Amanda and I had barely crossed paths as FFA members from Eastern Oregon and I recognized her. So I walked up to her at the booth and said “You don’t know me, but I know you and I’m from Eastern Oregon and want to go to K-State and study Ag Comm like you do.”

And that’s how I became a Wildcat and friends with Amanda. 🙂

(Amanda here: I TOTALLY remember that vividly!)

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was involved in everything, which I don’t necessarily recommend. I’m not saying that to sound cool, I really did go overboard. I was president of my sorority (Sigma Alpha), president of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Chapter (loved it), was an Ag Ambassador, involved in a program called Student Foundation and helped plan the K-State Proud Campaign. I got to help teach an agricultural advocacy class, I started my freelance business, I served as editor of our college of agriculture magazine, I travelled abroad twice, I did six different internships. I packed a lot into the 3.5 years I was at K-State and loved it, but I wish I’d had the ability to make hard choices about what to invest my time in and when to say no. Saying no is sooooooooooooo hard. Sitting down with leadership of organizations to say “I quit” is not easy but it’s so worth it. It also would have prevented me from disappointing people when things conflicted or I really just couldn’t do it all. Pick 2-3 things and do those things well. But always do the study abroad trips. #worthit.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I don’t think there’s a lot that I would change, other than narrowing down what to be involved in earlier. I would have liked to stay the full four years instead of rushing into the professional world, but I don’t regret saving a semester of out of state tuition. I think if I was to tell my Freshman self anything it would be to be NICE. These people around you aren’t competition. In four years they’ll be your coworkers. Become friends now. It’s better that way. And I know a lot of college kids aren’t this way, but I would tell myself to not take everything so seriously, to go to Aggieville more, take ALL of the human development classes (they are so cool, don’t wait until your last semester) and start making student loan payments now.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Go to Aggieville. Hug your friends. Wear a lot of purple. Buy football tickets. Use the rec center. It’s free. That’s amazing. If your career is in agriculture take more ag econ courses. Do it. Do it now. Understand the markets and what influences them. I don’t care if you are studying herbology, want to work for an ad agency or be in beef genomics. If you want to be in ag, take MORE ag econ. Stop reading this right now and go sign up for more ag econ courses.

Post Grad:

Tell us about your career so far?
I was really fortunate to land a job right out of college that allowed me to work remote from home. This let me live in Raleigh where my husband was attending school and continue the freelance business I started in college. I absolutely loved getting to work in the digital media space helping farmers, ranchers and western lifestyle brands harness the power of social media.

When I was in college, I interned for Certified Angus Beef and to say I loved it wouldn’t be the right choice of words. I feltat home, like I had found my fit. Telling the stories of the beef community for such an incredible brand was like my puzzle piece had found it’s place. When a position came open on the team I had interned and freelanced for, I knew I had to apply. Ohio was never in the plans for us, but I am so fulfilled getting to help teach ranchers about high quality beef production both in the digital and print space. Bonus, is that I continue to freelance and consult, always keeping things interesting and it allows me to live out some other passions like my love for wheat farmers.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
I know it’s so cliche but it’s really all about who you know. The relationships I built in college through friends, my department, being involved in organizations, internships and attending conferences have been the biggest factor in setting me up for success. Honestly, I paid a pretty penny for my degree (#outofstateprobs) but the PEOPLE I met through my degree program are more valuable than any classroom experience and totally worth the college debt I’m paying off right now.

These people have become my coworkers, my freelance clients, and all around rockstars to have in my life. They are cheerleaders and problem solvers and world changers. I’m really lucky that I actually work for one of the company’s I interned with in college and I get to freelance and work with many other people I met or worked for in college.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Losing your people is tough. In college you go from a life surrounded by friends who have become family and a support system of mentors and teachers and life coaches and then you move away. It’s hard. It gets lonely sometimes. Also, when someone figures out the whole making good friends as an adult thing, I’ll pay to take that class. Notice how both of these answers are about people? People are the best part of college and the hardest part to lose. They are also the most challenging thing about work and the only way you’re going to get through it. People matter. More than skills, more than resumes, more than experience, more than anything.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I’m one of those people that thinks I’m a hot mess and other people think is crazy hyper-organized. I’m a big fan of Asana for task management and am now a firm believer in living that #inboxzero life. I’d be lost in this world without sticky notes, podcasts, the GPS on my phone and the app TapeACall. Also, Freshbooks. Cloud accounting software made for creatives. If you freelance and you are creating your own invoices, stop that nonsense immediately and pay for accounting software.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Ooo deep question.

