Agriculture: From Cows to Christmas Trees and Everything in Between




By: Emma Likens

One in every three jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture, according to a study done by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  So naturally that means one in every three working adults in Nebraska is a farmer, right?  Not quite.  In reality, many of these jobs support the agricultural industry in some shape or form, such as grain elevators, meat packing plants or marketing agencies that promote agricultural products.

Here’s a few professions that while they are not on-the-farm-jobs, they are still vital parts to the agricultural industry.

Grain Merchandiser

Grain merchandisers purchase farm commodities for resale or further processing to add value.  After negotiating contracts with farmers to purchase farm products, they then arrange for transportation, storage and processing or resale of the products.  Products grain merchandisers commonly work with are milk, grains and Christmas trees.

Grain merchandisers hard at work on the CHS exchange floor. (photo from


Food Scientist

Alongside farmers, food scientists impact the world three times a day through their work in regulation, processing, research and quality assurance areas.  Food scientists work in a variety of places, from food processing plants to government positions.  Some food scientists work to determine the calorie and nutrient content of foods for labeling, while others research new methods of food storage.

Norman Borlaugh, Nobel Prize winning food scientist. (photo from

Agricultural Editor

Agricultural editors work for newspapers and trade publications.  They research and interview sources to write articles and often take their own pictures as well.  Some editors also produce video content to accompany stories.  They may also manage online content and write content for blogs.

Agricultural editors work for a variety of publications, including Farm Journal (photo from

Agriculture is a huge industry, ranging from cows to Christmas trees.  Though I’ve just covered a few, there are literally hundreds of jobs related to agriculture that support farmers.  Have you ate today?  Thank a farmer (or someone else included in those one in three jobs)!

“To My Fellow Producers…”







By: Levi McPhillips


To my fellow producers:

            I am young. Well, that is what my father tries to remind me every time I begin worrying about the futre. I am nineteen years old, and I must admit that I have much to learn and experience. I am not old enough to confidently say what I want out of life. I have not seen much, and it takes only one college chemistry lecture to remind me that I don’t know much. However, I am old enough to know that the world as we know it is changing.

I am old enough to remember when my family raised hogs outside. With modern facilities, raising hogs outside has become a thing of the past, and for good reason.  There is no doubt that my grandfather would be speechless if he saw the size and technology of modern farms.

This summer was a fantastic opportunity for me to learn about all of the facets of swine production. I did an internship with a large swine producer. New experiences were around every corner as I explored boar/stud operations, modern farrowing and reproduction in sow farms, finishing operations, nutrition on a research farm, and milling. I gained new perspective on the rewards and challenges of modern swine production. I learned more in ten weeks than I did in an entire year of college. Experience teaches quicker than any lecture hall.

After my experience it was easy to see how the swine industry has changed and changed for the better. However, events in recent months have made me less optimistic about the future of the swine industry. Animal activist groups have successfully convinced several of the major U.S. food distributors to force their pork suppliers to phase out gestation stalls within the next decade. I believe that this could be a change for the worse not only for pork producers but for the food industry and society as a whole.

It would be easy for pork producers to become bitter towards organizations such as these activist groups. However, the pork producers I know do not do what’s easy; that is why they raise hogs. We would be foolish to blame this on the animal activist groups. This entire situation is a result of a lack of foresight, public relations, and transparency on our part. I am in no way condoning the deliberate misrepresentation of our industry by the activist groups. However, I do believe that we are partly to blame for the recent happenings. Consumers have preconceived notions about what a hog farm should look like, and they have not been exposed to modern practices that are better for the pigs and better for humans. In the last sixty years our public relations have declined along with the number of people exposed to agriculture, and that needs to change.

It is time for pork producers to take action. First, we must gain transparency in everything that we do. We must make integrity our focus. Integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is watching, and we must have a mentality that there is always someone watching and waiting for us to do something unethical. We must perfect our animal welfare policies and be consistently considerate of the health and safety of every animal. After becoming proud of our practices we must show the public what we do on a daily basis. They need to see producers in their element; one way we can do that is through social media. Facebook and Youtube have been used by the animal activist groups to spread propaganda. These social media tools can also be used to our advantage. It is much easier than you think to post video or pictures to the internet for all to see. Many of the latest cell phones have cameras that can be used to post information to agriculture illiterate people all over the globe. We must show the world that we have nothing to hide. We are not fighting animal activist groups; we are simply telling the truth. Many of us have raised hogs for decades, and there is no one better qualified than hog farmers to educate the American public about modern pork production.

It is vitally important for us to have integrity in everything we do and then publicize our practices to the world. These are not steps that we should take; these are steps that we must take. The future of the pork industry and the future of our way of life depend on it. It should be our pleasure to show everyone that we love what we do. People who consume our pork are our employers; we work for them. Let’s give them products and education they deserve.

I am young, yet I am old enough to see the big changes coming our way. If every hog producer takes the responsibility of sharing his story there will be changes for the better. We can maintain our consumer base, thus securing the future of the industry. Then we can keep on doing what we do best, raising safe, nutritious, and healthy pork for everyone to enjoy.

A World Perspective




By: Michelle Semler

As a graduate student within the Meat Science Department at UNL I have had the opportunity to travel to multiple conferences within the past year such as the Midwest Animal Science Meeting, the Reciprocal Meats Conference, and most recently I traveled to the International Conference on Meat Science and Technology (ICoMST). For ten days in Montreal, Canada I was engulfed in red meat animal production and meat science that opened my eyes to a world perspective of agriculture.

