Opinion by Kate Richardson
Beef Ambassador experience is valuable by: Katie Richardson
When I won the position of Wyoming’s Senior Beef Ambassador in May, I didn’t know what to expect. My task was to educate people about beef and the beef industry, and I had three guidelines as to how to get that done – one media interview, two consumer promotions and three youth presentations. How I wanted to go about getting those done was entirely up to me, as long as I had them adone in time for the national contest in September.
I decided to start with the youth presentations, as they seemed the most labor intensive, and I wanted to present to an elementary class before school was out for the summer. I presented to a couple of fourth grade classes and a couple of second grade classes, and it was a blast. I thoroughly enjoyed watching their minds work and how they worked together to figure things out. My lesson plan was very hands-on with lots of examples and games to keep the students interested. One of their favorites was Peanut the Cow – a “cowhide” that a student wore while others in the group decided where the primary cuts of meat came from on Peanut.
This was a great experience for me. Not only did I get to play with elementary students, but also I realized how far removed a lot of our population has become from agriculture in general. Even in these rural agriculture-based towns, I found that many kids don’t know where their food comes from, or they are misinformed. I asked the students what their favorite food was and asked if it was made with beef. At first, I was taken aback when multiple students told me bacon. I took it as a sign that I needed to do a really good job with this Beef Ambassador position.
When I did my consumer promotion activities, I chose to do an in-store demonstration. I set up my beef nutrition booth in front of the beef section with samples to try. I assumed people would just snag a sample on their way by, and I would have to really work to get them to stop and talk to me. Boy, was I mistaken – I was amazed at how many people wanted to know about the health benefits of beef. Suddenly, it was really starting to sink in that this Beef Ambassador thing wasn’t just for kid presentations; I really needed to reach out to their parents as well.
With that in mind I did interviews with the local radio and newspaper to not only cover my media requirement, but to let people know I would be at multiple county fairs to talk about beef and welcomed any and all discussion. I attended five county fairs and the Wyoming State Fair and had some very in-depth discussions with people. Topics included prices, byproducts, nutrition and environmental impacts, along with a wide variety of other beef industry questions.
I got the opportunity to present at multiple other events, including the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute and the Wyoming Game and Fish Expo. Each and every one of them taught me something new and helped me improve my communication and presentation skills. Not to mention I had fun, too.
After my summer of being the Wyoming Senior Beef Ambassador, I was excited to go to the national contest in Sacramento, Calif. California is a place I had never traveled to before and I was excited to see it; but we didn’t get there without a little fast footwork. Burk DeBolt, the Wyoming Junior Ambassador, and I arrived in Denver, Colo. about five hours before our flight was to leave and our Program Coordinators, Mary Owens and Leslie Hendry, arrived. We made the most of it though, especially as Burk had never flown before and so had never seen the Denver airport. By the time it was time to board our flight, we had seen every inch of all three terminals at least once, and I was glad to sit down on the plane. That is, until I realized that Mary and Leslie might not make it. Their plane was delayed, but I had assumed they would still be fine as they had a couple hours to spare. Those two ladies should compete in a sprint competition; they made it from one end of a terminal to another in less than 10 minutes – just in the nick of time.
While we were in Sacramento, the California Cattlewomen did an excellent job hosting. I don’t know if I’ve eaten that well before in my life. I went on an agricultural tour and was amazed to learn that rice is a big crop in California. We got to see almond and walnut groves and a very nice ranch, but the rice was what caught my attention the most – and the palm trees that Burk and I kept trying to take pictures of through the bus window.
One of the best parts of the trip was getting to interact with the contestants from other states. Not only were they all very prepared and professional, they knew how to relax and have fun.
The competition was a great experience that really tested how well we had done our previous presentations and public interactions. Strangely enough, the media interview was my favorite portion. I was able to relax and just talk about beef, which really helped me relax for the rest of the day. I will admit, despite the card games and musical chairs being played in the preparation room, it was a very tense morning.
Although I did not win a spot on the National Beef Ambassador Team, I did learn a lot about being a good advocate for the beef industry. I also really enjoyed getting to meet people and doing some networking, as well as just have fun. The Beef Ambassador Program is something every eligible person should seriously consider. It is an awesome opportunity to not only represent beef and people who are involved in providing it, but to learn and grow as a person. If I could, I would enter again in a heartbeat.