Seven Steps to Making 2014 A Year To Remember


2013 was by far one of the strangest year’s so far. I was, however, able to check quite a few things off my “bucket list”. I bought my first car, got my dream job, attended my first ever bachelorette party, went in a roadtrip, and so many more things that I never knew I was missing out on. This year, I’m skipping the crazily, epic New Year’s Resolution (I.e. Lose 30 lbs, Run a marathon, write a novel, etc). Instead, I thought up the few things I want to try to do a better job of in the coming year…

So, without further ado…
1. STRESS LESS- There’s a reasonable amount of stress that naturally comes with life. All that other junk I stress about? I just need to let it go…

2. RUN MORE- It’s a proven fact that the best way for me to handle stress is by running. I need to get back into the habit like I was (sort of) in graduate school. Whether it’s a treadmill at home, running outside or just signing up and doing the local 5K, I need to run more.

3. LAUGH MORE OFTEN- I need to work at being around people and doing things that genuinely make me happy and make me laugh. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

4. SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS- I have these amazing friends that I never get to see. This must be remedied. In 2014, I will make time to visit them at their homes-near and far.

5. LISTEN TO ADULTS- It’s okay to ask for advice and seek wisdom from those who have been around longer and already know the ropes. I forget this sometimes and always wish I hadn’t.

6. DO THE THINGS I LOVE- While this seems dumb, it’s very easy in this busy world to not make time to do the things you love. This year, I need to find time and find ways to do more of the things I love. Riding horses, going ice skating, movie time with the family–It’s not rocket science, but it’s worth scheduling into my busy life.

7. BE MORE DOMESTIC- This isn’t a want, but instead a need. Sometimes it’s easy to shove aside things you don’t want to do. Other times it’s hard to do things that take lots of planning. Either way, I need to get back in touch with the housewife, mother wanna-be inside. In 2014, I need to buy groceries, keep the house clean and cook more.

While there are lots of other things, these are the key ones. I won’t keep them all, but at least it gives me a good goal or two! And if I keep most of them, 2014 will definitely be a year to remember for decades!

(Feel free to share your New Year’s Resolutions in the comment box!)

Ivylish: The “Ivy League” of Stylish Jewelry


Stylish has a new name–Ivylish. Fashionistas everywhere should take note of this new socially conscious jewelry retailer. Check out their introductory video . . .

Hand-Crafted Jewelry At A Beautiful Price

Ivylish is launching its company with a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo. During the introductory campaign, interested fashion-savvy consumers can purchase jewelry from the four introductory collections at a delightfully discounted price. Information about the introductory collections is available here at their Indiegogo campaign page. The company’s first collection embraces the Vietnamese heritage, beginning with the holy animals (turtle, phoenix and dragon) and national flower (pink lotus)as the main themes, and ending with the usage of water buffalo horns as the exclusive material and traditional lacquering for the final touch.

The Horns Of The Water Buffalo

Ivylish’s line of fine jewelry is delicately hand-crafted in Vietnam from the horns of the water buffalo. While the limited remaining herds of wild water buffalo are on the endangered species list, these animals are not the source of bone and horns for Ivylish. Instead, horns are obtained from domesticated water buffalo which are abundant. According to the National Geographic website, domesticated water buffalo have been an integral part of Asian culture for over 5000 years. Domesticated water buffalo provide meat, horns, hides, milk, butterfat for villages in Asia. They are also an important source of power, being used for plowing and transporting people and crops. These water buffalo are not killed so that we can have jewelry–instead buffalo horns are a by-product of the natural use of water buffalo herds in these countries. So, in other words, those who make bone and horn jewelry are simply using something that would be thrown away to craft something beautiful.

Ivylish Supports Teach Me To Fish

Each purchase from Ivylish can provide a Vietnemese child with chance for a better life. Founded by Phuong Nguyen and Kevin Tung Nguyen, Ivylish works with Kids Without Borders to provide English lessons, computer classrooms and college scholarships for children living in Vietnamese orphanages. They also help offer proper vocational training for older children who are exiting the care institutions. An old Chinese proverb once said, “Give a man to fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime”. That is the idea behind Kids Without Borders’ Teach Me To Fish program which helps provide Vietnamese orphans with life skills that will help provide them with career skills to become self-sustainable adults.

Help Ivylish Shine Lives

Those who are interested in finding out how to help Ivylish “Shine Lives” can find out more by connecting with their team on one of the social sites below.

Indiegogo Campaign:







Catch the Wave and Help Give the Gift of Sight!


My favorite shades EVER!

My favorite shades EVER!

