By Elizabeth Wyss
“I bet you can’t work the word ‘bologna’ into your speech,” said one of the insurance men at my table at the Missouri Grocers Association banquet. When I worked as an intern for Missouri Farmers Care, I attended the banquet to talk about the first Drive to Feed Kids at the state fair that year.
Resounding support for the idea came from the rest of the table, and maybe it’s my years behind the meat counter or my time as an FFA public speaker, but I’ve always been up for a public speaking challenge.
“You have to give me a harder word,” I said. “I’m a butcher’s daughter. I have an unfair amount of experience with bologna.”
But my table insisted that I prove it. Bologna was the word. I went up to the stage and began to address the room full of Missouri grocers and their families gathered in the banquet hall.
“As the daughter of a butcher and food retailer, from an early age I was behind the counter slicing bologna for customers. As the child of a family business, I can really appreciate what you all do, both for your families and the food industry.”
I went on to talk about Drive to Feed Kids, of course, but not without a look to my table to see their smiles upon hearing the word “bologna.”
Yes, I told them bologna was too easy, but that wasn’t the only reason I was comfortable working it into my talk. It was easy because I was in a room full of family businesspeople and people who understood agriculture. It was comfortable because I’ve been to the Missouri Association of Meat Processors convention almost every year since I was very young.
As a child at the MAMP convention, I got early exposure to how agriculturalists work together.
Every year at the convention, there is a cured meat show, and my dad’s favorite hobby is a good meat contest. After the banquet, everyone gathers in an especially cold room of the hotel to see all the show products.
While this might sound like an opportunity to brag vaguely about the trade secrets that produced a winning ham or slab of bacon, it is anything but. Meat processors from across the state admire each other’s craftmanship and share tricks of the trade, such as how to market the scrappy end pieces of bacon or get better interior color on a ham.
It was a competition, but a friendly one, and is only one example of how agriculturalists of all trades — row crops to retail — help each other better serve the public.
Attend a meeting
The MAMP and Missouri Grocers Association conventions are great examples of what the agriculture industry is especially good at: fostering industry collaboration in a family setting.
Conventions such as these acknowledge and celebrate that the whole family — from the patriarch to the elementary schoolers — often contribute in some way to the success of the agricultural industry.
Missouri Cattlemen’s conventions, Corn Growers meetings, the Western Farm Show and any other gathering of agriculturalists of all ages so often can act as a catalyst for youngsters to stay in the industry for the rest of their lives.
Conventions and meetings are great places to get career inspiration, to meet mentors and role models, and to learn about how we work together to feed the world. No other industry fosters its youth like agriculture.
Wyss is a senior in science and agricultural journalism at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.