Thursday, March 31, 2016

Top of the Class Training, Part 2

Despite the blizzard that shut down Denver for the first time in a decade, the Top of the Class training was also a once in a life time experience. So, as promised, here are the details from my Top of the Class training last week in Denver at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association headquarters:

Last winter I completed the Masters of Beef Advocacy classes, and soon after found out about Top of the Class. Masters of Beef Advocacy and Top of the Class are all programs for advocates to help them to better communicate about the beef industry to consumers. They are farmer and rancher funded through the Beef check-off, and are a great way to be a part of this industry. I am always looking to learn more both about advocacy and anything agriculture. My husband and I are starting a cow/calf beef operation this summer, and I love to advocating and connecting with consumers, so I thought this would be a great place for me to learn more about it.

Advocating is such a huge part of the agricultural industry now, and I am proud to be a part of this. Farming isn't just about planting crops and raising animals anymore, we as farmers need to reach out there and share our stories. Agriculture is so important to our world, and consumers need to be reconnected with where their food comes from and how it is raised and produced.

Myself, Alison, Brooke, Adam and Caleigh infront of the NCBA headquarters in a blizzard.

Here I am doing a beef food demonstration with Daren.
My class included 4 other beef advocates from all areas of the industry and myself and we spent two days learning how to better communicate and connect with consumers about the beef industry. Those communication areas included Media and Interview training, Blogging, Finding our personal story and how to best share it, Social Media, and Farm and food photography. Our training was very direct and one-on-one with those who do this best for the NCBA, and much of it was a swift kick to get motivated and do a better job with my advocating skills.

My practice of food photography.
(This was lunch the first day!)
We were trained by the likes of Brandi Frobose (Buzzard's Beat) and Daren Williams (The Beefman Bloggeth) who both work in communications for the NCBA, and also Debbie Lyons- Blythe, a fellow Top of the Class graduate who blogs about her ranch life at Kids, Cows and Grass, and many more amazing people at NCBA. One my favorite things about the Top of the Class training was that we got to work directly with the NCBA staff, and those who participate in the industry every day. Other organizations that I work with use a communications company to train and represent us, and I appreciated that we were given direct connection to the industry leaders.

More photography practice.

The other members of the Top of the Class were such a great group of people that I really enjoyed spending my time with and made the trip much more fun. We were from all different areas of the country and all different backgrounds, but all have a unique and important role within the industry, and we were able to learn so much from each other.

So here is a shout out the my Top of the Class-mates and their advocacy efforts: Caleigh Payne works on a cattle and bison ranch in Colorado, and shares about it here at Ask Me About Agriculture, Brooke from Meet Your Beef works for a veterinary supply company and her family has one of the largest cattle ranches in central California, Alison McGrew is a fellow Ask The Farmers contributor, and has a cattle operation in Illinois. And last but not least was the only guy in our class: Adam, a James Beard nominated chef from Spokane, Washington. He owns 5 restaurants and a catering company in the Spokane area, including the Gilded Unicorn.

The NCBA Vision: "To be the trusted leaser and
definitive voice of the beef industry."
I feel honored to be a Top of the class graduate, to be a part of the NCBA and all of the great things that it stands for. Overall this was by far the best advocacy training that I have experienced, and would highly recommend any advocate to take the MBA 2.0 courses. It was very intense, and a bit overwhelming at times, but well worth every minute of it, even with the chaos of a blizzard. Thank you to the NCBA staff for all of your hospitality and for making this opportunity possible to me. I look forward to working with you and representing the NCBA as a Top of the Class advocate.

This training has given me a lot of motivation to move forward in my advocacy efforts, and I promise, you will be seeing A LOT of changes around here, so stay tuned!!
The mountains from Denver, after the blizzard.
For more pictures and info about my Top of the Class training opportunity, check out my Facebook page, and in case you missed read all about the blizzard in part one of my Top of the Class Training.

In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 of my Denver travels HERE, and as always you can head on over to my Facebook page to see more pictures from my adventures

Monday, March 28, 2016

Top of the Class Training, Part 1: The Blizzard

So I have spent much of that last couple of months traveling across the country, and boy-oh-boy it has been an adventure! Last week I was in Denver participating in the Top of the Class training with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Top of the Class is a group of men and women from across the country that have completed the Master's of Beef Advocacy courses, and were selected to participate in this advanced training, and my class was made up of my self and 4 others from various places within the beef industry, from farmers and producers, to sales and chefs.

Besides the intense training and motivation that this trip gave me, it was a blast!! I have never eaten more delicious beef in the few days I was in Denver. We had beef for every meal, including beef jerky to snack on throughout the day. But the big topic of the trip, besides the beef talk, was the blizzard. Right in the middle of our training Denver was hit with a monster blizzard, dumping over 2 feet of ice and heavy snow across the city shutting everything down. This blizzard made the trip go from fun to an all out adventure!

I promise that I will talk more details about the training in another blog post, however I had say something about the blizzard that truly took this trip to a once in a lifetime experience!

The blizzard hit Wednesday morning, the last day of our training... the day that we were supposed to fly home. Well, needless to say, we weren't going anywhere. The Denver airport shut down cancelling more the 1200 flights, and all freeways around the city were closed. I have been born and raised in NW Wisconsin, so I am definitely used to snow, and I have to say it was bad!! The roads were impassable, the snow came down so fast that the plows could not keep up with it. Not only was it the heavy wet snow, but layered on top of ice, making travel impossible as trees and roofs were beginning to fall.

The silly thing is that the airport shut down early in the afternoon, and my flight for that evening wasn't cancelled until late in the afternoon, making it nearly impossible for me to find a different
flight. I finally got booked on a flight leaving Thursday night, leaving me with some time to explore Denver (in a blizzard).

Those of us who were left in Denver ventured to the airport around 3 pm. The airport was still a mess, and after a security breach and the bombings in Europe, was on high alert. Brooke has a great story to tell about her embarrassment in security, that left us all rolling for a while afterwards, she shares her story on her blog Meet Your Beef. We had some time to kill before our flights, so we ate some more great food and enjoyed that last of the good company before my flight left at 7:15 taking me to Seattle. I then had a 3 1/2 hour layover in Seattle, and then finally left for my homeland, landing me at MSP at 6:00 Friday morning.

I am happy to be home and was ablet to relax and enjoy Easter with Neil and the girls. As awesome as it is to travel and get a break, it feels amazing to come home.

I will eventually get to blogging about my other trips this winter, and you will see that this whole blizzard adventure is becoming a habit for me. I think I need to come with a travel advisory: *If traveling with this person, be prepared for winter weather to follow. Bring extra clothes, supplies and plan for an upheaval in travel plans for your chances of being stranded due to the wintry conditions are very high.*
  For more pictures from my trip to Denver, check out my Facebook page.