Strengths:

  • Knowing my stuff. I spend a lot of time staying up to date with what’s going on in the world of digital communications, media, the world and my craft. I’m good at what I do, knowing the cutting edge stuff and I’m always working to get better.
  • Asking tough questions.
  • Storytelling across all platforms from a 2,500 word print story to a 140 character tweet.

Weaknesses:

  • Being comfortable in my own skin. I really wish I didn’t have to say that at this age. I wish I could say I confidently slay all the time, but I don’t. Often I need affirmation from others to go forth and do the bold thing I want to do but am far too afraid to do. Sometimes that “bold” thing really is something out of the box and innovative and some days it’s talking to a coworker instead of sending an email.
  • Man I REALLY wish I didn’t have to say that one. I overestimate what I can accomplish in a day. I need deadlines and I need help with deadlines. I’m not saying I can’t meet them, but I struggle being realistic when setting them for myself.
  • Expecting perfection. From myself. From others. I’m working on this big time right now. Give grace. We all could use some.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Oh I’m the last person you should ask about work/life balance. I LOVE what I do. It’s part of my identity and who I am. I was created to be a workaholic. I haven’t worked just one job since I was a freshman in college. However, I’ve learned the hard way that my type A, over achieving, do it all personality is at a high risk for burnout. HIGH RISK y’all. This means when I burn out, it’s not like I just fizzle out of energy, I crash and burn. There’s flames. Big ones. And I’m not the only one that gets torched in the fire. Coworkers, friends, clients, my poor husband — they all have to deal with the repercussions and that’s just not something I’m okay with anymore.

Right now this is a major focus area of my life. I seriously had to set goals and hard boundaries for myself. I have goals around when I will leave work and when I can bring my work laptop home and when I can answer work emails. My supervisor knows this and knows if I break my own rules. Does this sound overboard? Maybe. But I can tell you I am a completely different human now that I’m working from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. five days a week. I have time for things like working out and cooking dinner and I’m even thinking about starting to watch Game of Thrones. Nicole a year ago had to be dragged away from her computer at 11:50 p.m. every night. I worked weekends. I answered work email as soon as it came through. I never shut off.

Don’t be that person. It’s not healthy and it’s not getting you ahead. I’m not saying don’t go the extra mile. Just be the person that does more in their 8 hour workday instead of the person that works 17 hours a day.

Hannah O’Leary Photography

Just For Fun:

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
My freelance work. This might sound crazy but it’s the first thing I do when I get out of bed. I go straight to my home office and crank out the first chore of the day. It also makes me feel amazing that by the time I head off to my “day job” I’ve already put in a couple hours of work while everyone else was sleeping. Also, then when I get home in the evening, I don’t have to continue working and can just relax.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Um… caffeine. In the past it’s been Diet Pepsi. I’m really trying to cut that out or at least reduce my intake but I used to basically drink it like a fish breathes water. So right now it’s Crystal light with caffeine. I can give up the soda, but not the caffeine.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This is tough because I truly believe I’m doing what I was made to do. I was born to be a writer. I was made to tell stories. I’m passionate about digital media and how we can use it to build common ground. I love agriculture and believe there is not another industry whose stories need so desperately to be communicated and that if they are communicated effectively have the ability to create immense positive change for our nation and our world.

If the ag thing didn’t work out, all limitations aside, I might have gone into journalism for one of the major news organizations or I’d be in D.C. telling the stories of politics. I love D.C. and politics and my husband refuses to live there. He also could care less about policy. However, either way I’d be living out my truth that stories have this insane power to create change and I want to be one of the lucky ones wielding the wand.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Brooke Harshaw. The color purple. Limestone. K-State Football and Bill Snyder folklore. Raspberry Black Bean Chipotle Dip. Rent being only $375. The Thurston House. The Claflin House. The way people celebrate Kansas Day like it’s a national holiday. The people. Feeling at home.

