This summer we are thrilled to have Kailee Zimmerman as our summer intern. A past Arizona Beef Ambassador and Arizona FFA State Officer, Kailee shares about her roots, and how she continues to share about the beef community.
A recent study by the American Farm Bureau Federation showed that the average American is now at least three generations removed from production agriculture. Rapid population increase and urbanization has left just two percent of United States citizens actively involved in raising, growing, and producing food. We find ourselves in the middle of a reality that we have never faced before – the fact that American farmers & ranchers and consumers are divided by a large gap of knowledge and understanding.
Whew! Now is the time when we can take a deep breath! While these statistics may seem daunting, there is great hope! We also live in a world where many people are more interested than ever about their food and where it comes from. We see foods marketed as “farm to table” and “locally grown” becoming more popular. In order to bridge the knowledge gap between food producers and food consumers, it is so important for agriculturalists to share their story!
I believe that the story of American agriculture (especially, the beef community!) is one of triumph and inspiration. Why wouldn’t we want to share it? I am blessed to come from a family with ranching roots. My Nana grew up on a ranch in Southeastern Arizona in the Aravaipa Canyon. As a little kid, I loved hearing stories about the ranch and the adventures my family would have there. However, as I have gotten older, through these stories and experiences, I have also grown a deep appreciation for the work that goes into raising cattle that will produce nutritious, sustainable protein. I am also grateful for the example of hard work, integrity and perseverance that my Nana and other family members on the ranch set for me.
While I did not grow up on a ranch like my Nana, I am grateful to have experienced a small degree of what it is like to raise cattle and provide food for families by raising and exhibiting show cattle. I have raised market steers since I was 11 years old and have shown them at countless jackpot shows and fairs across Arizona. It is hard for me to list all of the lessons that I learned from raising livestock and showing cattle, but one of the most important things I learned was how important it is to be a good representative of the agricultural community. When we first started showing, my parents taught my brothers and me about the importance of being advocates for agriculture as we interacted with community members and visitors at the fairs we attended. Though it was routine for us to care for our cattle and get them ready to show, this was very foreign to many people who attended the fairs.
Throughout my time exhibiting cattle, I was able to have many conversations with people who were unfamiliar with agriculture and knew very little about where their food came from. I loved getting to talk to them and help give a little more understanding about what farmers and ranchers do to provide us with a safe, healthy and abundant food supply.
These experiences taught me that we each play an important role in advocating for agriculture – even if it feels like our part is small. I hope that the conversations I had left an impact on the people I spoke with. We each just have to be willing to share our story with those around us. As we share our experiences with kindness, people are more likely to listen and respect what we are sharing and, in turn, we are better able to understand their perspectives and experiences.
Though there are challenges facing the agriculture community today, there are also great successes and innovations like we have never seen before. The future is so bright! We each just have to do our part and share our story when we are given the opportunity.