The Moos Room™

Emily's intern, Meredith Taylor, joins us to discuss her thoughts on the future of Agriculture, her career goals, and the UMN Extension Internship Program.

Show Notes

Young Leaders in Ag Conference - MN Pork

UMN Extension Ag, Food, and Natural Resources Internship Program

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What is The Moos Room™?

Hosted by members of the University of Minnesota Extension Beef and Dairy Teams, The Moos Room discusses relevant topics to help beef and dairy producers be more successful. The information is evidence-based and presented as an informal conversation between the hosts and guests.

[cow moos]
Emily: Welcome, everybody, to The Moos Room. OG3 is here today, and I'm really excited about our guest. We are joined today by my intern, Meredith Taylor. Welcome Meredith.
Meredith Taylor: Hi, thanks for having me.
Emily: We are really excited to have you. When Meredith first started with me at the beginning of June, I told her, "You're going to be on The Moos Room. You're going to be on the podcast," and hopefully, we have her back at least one or two more times this summer before she's done with us here. We're going to learn a little more about Meredith shortly, but we need to get our important guest business out of the way which is the two super secret questions.
There are no wrong answers. Joe and Brad may try to tell you otherwise. They're lying. Don't listen to them. You guys, don't corrupt my intern. Your first question, Meredith. What is your favorite breed of beef cattle?
Meredith: I would have to say, Red Angus.
Emily: Oh, Red Angus. Nice. Angus is a regular choice, but we don't have too many Red Angus. Joe, why don't you remind us what we're at for that?
Joe: Yes, that's another vote for Red Angus which puts them at three now. Running down the totals, we have Black Angus at 14, Hereford's at 8, Black Baldy at 4, Scottish Highlander at 4, Red Angus at 3, Belted Galloway at 2. Then all with one, Stabiliser, Gelbvieh, Brahman, [unintelligible 00:01:38], Charolais, Simmental, [unintelligible 00:01:39], Jersey, Normandy, Shorthorn, Belgian Blue, Brangus, and Piedmontese.
Emily: Quite the menagerie there. The second super secret question for you, Meredith, what is your favorite breed of dairy cattle?
Meredith: Holsteins.
Bradley: Wrong answer.
Emily: You just hold on, Bradley. We'll get to you in a second here. Joe, first, let's get the totals. I feel like Holsteins have just been blasted at the top here lately.
Joe: It's brutal and it's not good. Holsteins at 20.
Emily: Do you demand a recount?
Joe: I'm not going to go that far, but I'm not happy. Holsteins at 20, Jerseys at 13, Brown Swiss at 6, Montb�liarde at 3, Dutch Belted at 3, Normandy at 2, Milking Shorthorn at 1, Ayrshire 1, and 1 Guernsey named Taffy.
Emily: Meredith, before we get into talking to you, very briefly, one who talked to Mr. Bradley J. Heinz here really quick. He sent a really peculiar picture to myself and Joe earlier today. As we know, Brad is very convinced that there's only one right answer for dairy breeds, and that is Jersey. Brad has some Jerseys at home, but Brad, it looks like you have something else there now too. What's that?
Bradley: Unfortunately, there are two black and whites in the pasture with four other Jerseys.
Emily: It was a beautiful picture this morning. I was like, "Oh my goodness, Bradley."
Bradley: I got [inaudible 00:03:09] in a moment and got a couple of Holstein fall calves and there they are. I guess we're breaking them to lead and they'll be at the county fair and fun stuff.
Emily: Bradley J. Heinz, Holstein guy, there you go.
Joe: I'm tempted to put that picture on our Twitter account-
Emily: You should.
Joe: -just to show it off to everyone.
Emily: I love that. Enough of lambasting Bradley here. Let's get to the matter at hand. Again, Meredith Taylor is with us today. She is my intern this summer. We've been working together for a little over a month and it has just been such a pleasure. I'm just excited to have her on. Meredith, just to get started, tell us a little bit about your background, so where you grew up, some of your previous experiences with agriculture.
Meredith: Yes, for sure. I grew up in Randolph, Minnesota. That's in Dakota County. I grew up on a fourth-generation farm. We raised turkeys. We raised 16,000 turkeys. We have two barns, 8,000 in each. Our birds are free-range and antibiotic free. We raise them for a local market in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. WE also farm corn, soybeans, and peas. I've been in FFA, competed in a couple of CDE events, and then I've also been in 4-H. I show pigs during the summer. That's a little bit about my background.