*****

Nicole, I am so, so, so very thankful for our friendship and that I always have someone to chat with that totally gets it. Thank you for sharing your story on my blog. I know that others will appreciate it as much as I did. #westcoastbestcoast

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Logan

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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First off, welcome back to this series! It has been long overdue! If you missed my post about bringing the series back, you can read that here.

I am so excited to welcome the series back with one of my favorites! I can’t exactly remember when I first met Logan, but it was sometime my sophomore year of college, when he was an incoming freshman. He was in the same department as me (ag communications), eventually became a fellow ambassador for the College of Ag and worked for a while with me as a student at the IGP Institute on campus. I struggled a bit with how I was going to introduce Logan because he is such an all-around great guy. I’m not sure I know anyone that works harder than Logan, or that is as committed to the things that he is passionate about. But what will always stand out to me is how great of friend he is to others and how much he invests in those around him. I’m so grateful that I can always rely on him for a serious chat and an honest reply in return, but also for the perfect sarcastic reply when we are talking about basically anything else. He also loves K-State sports, good Mexican food and doesn’t believe in the Oxford comma… so really, there shouldn’t be any question why I’m excited to share his story.

He just finished up a year-long fellowship here in DC and it was so much fun having him around! But I believe Logan is one of those people that was meant to teach and share the love the learning and agriculture with others, so I am so excited to see him to continue working towards his goals as a Ph.D. student.

-Amanda

Name: Logan Britton
Age: 25
Hometown: Bartlett, Kansas
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): B.S. in Agriculture, Agricultural Communications and Journalism and Agricultural Economics; M.S., Agricultural Economics
Current Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma
Current Job: Ph.D. student and graduate research and teaching associate, Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics

Background Story:

I hail from a small town of 80 people in the southeast corner of Kansas, which owes its existence to an agricultural cooperative. It wasn’t until I took agricultural education classes and engaged in FFA programs during high school that I realized the importance and reach of agriculture. Throughout my childhood, I aspired to be a math teacher and doctor, but FFA allowed me to explore career possibilities within the agriculture industry.

One of our high school’s agricultural education instructors and FFA advisors is a family friend and recommend I enroll in an agriculture course during my freshman year. He exclaimed it would help me immensely – how right he was. My mom called my guidance counselor to take me out of my agriculture class once she got my schedule in the mail. In her mind, I had no future in the agriculture industry. She later recanted after observing how much I grew from the experience. I was blessed with four FFA advisors during my time at Labette County High School. Each of these men taught me various aspects of agriculture and how to be a leader. Through their encouragement and coaching, I transformed from a soft spoken and timid freshman to a strong, confident person ready for the challenges of college.

During my time at K-State, I worked in the College of Agriculture and one of its departments. Seeing the other side of higher education through academic programs, I soon discovered a passion for academia. As a college sophomore, I decided I would become a professor.

Fast forward six years later, I’m currently a graduate research and teaching associate and Ph.D. student in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State

College:

How did you choose your college and your major?
Through FFA, I participated in the agricultural communications career development event as a sophomore in which I completed the design practicum. I enjoyed learning the material, and it was there my love for agricultural communications began. While practicing for the CDE, I turned to one of my advisors and asked if I could do this for a living. He introduced me to material about Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture and the agricultural communications and journalism major. During high school, I gained experience in this field by running the FFA chapter’s website and designing printed materials as part of my supervised agricultural experience program.

I’ve always had a fascination with numbers, so while in FFA, I competed in the farm business management CDE. To enhance my education at K-State as well as learn more about agricultural markets, I decided to declare a dual major in agricultural economics.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was engaged at all levels while at K-State – I actively participated in College of Agriculture Ambassadors, College of Agriculture Student Council, Alpha Gamma Rho and Student Governing Association. I also participated in Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Student National Agri-Marketing Association, Alpha Zeta Honor Society in addition to Agriculture Future of America.

