Beef ambassadors prepare for national contestWritten by Christy Martinez
After the Wyoming Beef Ambassador contest came to a close on March 26, Kailey Barlow of Big Piney and Rachel Purdy of Pine Bluffs were chosen as the 2011 Senior and Junior Wyoming Beef Ambassadors, respectively.
This year marks the second that the National Beef Ambassador program has hosted a junior division. According to Judy West of the Wyoming CattleWomen, the goal of the junior program is to encourage youth to stay involved and go on to compete in the senior division.
“The rewards for competitors in the senior division are admirable,” says West. “The Beef Ambassador program opens so many doors for young people, and it’s amazing how many recent senior Beef Ambassador winners are employed in various suspects of the ag industry.”
“I’ve always been involved in the beef industry – I grew up on a ranch in Big Piney and got my start there,” says Barlow, who also participated in 4-H and beef activities, was on the Livestock Sale Association in Sublette County and showed heifers and steers, as well as Catch-a-Calf.
Barlow, a junior at UW majoring in ag business with a double minor in finance and banking financial systems, says that when she got to college a few of her friends who had been Wyoming Beef Ambassadors encouraged her to try for the position.
Like Barlow, Purdy says she, too, was raised around cattle and helping with cow work growing up.
“When I was little I was in 4-H, and I still am,” she says. “I showed bucket calves to begin with, and am now also in an FFA chapter, where I do extemporaneous speaking.”
Purdy, who will begin her junior year of high school this fall, says many of the speaking topics pertain to the beef industry, which helped spark her interest in the Junior Beef Ambassador program.
To prepare for Wyoming’s competition, Barlow says she attended industry conventions, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in Denver, Colo. and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association winter meeting in Casper.
“I’m also involved in UW’s Collegiate CattleWomen chapter, where we also have industry discussions, so a lot of my knowledge came from experience and attending meetings,” says Barlow, who was the chapter’s secretary last year and this year serves as president, following chapter founder and former National Beef Ambassador Becky Vraspir.
In preparation for the junior competition, Purdy says extemporaneous and impromptu speaking through FFA helped her learn how to best answer questions and improved her interview skills.
“I also became aware of ag issues in extemporaneous speaking, and through FFA in general,” she says.
Both students will head to the national contest this fall at the Certified Angus Beef headquarters in Wooster, Ohio.
To prepare for the national contest, Purdy says she’ll stay current on ag and beef industry issues throughout the summer, as well as practice speaking to be ready for the interview this fall.
“For the junior contest I have to do a media interview and public relations promoting beef, so a large part is to practice speaking and to get used to getting up in front of people to promote beef,” she notes.
As a senior competitor, Barlow says she will have to do a media interview, develop consumer relationships and conduct a classroom presentation, which she has completed with the three third-grade classrooms in Big Piney.
“This summer I’ll also help the Green River Valley Cattlewomen with their barbecue for public relations,” she adds.
“It’s really important to know about the main issues in beef production, and the things that are negatively affecting the industry and how to correct common misconceptions about the industry,” says Barlow.
Barlow has also completed the Masters of Beef Advocacy program.
“I learned a lot through that, and have a lot of knowledge going into the contest to help me,” she notes.
“The more experience they get, the better off they’ll be,” says West, adding that the Wyoming Beef Ambassadors will also be involved with Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom this summer. “I’ve also let the various county Cattlewomen know that if the call on these girls and can provide mileage, these young ladies would be more than willing to help with their ag expos.”