Emily: Meredith does not come from a cattle background, but I have been doing my darndest to expose her a little bit more to dairy and beef production. It's just been a lot of fun. Meredith, really, I would say she is my intern because there's one particular thing about Meredith that really caught my eye when she applied, and that was she has a really, really big interest and passion for mental health in agriculture which, of course, everybody knows is really big interest and passion of mine.
Meredith, do you maybe just want to talk about that a little bit more? Why that's important to you, what you maybe hope to do around that topic as you continue through school and eventually a career?
Meredith: Yes. I would say during my high school years, I started seeing this need of the mental health world. I had some people around me who are really struggling with their mental health. I come from a very small rural community. A lot of times, those people were always taught to mask their emotions, to not tell people how they're feeling. Anytime I tried to talk about it, they're like, "Well, I'm a guy and I just need to get over it. Why should I be sad?"
Also, I have a dad who works a lot of hours and you see how stressful that becomes when he's working 24/7. I started to see the stresses of rural life on farmers and people who live in the rural community.
From there, I was like, "What resources do we have for these farmers, for these people who live in ag communities?" Then I was like, "Well if I were to go see a therapist and sit down with a therapist, would they know what I'm talking about if I wanted to talk to them about what was going on in my life?"
More often times than not, they'd be like, "What is that? Explain to me what that is." Sometimes you just want to talk to somebody about what's going on and you don't want to have to give them like, this is what we do, this is how we farm.
When it came time to apply to colleges, I started to think about how can I bring myself into this world with rural mental health. How can I help these people start talking about their emotions?
I spent my first year of college at Oxford where I studied psychology. Then I took a couple of psychology classes through a PSEO program at Randolph and I started to love it. I love learning about psychology and about how the mind works and everything. Then I realized it would be cool to be a counselor for the Ag community and people for farmers and their families.
Now I'm going into my sophomore year at the U of M. I'm studying Ag communications and marketing and then hopefully a double major with psychology. I would love to continue my schooling after my four years at the U of M and become a counselor for the Ag industry and help people with their mental health.
Emily: It was just like a match made in heaven. I was just so excited.
Joe: Emily has been talking to you up quite a bit and now I totally get it.
Emily: I think it's just so exciting that people like you, Meredith, young people, I can call you young now- young people that have an interest in going into the mental health field. I think we all know that it's not always easy. It's challenging work and helping others has a lot of challenges and can be stressful. I just think it's so important that we find those people, like you, Meredith, that want to do this. How do we set you up for success?
That's a lot of my goal whenever I have an intern is I want to set them up for the future that they want and the things that they want to do while also hopefully introducing them to some other things as well. Of course, mental health is a huge, huge thing for me, something I love to work in.
I also, work in just general farm safety. I feel like Meredith has really had a lot of baptism by fire on farm safety, specifically our youth tractor safety program. She has just dived right in with that.
I'm curious, Meredith, and we've talked about this a little bit, you and I, what has been your experience with farm safety? I know the mental health piece was something that really excited you about this position, but how has the safety stuff been going? What is that like? I'm always interested in somebody else's opinion.
Meredith: 4-H also to me was about youth. I love working with youth and I love working with younger people, especially as I've learned through [unintelligible 00:09:30] and 4-H, you get to meet people from all types of backgrounds and everything. I think that's important. I think, one thing I love about doing tractor safety is getting to meet these kids, their backgrounds.
A lot of them don't have to come from farms with a lot of experience. That is awesome that we get to offer these kids this opportunity if they don't have the experience. I love getting to see all the modules taught. I got to teach a module. That was really cool for me.
On my farm, I would say, my dad and my grandpa, my grandpa's been in a farm accident and he's had to get driven to the hospital before, so I have some background and some tractor safety events. I think what we're doing with these kids is really important and showing them what can happen on afarm.
Joe: I think a lot of people have this misconception that just because you have turkeys or poultry, some small animal, there's just not as much danger on the farm. Maybe that's true when it comes to actually handling animals, but there's always other stuff going on and I feel like safety still has to be a big piece of how you grow up even on a poultry farm or a turkey farm like that. Is that true? Did you guys have a lot of talks with your parents and your grandparents about safety on the farm?
Meredith: I would say that right now, especially a big thing about safety on our farms is biosecurity right now. We've always had the conversations about how can we keep our birds safe. How can we implement the best biosecurity measures? Also, PPE is a big part of the poultry production because you're in the barns and you have to be wearing a mask, you have to be wearing gloves. If we're tilling inside the barn, you have to be careful with that too because you're walking in front of a tractor. I think the big thing for us is biosecurity. How can we keep those animals safe, but also how can we keep ourselves safe?