As an undergraduate student at K-State, I held part-time jobs with the IGP Institute (where I first met Amanda!), the College of Agriculture Academic Programs and the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education. In my tenure, I completed internships with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Junior Livestock Show and the National FFA Organization.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
One of my challenges was saying no. During the first couple years, I was definitely a “yes man.” I wanted to make the most of my college experience by learning and doing anything I had interests in. Eventually, I got to the point where I was stretched a little too thin. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and wasn’t always in the best of moods. Once I started lightening my plate, my attitude changed.

One struggle I had to conquer in college was depression. I think this topic is taboo, especially in our culture and among guys. As mentioned earlier, I let stress overwhelm me. It got to the point where I’d get anxiety attacks, wanted to sleep constantly and couldn’t think straight. If I were to go back, I would have sought help sooner or found a healthful avenue to release my stress. I let my pride get in the way because I didn’t want my family, friends or people I admire see me struggle. Yet, I learned a great deal about myself through the experience.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
In college, we spend a substantial time learning course materials and objectives, but some of the best teachers are the people around you. Spend time getting to know more about them and how they developed their skillsets. Be in the moment, especially around your friends, mentors and professors. Time in college will fly by. As humans, we tend to remember negative experiences more than positive ones. Take pictures to capture these memories or write in a journal about the positive times you have.


Post Grad:

Tell us about your career so far?
After I finished my bachelor’s degree in May 2015, I stuck around for another year in Manhattan to finish my master’s degree through the concurrent B.S./M.S. program in agricultural economics.

Once I finished my master’s degree, I received a yearlong graduate fellowship with the U.S. Grains Council which was partially fund by the Kansas Corn Commission. While with USGC in Washington, D.C., I analyzed U.S. coarse grain trade and the benefits of U.S. free trade agreements as well as developed a long-term demand model to determine future growth of U.S. feed grains. I utilized both of my disciplines – communications and economics – every single day either writing an economic article for the weekly newsletter, editing content on the website or calculating feed grains in terms of value-added equivalents.

Currently, I’m at Oklahoma State where I hope to conduct research in the areas of consumer and food economics as well price analysis and forecasting.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Being involved in several things across K-State and in the agriculture industry, I learned a significant amount about the expectations of others and how to work more efficiently. For example, if my boss wanted me to complete a task by the end of the week, I would attempt to get a first draft done a few days before so that I could receive feedback and make enhancements before the final deadline. Being in two somewhat different disciplines in college helped with approaching a problem from different perspectives, so I’m able to think from an economic lens and then from a communications’ one.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I’m a Type-A personality right down to the letter. At K-State, I feel as if we were prepared to take on several responsibilities through coursework and extracurricular activities. I have always worked at a fast pace, so I hit a brick wall in the real world. I realized other people may not work on the same rate. This has helped prepare me for an academic setting, where decisions about programs and journal articles may take a rather long time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Google Calendar is a blessing for my Type-A personality. I’m able access it on my phone or through a browser as well as color-coordinate different events and create to-do lists. Google Calendar also has a feature called goals, in which it will continually analyze your schedule and find the best fit for the activity you want to complete, such as working out or reading.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
When I set forth goals, I’m adamant to accomplish them with all my effort. So, my drive and work ethic are important assets. Through my experiences and academic disciplines, I have developed well-rounded skills and can use both sides of my brain. My top theme in StrenghtsFinder is harmony, which means I enjoy bringing people together and steering people clear of conflict. I also am observant of others, so I attempt to understand them and learn about their preferences. On the other hand, I am quite the introvert. This may shock some of my friends, but it takes a great deal of my energy to talk with others. So, I usually don’t make the best first impression nor would I ever cut it in a sales role. It takes me a handful of interactions to warm up and truly trust others.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
My faith is an important piece of who I am. When I get down or need to re-focus, I think of the saints and other holy people who got through difficult times by God’s will and grace. I also think of people who have great expectations for me, either now, such as my family or role models, or those in the future, such as my wife and kids.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
As a graduate student, this is a must. I try to either incorporate workouts or times to read into my schedule or participate in social events through the department or the Newman Center at OSU.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
It’s difficult to pin down to one thing. I have accomplished many feats in my life with some daunting constraints and obstacles. My education has been important to me as a first-generation college student. Thus far, I have financed my degrees on my own with relatively low debt.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I’m currently single and have no prospects in sight (school has been my main squeeze for a long time), so my hobbies and interests are mainly those any mid-20-year-old male would have. I’ve been a skinny kid most of my life with some athletic ability. Recently, I’ve been working out regularly and eating a more balance diet to gain muscle. I’m by no means an Olympic weightlifter or fitness model, but I feel like I’m making progress toward my fitness goals.

