I first heard from Kansas State University’s Brandi Buzzard a few years ago when all she wanted was just some equal time. She had picked up a copy of the campus newspaper and read what she saw as an anti-ag editorial attacking the health benefits of milk. Milk! What comes next? Apple pie and hot dogs? Yeah, hot dogs have gotten their unfair share of press so we’ll just leave it at apple pie, no sugar added and certainly no artificial sweeteners. Just plain apples and a sodden and unflakey crust made without lard.
An annoyed Brandi Buzzard penned a response. The editor refused to publish it. “Not fair!” she thought.
Looking for redress, she emailed me and asked how she should handle the situation. I didn’t know who she was; she had communicated with me because she had read my Cattlenetwork interviews with influential cattle people and hoped I might be able to help.
“Show me what you wrote.” I responded and looked up the editorial that had spurred her to action.
The editorial was biased, surprisingly so since it was written be a newspaper serving a land grant college. “Biting the hand that feeds you so well?” I thought
Her response arrived a few minutes later and it was good, a well-written piece, properly backed with the facts. (Click here to read it) It was the kind of writing good journalism schools try to teach and too few students actually learn. To my way of thinking, a fair-minded newspaper editor should have published it. Because the editor turned it down and the playing field needed to be leveled, I turned it into my next DCN editorial.
And Brandi became a social media agvocate.
OK, maybe it wasn’t just that simple. But I’ve seen her byline in a lot of unexpected places lately so I thought I should track her down and ask her about life in the ‘ag’ lane.
Q. Brandi, since your pro-milk, pro-ag defense written to the KSU newspaper, what’s happened in your life?
A. Not much, I got married, moved to Australia for a while, came back to Manhattan to work on my Masters degree.
(Australia, I wondered?) My husband got a Fulbright Scholarship which paid for a year of grad studies and had to work in a country where he spoke the language. Speaking English, that narrowed the choices down to the U.K. or Australia. So he went to work on a swine research project in Melbourne for 10 months.
I worked as a research assistant in the Department of Land and Food Research which is like the University of Melbourne’s College of Agriculture. I worked with sheep and swine, basically what a grad assistant would do here except I got paid a lot better.
Q. Now that you’re back in the States, what are you doing?
A. I’m working on a project on low stress swine production, it’s being paid for by the National Pork Board. It’s a study on humane euthanasia and we’re looking at CO and hypobaric treatments. Temple Grandin is helping with our work. We’re finishing the project now and the results should be published in a few months.
Q. You came from a long line of ag people?
A. I’m the fourth generation of a rodeo family; I don’t know how far back we go in agriculture. I still do some rodeo. My husband, Hyatt Frobose is a fourth generation farmer from Northwest Ohio. He grew up on a cattle operation. When we go back to Ohio, we’ll be the fifth generation on a family farm that dates back to 1864. We still have a lot on our 'to do' list before we do that, though. Hyatt is weighing his Ph.D. options and we’ll have to make some decisions about that soon.
Q. You’ve become a social media person doing what people now recognize as ‘agvocating.’ When did you start and how much of it do you do?
A. I’m a Twitter addict and I’ve always been on Facebook. I started blogging in the fall of 2009. As you know, what got me started was that perfectly calm response to the editor at the K-State newspaper. I started a blog soon after they turned it down to let people know what we really do in agriculture – we work really hard and we always try to do the right things.
Social media is a daily commitment for me, I try to always talk with people and give them the answers about agriculture they’re looking for. I get responses from both sides, as many as 15 or 20 comments about some of my posts. Some agree that we’re doing the right thing; others ask why are we trashing the environment? When you put your thoughts out there, though, you have to listen to both sides.
I did a post on horse slaughter. It was interesting – PETA says it should be reinstated while HSUS is still 100% against it. PETA understood that parts of the rule had more of an effect on horse welfare than anyone could foresee. If the rule had never been adopted, we could handle the problem more humanely, instead of just abandoning horses and leaving them for dead.
Q. You work with a group called Food For Thought. What do they do?
A. Food for Thought was started in 2009. It’s a grass roots advocacy group designed to be a connection between consumers and the people who produce food for them. We – we’re a group of Kansas State students and alumni - blog and Twitter.
We have a lecture series named after Dr. Dan Upson who really left a great legacy for us in the College of Agriculture and the College of Veterinary Medicine. We invite people with a broader base of appeal but an interest in agriculture to speak. Dr. Upson was the first in our lecture series. We’ve heard from Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Teresa Scanlan, the current Miss America, too.
Q. Your social media work is expanding your work horizons. You’ve just accepted an offer from YPC?
A. I’m their new social media coordinator as of last week. I had been a member of their PR board and when I heard they were looking for someone to do Facebook and Twitter, I applied. When my friends heard about it, they congratulated me on finding the job. I had to tell them it was a voluntary position only, no pay. It’s not a full time job.
Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Vance Publishing.