Emily: Well, that was an answer designed in a lab for Joe. Joe is a veterinarian, so he is all about the biosecurity. I could just see his little smile on his face, like, "Yay, she likes biosecurity." [laughs]
Meredith, I'm sure people are curious, and I get asked this a lot too when I mention I have an intern. What does your intern do? What sort of things do they work on? Tell us a little bit about the various tasks and projects that you have been working on this summer.
I want to preface this by saying, I tell all my interns that in my mind they are not just my intern. They are other members of my team. I try really hard not to give Meredith just the stuff I don't want to do. She gets to do some fun stuff; fun to me I guess. Meredith, why don't you just walk us through some of the things you've been working on, maybe some of the things you're excited about?
Meredith: Yes. I'll just start off by, I recently just attended a conference for young leaders in agriculture. I was there as an Extension intern. That was great. I got to network with people within the Ag industry, and I got to meet people around my age who were working in the industry. We got to list to speakers about how to be better leaders, how can we improve our skills.
Also, with tractor safety, I got to teach a module on healthy habits, these kids last week. Next week I'll be teaching a different module. I worked with Emily on some grain curriculum and then I also wrote an article for the farm safety page on washing equipment and the importance of washing equipment. I've also been creating a few infographics.
Emily: That was the quick rundown. Joe is smiling again. Washing equipment, another thing he is passionate about.
Joe: Yes, washing equipment. I love clean equipment. We've talked about trailers on this podcast with Bradley and his passion for making people load out on the road if they have a dirty trailer. Washing equipment, not super fun. Very important. Where does it rank on your list, Meredith, of jobs on the farm? Is it something you like to do? Do you like to get dressed up full waterproof, gear, and power wash the spreader or is that low on the list?
Meredith: I wouldn't say it's the most fun and exciting task, but it's definitely an important task to do. Not my favorite, but I'll do it. [chuckles]
Emily: Very diplomatic answer. I love that. It's not the best, but we have to do it. It's important.
Bradley: Your interns have it really easy.
Emily: What does that mean?
Bradley: Mine are out weeding agronomy plots today and they're just hating life. I was out helping them this morning. I was helping them. I was making sure that I just don't dictate and not to help them do things like that as well. Maybe there's a lot of people that have done internships. Here's a shout-out to lost Lake Farmer, Kevin. He's listening, he and his wife did internships here at Morris. Maybe he can tell us all the fun stuff that he did one day.
Emily: That would be great. Shout out, Kevin and Renee. We love them here on the Moos Room.
Bradley: I digress. Here's a question. Meredith, here's the million-dollar question. What are you going to do when you graduate from college? What's your plans? What would you like to do?
Meredith: I would like to go back to school, so grad school probably. If I want to become a counselor or a therapist of some sort, that requires a little more schooling. I would hopefully go back to school.
Bradley: That's good. We got more degrees than what we probably need.
Emily: We do have a lot of degree. I just feel like Bradley, I feel like you were in school, post-secondary college for like 15 years. Brad was in grad school for such a long time. I feel like maybe it's because I've known him for so long. I think when we first met you were still a grad student.
Bradley: That's a subject for another podcast.
Emily: [laugh] Brad's many years of education. That's great. You know Joe has an advanced degree, I have an advanced degree, so we're all about--
Bradley: Not that everybody needs one. It depends on the field that you're in and what maybe goals or aspirations you have.
Joe: The question that we like to ask to a lot of our younger guests, as we'll say, where do you see the future of agriculture going? I think this is Brad's favorite question to ask, but we'd like to get this perspective from you and the next generation and to hear what your thoughts are on it, and where is Ag going, and what do you see as the biggest challenge that we are going to have to overcome in the coming years?
Meredith: Well, I would say, obviously one of my passions is with mental health. I'm going to say that that is one of the biggest things that we have to help people with and provide the resources with.
I would say also right now what we're doing for the Ag industry, we are always trying to improve it and think about what are the next steps that we can do. Especially with like the research projects and creating new curricula and everything.
Also, teaching the youth, teaching the younger kids about how can we just teach them about agriculture in general, in starting them young, even about mental health. How can we show you how to express your emotions and process these thoughts? I think what we're doing now is important with research projects and counseling from everybody. That answer your question?
Joe: Yes, I think that that's a good answer. I think what we're seeing is that mental health is something that affects everybody. When you talk about it, it does bridge a gap between the city and rural America. Challenges might be different, but when you talk mental health and resiliency, a lot of it is the same. I think it's a good bridge and I think that what we're seeing now is surprisingly there's a lot of youth and kids growing up in rural communities that still don't know about Ag.