I used to loathe reading thanks to Accelerated Reading in grade schools. Yet, with more free time and being more interested in learning, I’ve started to read again. Nothing too serious, but I mainly stick to books under the genres of theology, education and leadership.

I love sports, especially watching K-State play (Go ‘Cats), and spending time with friends and family.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Hopefully I survive one more stint of school and obtain my Ph.D. in the next three to four years. The next segment in my journey through life will be trying to be hired as a faculty member at a land-grant university. Ideally, I would like to return to K-State; however, I understand that going elsewhere will only diversify my experience and make me a better teacher and researcher.

Just for Fun:

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Either by eating a bowl of cereal or drinking a glass of orange juice.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I need white noise to work. If I’m at home, I’ll watch TV or binge watch a Netflix series (Friends or How I Met Your Mother). If I’m in an office setting and it gets too quiet, I’ll put my headphones on and listen to my Spotify playlists.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
If I could have muster enough courage and gained a stone-cold stomach, I would have been a medical doctor. I’ve always wanted to help people, so I’d either be in neurology, oncology or diagnostic medicine.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the proximity of friends. I know several colleges throw the word family around to describe the atmosphere. K-State is unique in which that mentality is engrained into students, especially in the College of Agriculture. It’s amazing to see what my friends are doing in this world and where they are currently. This also reinforces how well K-State programs train our students for the workforce.  … Also, I really miss Call Hall ice cream though.

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Logan, thanks for helping kick off relaunching this series. We miss you here in DC but are excited for your new adventure at Oklahoma State!

Cheers!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 23

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my not-so-glam 20-something life. See past posts HERE}

New Blog Look

If you haven’t noticed, things are looking a bit different around here. Recently I have been wanting to freshen up my blog with a white-based background and decided to follow that with a bit of a simpler overall look. I am making a few other updates here and there… but I tend to be a bit indecisive so those are happening as I go.

While I love blogging, it often takes the back burner when life gets a bit busy, which makes habit building a bit of a challenge. But I am doing some planning for some posts and series that are not just focused on my “So There’s That” series or my travel (which is all I’ve blogged about for most of 2017) so stay tuned!

Promotion

I’m not shy about sharing that I love my job working for U.S. wheat farmers, so it was nice to receive a promotion!

You can read about it here… unless you are my Mom and in case, I’m pretty sure I’ve already made the fridge 🙂

 4th of July Holiday Weekend

Independence Day is my favorite holiday and this year my (4-day!!!) holiday weekend did not disappoint.


On Friday, I headed out to Mt. Vernon with some Kansas friends. This ticketed event had all sorts of colonial demonstrations, including dancing, which we all somehow got sucked into trying. There was also foods and drinks to purchase, a live band and of course fireworks!

I’m pretty sure there are few things more American than watching fireworks on the back lawn of George Washington’s crib. I would highly recommend this to people next year. Tickets were $30 dollars, which is actually pretty reasonable for events in this area.

Saturday morning was spent at brunch at SEI in Chinatown, where I failed to take any group photos, partially because I was drooling over these quinoa french toast that I ordered. Don’t worry, they still were made with wheat, but the quinoa added a great crunch! Brunch may have turned into a mini-wheat lesson for the group after I asked the manager about the french toast… #sorrynotsorry #wheatie

Saturday night was spent back with the Kansan’s at Red, White and Brew, a drinking festival down by the waterfront.

This guy had to work all weekend so Monday was spent relaxing.