Being originally from eastern Iowa and jumping the Missouri River only last August to move to Lincoln, my scope of agriculture has been very regional. I haven’t really taken the time to look at red meat animal production outside of the Midwest and Great Plains states. However, this conference allowed me to do just that.

The first three days I spent in Montreal I attended a graduate student course where I was able to engage with students from such countries as Brazil, Sri Lanka, Spain, Canada, and many other nations. Our mornings started with three hours of lecture taught by professors from International Universities such as the University of Ghent in Belgium, University of Basque Countries, Spain, as well as having UNL’s very own Dr. Calkins as a presenter. After a wonderful lunch we were then broken up into groups to complete a case study.

The case study activity was designed for us to work within a small group of students with a wide range of background within meat science. While working within these groups I first started to appreciate the scope and scale of the United States red meat animal production system compared to other countries. Often as farmers and or ranchers we get caught up in our day to day life within our small communities and we never take the time to look outside our own front door.  As I continued to interact with these students I was able to look miles and miles beyond my own front door. I enjoyed learning about each one of them and it was exciting to see their interest and dedication to meat science in such areas as animal handling, microbiology, and fat biochemistry.

                As the conference continued there was even more lectures to listen to and take part in. One I found most intriguing dealt with the issue of the population doubling by the year 2050 and how we need to meet the growing demand for food. For years as a student I have been preached upon about this issue and how as young animal scientist it will be our biggest challenge within the next few years. We as agriculturalists will need to double food production using the same amount of land currently in use. That’s kinda scary right? This means that people from other nations will need to depend on each other to meet this demand.  I realized that I am lucky to come from the United States a nation with technology and financial backing to be able to help accomplish such goals.

                I thought that this topic was a great way to sum up my ICoMST experience and bring together everything I learned throughout the course of ten days. Even though I attended many other lectures I felt this one to be the most important as it was an issue that didn’t just concern China, or Korea, or Canada. It concerns all of us and will take a world wide effort in the near future to feed the growing world population.

Pork On Your Fork: Pork Cordon Bleu

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients Icon


4 boneless pork chops, (4 ounce each)
2 ounces prosciutto, OR wafer thin ham
2 ounces Swiss cheese, cut into 2 x 1/4″ rectangles
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup bread crumbs, fine
2 teaspoons butter

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Cooking Directions

New USDA Guidelines
Slice each chop lengthwise almost in half to butterfly. Between two pieces of plastic wrap, pound each butterflied chop to 1/8-inch thickness. On half of each chop, place 1/2-ounce proscuitto and 1 piece of cheese. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon thyme. Roll chops to enclose filling. Coat with flour, dip in egg wash and roll in bread crumbs.

In large frying pan, melt butter. Add pork and cook 10-12 minutes, turning frequently until cooked through and browned on all sides. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs.

Serves 4

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Serving Suggestions

Fix the classic Cordon Bleu using boneless pork chops. Serve with elegant dish with Caesar salad, steamed asparagus and French bread.

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Calories: 371 calories
Protein: 32 grams
Fat: 16 grams
Sodium: 405 milligrams
Cholesterol: 135 milligrams
Saturated Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 23 grams
Fiber: 1 grams

Random Safety Tip:

Refrigerate leftover pork as soon as possible.

Recipe from:

“Let the experiences find you”





By: Nate Hanson

On the last weekend of July the Wayne county fair takes place, and now that I am too old to show I like to go back and help work the ring and help the showman. What this entails is helping the judge while he is making his decisions on who will be winning the show. Also helping the younger showers with their projects is quite rewarding because county fairs are somewhat dying and anything I can do to help preserve these awesome opportunities I will do. Now you could go to a fair to learn about anything many people go to learn how to judge the livestock, or just to learn about how livestock act. Marty Stewart was the swine judge this year, and he did a very nice job, but my favorite part of the fair is seeing the competition, there is sibling rivalry, best friends arguing over whose better.  So going to a county fair can give you many different experiences you just have to go and then let the experiences find you. I’ll guarantee that if you the fair a chance you will love it as much as I do.

Volunteers are the heart of county fairs







By: Courtney Schaardt

The Johnson County Fair had 15 swine exhibitors. At the Johnson County Fair I was able to talk to the Grand Champion Senior Swine Showman, Reba Hesterman. This is also Reba’s last year to show in 4-H. One thing I asked Reba was how was she a leader for the rest of the kids showing at her fair. She responded by saying that there was someone who didn’t know how to drive their pig so she took the initiative to help them do it the right way.  Reba said that her favorite part from the fair this year was when the judge had the final three people in the ring and they had to walk their pig in between to chairs. She said this was exciting to do because it was a challenge. One thing Reba was proud of is when her sister’s hog won the county fair. She felt that was an honor because it made their hogs as a whole look good.

At the fair I was able to talk to people about the pork producers and the mentoring program. I loved talking to everyone about something that I am so passionate about. While I was talking to Reba she made the comment that what we do in the mentoring class is a great opportunity. By educating people about pork, we gain support from the community.

While attending the Johnson County fair I feel that their judge put 4-H and county fairs into perspective. He said, “I would rather spend $5,000 on a 4-H project than spend $200 on bail on a Sunday morning.” This really put my own county fair into perspective for me. He went on to say that the volunteers at the fair made the show run smoothly and he thanked the parents for helping all of the kids. It made me realize that as long as I was interested in showing animals at the fair, my parents were willing to help. They were always there as long as my uncles and cousins. Volunteers are the biggest thing it takes to make county fairs work. Without them, neither of these fairs would have gone smoothly.  It was a joy to be able to be a part of this county fair.