They can be from a town of 1,000 or 2,000 and still not know a whole lot about Ag, if anything about Ag. I'm sure Bradley sees that in Morris as well. That's something where getting that education to the youth about not just mental health, but Ag in general, is really important because that connection in that small town and community is really important. I love that answer.
Emily: I think it's so cool that so many younger people are interested in mental health and in mental wellness now. I think that that is hopefully going to help change the tide of things, not just in agriculture, but across the board. I've said it before, I'll say it a million times. I think a benefit of COVID-19 was people started to really recognize the importance of their mental health and to talk about it more.
When we were all in lockdown and couldn't go anywhere or do anything, I think a lot of us tried to stay in touch with friends. A lot of what we talked about was just how we were doing and how we were feeling, the things that we were experiencing.
That's something that gets me really excited about the future in general, but the future in agriculture that we have this crop of young people coming up that are saying, "You know what? This is important." Like you said at the beginning, Meredith, where maybe in the past specifically your guy friends might be like, "Well, I'm a guy so I have to be tough and I can't show emotion." I think now we're learning that that's not true.
It's just exciting to me and just makes my heart sing a little bit to hear you and others say mental wellness is important. This is something we have to talk about, and something we have to think about, and something we need to train people to go into the field and to do. My little heart is singing, so happy.
Joe: Final question, final thoughts. Should we allow it to go the other way? Meredith, do you have questions for us?
Emily: I love that.
Meredith: I guess I'm just curious. I am probably going to do more schooling so I'm curious, where'd you all go to college, and for how long? What are your degrees?
Emily: That's easy. We all went to the U of M and Brad was in school for 20 years. I was in school for about seven, and I believe Joe was in school for eight. [chuckles] Brad, I'll let you go first.
Bradley: Bradley J Heins, PhD tenured professor now. No. I have a BS in Animal and Plant Systems from St. Paul Campus, and then an MS and a PhD in animal science, animal genetics from St. Paul Campus, and I was there a long time.
Joe: Fun fact, I am actually in Bradley's old office on campus. That's my office now, Brad's old office. I went to undergrad at Morris actually, and got my undergrad degree there in biology. Then went to the university in St. Paul and got my vet school degree there four years after. Eight years for me.
My wife is the one who has all the letters behind her name. She went to four years of undergrad, four years of vet school, did a three-year residency, and is now a boarded pathologist and then just finished her PhD as well. She did 15 years after high school.
Emily: We've always known, Joe, that your wife, Alex, is Wonder Woman. I've called her Wonder Woman before. For me, I have both of my degrees from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. My undergrad, I have a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. Then, I got my job in Extension and was like, "Wow, I'm supposed to be educating people and I don't know much about education." There's a difference between educating people and standing in front of them and giving a presentation.
I went back to school to get a master's in agricultural education. Let's see, the official title of my degree is Master in Education, Professional Studies in Agricultural Education. It took me four years to do my undergrad, about three to do my master's. I did take a little break between. I did start working right after I got my bachelor's degree and then I went back to school about a year and a half later.
Meredith, you're in good company here. We will all encourage you to do more schooling. [chuckles] It's a lot of work, but I think it's worth it. It sounds so cheesy, but there's so much about the world to learn. I've toyed with the idea of going back to school again. This is not any sort of official announcement on that, but it is something I'm thinking about.
Bradley: If you need an advisor, I know a great one.
Emily: [laughs] Is his name Bradley J. Heins?
Bradley: Of course.
Emily: I've heard bad stuff about that guy. He makes his interns weed the pastures when it's really hot and humid out.
Bradley: That is correct.
Emily: Meredith, do you have any other questions for us?
Meredith: I probably should know this, but what-- I don't know, Brad and Joe, what is your job title? What do you guys do?
Joe: My job title is Cattle Production Systems Extension Educator, which basically means that I work with both dairy and beef producers to help them figure out how to be more successful. That comes in a lot of different forms, providing information through online articles, this podcast, in-person training, teaching presentations, and then one-on-one troubleshooting basically through email or in person, or on the phone.
It has lately been event planning which happens every once in a while in Extension. You get to be an event planner periodically. That's basically my job. I split my time between beef and dairy. Sometimes, get pulled into the sheep and goat world, answer a few pig questions here and there, but stay away from horses.
