A new voice for the beef industry
March 6, 2015
She's taking the Cowboy State to bigger pastures.
"Being from Wyoming gives me a great opportunity – I mean, we're the Cowboy State. This is what we're known for, and I can take the story of Wyoming, the story of ranching, and spread that, tell people what we do in the beef community and why we do it."
Rachel Purdy is the fourth generation on her family's commercial cow-calf and diversified crop farm in Pine Bluffs, Wyo., where much of her inspiration as a member of the National Beef Ambassador team is drawn.
"What really inspires me about this program is, I've had producers come up to me at consumer demos and say, 'Thank you — I don't have time to do this – I have to make sure I'm at home to feed in the morning, at night, I don't have time to be there and do the things we need to promote our product on the ground,'" Purdy said. "That really inspires me."
Purdy earned her spot on the team last September, and they began their tenure in January. The five-person team works throughout the year at in-person beef promotion events across the nation, along with continuing youth classroom presentations and building online connections through new social media venues. They'll be at cooking shows to demonstrate beef recipes, at farm shows to tell the beef story, on college campuses to talk about beef with their peers and everywhere in between in the year to come.
The University of Wyoming junior studying agriculture business competed with 19 other students from across the nation at the three-day national competition in Denver, which also included leadership training and a media outreach seminar. Students were judged in the areas of consumer promotion, education and outreach strategy, media interview technique and issues response for a spot on the travelling beef promotion team.
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Purdy and the other four national ambassadors — Will Pohlman, Arkansas; Demi Snider, Ohio; Alicia Smith, Texas; and Kalyn McKibben, Oklahoma – will each earn a $1,000 cash prize plus a $1,000 scholarship at the end of a successful year as ambassadors.
Each of the five national ambassadors take a day each week to blog at http://beefambassador.com/, sharing stories from their home ranches or farms, facts about beef nutrition and production or updates on their travels from the road. The goal on the blog is to share their personal stories and ranching experiences from across the nation, Purdy said.
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care – we could throw facts out there all day, but until you start to share on a personal level and show how you treat your animals, what you do every day, it's hard to make an impact," she said.
The blog reaches thousands of readers each week, and more on their Facebook and Twitter feeds (@beefambassador), and they back those online connections up with critical in-person interactions as the team travels to events across the nation to serve and promote beef, while learning to step up as the next generation of leaders in the beef industry.
They also get a chance to learn from today's industry leaders. In February, the team traveled to San Antonio for the 2015 Cattle Industry Convention.
"My favorite part of being a beef ambassador is being a voice for beef producers," Purdy said. "So to be able to interact with producers from across the U.S. and ask them, 'How can we help you tell your beef story?' was a great opportunity."
The opportunities to tell those stories have been varied in the first quarter of their year of ambassadorship, and often found in the most unlikely places.
"Sometime I didn't expect was the conversations that are most meaningful are not always at events," Purdy said. "It's on the airplane on the way to the event, or in the store when you're shopping. When it comes to understanding their food, people just want to talk to someone who cares."
With that, her favorite blogging topic – which often includes videos and photos from her family's Wyoming ranch and sharing her life as a college student cooking beef on a budget – is simply sharing the day-to-day work of their family ranch.
"Even within our team our production stories are so different just between the five of us," Purdy said. That helps them relate to potential beef eaters from across the nation who may have questions about cattle, ranching, health, safety, nutrition and more.
And while her favorite part of working as a National Beef Ambassador is representing the cattle industry's farmers and ranchers, she said with calving season in full swing and National Agriculture Day around the corner (March 18), there's never been a better time to step up and start sharing a production story right from the ranch.
"Try advocating. It's easier than most people think it is – it sounds intimidating – you think a mob of angry vegans coming at you," she laughed. "But it can be as simple as sharing a picture of the calf and the mom on your Facebook, so people know you're taking care of that calf and making sure he's healthy. People want to know, and it makes a difference."
Upcoming state beef ambassador contests:
As the 2015 National Beef Ambassador team turns the corner to one of their busiest months of the year – March will find them in Washington, DC, for legislative training and advocacy after a week in Denver for industry tours and education, and gearing up for a major food show in Tennessee in April – several states in the region are gearing up for their 2015 contests.
Some states host junior competitions for students as young as eight years old, and senior contestants range between ages 17 and 20. State contest prizes vary, but most offer a cash prize or scholarship to winners.
The 2015 Montana Beef Ambassador Contest is open to anyone with a passion for the beef industry between 17-20 years old by Sept 1. Registration closes March 16, 2015, and the contest will be March 25, at 11 a.m., at the Billings Holiday Inn Grand, Billings, Montana, Poolside room. For more information or to register contact Wanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2015 Nebraska Beef Ambassador contest will be April 3 in Kearney. Registration has already closed, but you can get more information on their Facebook page or by emailing Laura Gorecki at email@example.com.
The Wyoming Beef Ambassador contest will be April 11 at Casper College. Application deadline is March 20. For more information, contact Beef Ambassador Co-Chairs Leslie Hendry 307-876-2778 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Mary Owens 307-437-6863 or email@example.com. Contestants must be at least 16 years of age by September 1, 2015, but not over the age of 20 by Sept. 1, 2015. Cash awards are presented to the top three places.
The South Dakota Beef Ambassador contest is typically held in September. For more information about the South Dakota Beef Ambassador contest, contact South Dakota Cattlewomen's President Kodi Blotsky at (605) 828-2329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The North Dakota Beef Ambassador contest is also typically held in the fall. To learn more about being a part of the North Dakota Beef Ambassador team, contact Kathy Tokach at email@example.com or (701) 445-7390 before March 30.
Winners of the state contests who are between the ages of 17 and 20 are eligible to represent their states at the national contest in September 2015. Upon completion of their National Beef Ambassador term and service, national winners are awarded a $1,000 scholarship and their $1,000 cash prize.
National Beef Ambassadors also earn an iPad and custom iPad cover. For more information about the national competition, contact project manager Sarah J. Bohnenkamp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-850-3440.