I wrapped up the weekend on Tuesday with BBQ with friends and sparklers.

Annapolis

This past weekend I had to travel to my work summer board meeting, but instead of hoping on a plane, I just had to make a short drive to Annapolis. Visiting here has been toward the top of my to-do list since moving to the area so I head over early to check things out, and I may have had a tag along 🙂


Not that I thought it was going to be anything otherwise, but the main downtown area near the harbor is adorable!

We explored, walked down by the harbor and the U.S. Naval Academy (I need to visit again so I can go on a tour) and tried out a few stops.



The Maryland State House was just a block or two over from where we were so we swung by. There is SO MUCH U.S. history associated with this little building and it’s so pretty!



We rounded out the day with crabs #wheninmaryland! This guy grew up on “picking” crabs (taking them a part), so he (patiently I would add) taught me how to do it myself.

Summer Board Meeting

It’s rare that our staff stops and takes a picture like this. Although our team is MUCH bigger than this (and stretches around the globe), I am thankful to work alongside these people.

This gentleman below represents everything that makes me passionate about agriculture and the reason why I never want to work for anyone but farmers. Leonard has actively served on the USW Board of Directors for 21 years and this summer board meeting marked the end. I remember before my first board meeting 2.5 years ago, my boss was chatting about some of the farmer board members I would be meeting, and finally he said, “and then there is Uncle Leonard.”

Leonard has a one of kind personality that makes you feel like you’ve known him your whole life. In just two words I would describe him as funny and kind, two of the things that I respect most in people. But what has stuck out to me about Leonard, is his ability really listen and take in the discussions around him, while so many others are only focused on what they are going to say next. When Leonard does respond, it tends to be with more patience and thought.

At the end of the meeting, Leonard reflected on his year’s on the farm and on the board. I considered sharing the whole thing (I take the meeting minutes so I do have it!) but here is the bit of it that stood out to me:

“In our world of farming, we take over some land or lose some land, but our main goal whenever we take over new land is to make it better than when we got it. That’s how we gauge ourselves on whether or not we are successful … I have said yes to four different governors to sit on this board, and it has allowed me to discover this passion I have for wheat. It has helped me define who I am back at home to my neighbors, because I am Mr. Wheat back home. I think it is very rare how other people’s choices allow you to discover your passion.”

Thanks Leonard, we sure are going to miss you!

Big 12 Schools as Harry Potter Characters

I’d say most of these are pretty darn accurate and the descriptions are pretty funny.

https://www.cowboysrideforfree.com/2017/6/28/15883470/big-12-schools-as-harry-potter-characters

My People

This little note speaks to me in leaps and bounds, and after sharing it on social media and receiving quite a few comments, apparently it does for a lot of people. I think I have learned many times over that you just can’t be everything for everyone and on the flip side, some people are only in your life a “season” and that’s completely OK. But that makes it so much more important to INVEST in those core people around you who just really “get it” and let your crazy fly, whether they are near, or in my case for most, are far away.

Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.


Why does it all of a sudden look like baby Wes is NOT a baby anymore?!

My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.


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So, There’s That.

Cheers!

Agriculture, Kansas, Photography

{2017} Kansas Wheat Harvest

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” -Thomas Jefferson

I have heard this quote many times before, but since I came across it again a few weeks ago, it has really stuck with me.

Happiness, yes. Tom was certainly right about that one.

No matter what is going on during my day, month or season, so much of who I am is rooted in agriculture and the happiness that it brings me is an anchor that I can rely on. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but I strongly believe that a job and your life’s work shouldn’t just be an 8 to 5 that pays the bills.

Over the past couple of days I have been back in Kansas to attend the National Festival of Breads (more on that in a future blogpost), and I had the chance to accompany the Kansas Wheat Commission and their baking contest finalists on a farm tour during the start of wheat harvest.

Everyone knows my happy place is in the Blue Mountains, but I think a Kansas farm with dirt beneath me and blue skies above comes in close second.

In my mind there are few things more beautiful than amber waves of grain, and that afternoon was just the medicine that I didn’t know I needed.

Thanks to the Kejr family for hosting us.

Enjoy!

Cheers!