Emily: I will just add briefly because I always like to add this. I was on Joe's hiring committee. Everybody, you have me to thank for Joe being with Extension now. [laughs] I will take full credit. That's fine,
Joe: Good or bad [unintelligible 00:24:33]
Emily: Yes. All right. Bradley?
Bradley: I am a professional firefighter by day. I put out lots of fires-- No, in all seriousness, I'm research in Extension in dairy cattle production. I focus on organic dairy, pasture-based dairy. I'm at a research center in Morris, even though I'm a faculty member in the Twin Cities. I do research and Extension in dairy. I do teach a couple of classes on one undergrad class, one grad class, focus my time a lot in research with cows, and do a lot of Extension stuff, presentations, conferences, podcasts, a lot of stuff. Some days, some go in every which direction. It's challenging and I love it.
Joe: His superpower is grant writing.
Emily: If you need grant money, Bradley's your guy. Grant money, grant money. [laughs] That was a really good question, Meredith, because I feel like we talked about who we are and what we do, probably in the very first episode, and we're maybe 100+ in now. It's helpful to maybe remind people what all of our roles are, especially our newer listeners, so thanks for that question.
I would maybe ask you, Meredith, and I know that you're not-- You're about a third of the way through your internship for the summer, maybe a little more. Is this an internship that you would recommend to other college students? Maybe not just interning with me in particular, but interning with Extension?
Meredith: I would definitely recommend it. I think working in Extension is a great opportunity. Not just because of what you learn, but because of all the people you get to meet and all the things that they introduce you to.
Right away, one of the things that I really admired about starting with you, Emily, is you were like, "Here, here's some people that you should meet. Email them, contact them." Then, right off the bat, I was like, "Okay, great." I think it's also about people you meet and the things you learn from those people.
Also, when you get into an internship in Extension, I think you're not just focused on one thing. You're learning multiple things. You're getting immersed into a bunch of different things that you can learn about, which I think will help you in your college career as well as your career after that. I would definitely recommend this to anybody.
Emily: There you go. Straight from the source intern with Extension. [chuckles] Truly, if you have any kids who perhaps are college age or you yourself listening our college age looking for internship opportunities, I really would encourage you to look into Extension. I think we have, oh, gosh, I don't know, between 8 and 10 interns this year, maybe. It's a really great program. If you are interested, I would encourage you to check it out.
I do also want to go back to briefly give another shout-out. Meredith mentioned the Young Leaders in Agriculture Conference. Also, if you have young leaders in Ag or you are a young leader in Ag, I would recommend you check out that conference.
It is put on by our good friends, Minnesota Pork Board, with a ton of support from throughout the industry. My favorite thing about that conference is it is free. They cover all the attendees' registration and their lodging costs. I know a lot of organizations send their interns to this conference. It is one of the best I've seen. I've had the privilege of speaking there two years in a row.
Young Leaders in Agriculture Conference, if you Google that, you will find it. It happens every June, usually in Sioux Falls. Cannot recommend it enough. Shout out to Minnesota Pork. They have built such a wonderful program with that and do a great job of opening it up to all young people in agriculture, not just those involved in pork or the swine industry. Lots of plugs here today.
I think we are going to have Meredith back for a future episode probably to talk a little bit more about washing equipment. Joe, get ready. He's prepared. I think that this is a good place to wrap this episode. A little intro to Meredith. We will have her back again in the future. Really excited about that.
Meredith, thank you so much for joining us today, and thank you for your honest responses to all the questions. I think I just love talking to interns and we love having interns on our show, too, because just hearing from the next generation in agriculture. Meredith, thank you for being here. It was a pleasure.
Meredith: Thank you for having me. I had a great time being here and talking with you guys. Thank you.
Emily: If you have any questions, comments, or scathing rebuttals about today's episode, you can email those to
Joe: That's
Emily: You could also call us now and leave us a voicemail. If you have a question that you would like answered or address on a future episode of The Moos Room, you can call us and leave us a voicemail at 612-624-3610. You can find us on Twitter @UMNmoosroom and @UMNFarmSafety. You can find Bradley on Instagram @umnwcrocdairy. If you follow Brad on Twitter too, you can maybe see some of his lovely Holsteins. I know they've already been posted to The Moos Room account.
If you want further information about any of the things we mentioned today, internships, opportunities, Young Leaders in Agriculture Conference, I'll get all that information to Joe to put in the show notes so you can find more information there. You can also learn more about Extension at our website This has been a lot of plugs, so I am going to wrap it there. Thank you, everybody, for listening. We will talk to you next week. Bye.
Joe: Bye.
Bradley: Bye-Bye.
[00:30:50] [END OF AUDIO]