A few years ago, I took an assignment as an unpaid intern for a virtually unknown company called Waveborn (At least it was virtually unknown in rural Georgia where I am from…). This company had the brilliant idea to sell high-quality Italian made sunglasses (a.k.a. shades) on the same “buy one, give one” model used by TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker and other social good companies. The shades are well-designed, comfortable and stylish. Not only do they look great on me, they are also my 70-something year old grandfather’s favorite accessory. He never heads to the lake fishing without them!

Fishing at the Lake

Fishing at the Lake

In the last year, the ever-enthusiastic marketing genious Mike Malloy has helped Waveborn founder and CEO Jonathan Schilit turn a small idea into a fascinating brand with a culture all its own. Mike, Jonathan and the rest of the Waveborn Team have found every creative way possible to utilize social media to share their brand and create awareness. They have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (That was originally my idea!). There is even a Waveborn Wiki page! And, the promotional photos and marketing materials look FANTASTIC!!!!

Sample of  a Waveborn marketing poster

Sample of a Waveborn marketing poster

After months of research and development, Jonathan, Mike and the rest of the fabulous Waveborn team, are excited to announce their first ever crowd-funding campaign. By donating to the campaign, supporters help give the gift of sight to people across the world. They also get some pretty sweet Waveborn gear as a reward for their generosity. In less than a day, the Waveborn- Shades That Give Sight campaign has almost half-way reached the $10,00 goal; however, I would love to see that goal reached way before the campaign officially ends in June. So, I helped out as much as I could with a $50 donation.  What could you give to help?

In case you aren’t interested in shades (But, let’s be honest, everyone loves a good accessory!), you can at least benefit from learning how easy it can be to fundraise for a cause or project if you truly put your heart into it. Hundreds of organizations and individuals have raised thousands of dollars through crowd-funding site Indiegogo and other similar platforms. The first Indiegogo campaign I had ever seen was introduced to me by a 7-year-old girl. The amazing Devon Haas wanted me to donate to Kids of The Gulf, which I gladly did.

The moral of the story is this: Crowd-funding is a great idea, but it only works if people donate! So, go visit the Waveborn campaign site hereand consider helping support this great company as they seek to give the gift of sight!

Buy some shades, give some glasses

AAAE in Asheville: Research, Networking and Exploration


This past week, I was given the opportunity to attend the 2012 American Association of Agricultural Educators (AAAE) Annual Conference in Asheville, NC.  Since I was to present my research at the conference, the University generously sponsored my trip and my stay in the amazing DoubleTree hotel. Can you believe they always have warm cookies available for free at the front desk? Amazing yumminess! But, aside from the cookies, the hotel also presented a wonderful location for AAAE members to meet and share their research and interests in relation to the field of agricultural education (broadly defined).

Some of the key take-aways I gathered from the conference were as follows:

1. Take advantage of the opportunity to network.

While at the AAAE Conference this year, I had the joy of meeting some amazing people who I had previously known only through email correspondence or who I had cited in my thesis. It was nice to finally get the opportunity to meet with these people face-to-face (Or, as social media junkies like to say IRL or In-real-life). I was able to share research ideas and discuss issues related to our field, which provided an amazing learning opportunity for me. While it can sometimes be intimidating to strike up a conversation with someone who is much more experienced and knowledgeable, they are usually very friendly and willing to help. Always make sure you take time to explore these networking possibilities . . . Even if you are afraid whoever you want to meet might bite 😉 I definitely came away from this conference with lots of new connections who I hope to stay in touch with and maybe work with in the future (see point #3).

2. Don’t be narrow-minded about research.

Too often, it seems that people only see value in research that is directly correlated to their key interests. If you only like to do qualitative research on teaching agricultural education, you may tend to see great value in research that is along those lines. This, however, is a narrow-minded way of viewing research that can limit the benefits you gain from being involved in research conferences, professional organizations or collaborative research teams. Just because you may primarily participate in qualitative type research does not mean you should undervalue quantitative research. Likewise, those who do quantitative research should not undervalue qualitative studies. And, then there’s the whole argument about the existence of a true mixed-methods approach. From my limited experience, however, I find the most benefit in approaching all research with two questions: “What can I learn from this?” and “How can I adapt the lessons learned to better my teaching, research or professional development?”. When viewed in this way, there was not one of the 80-ish research ideas presented at the AAAE Conference this year that I could not benefit from. Some people had done studies similar to mine, so it was easy to see how I could adopt their ideas to help further improve and specialize in my research are of social media adoption. Other presentations, which focused on various issues of demographics and historical issues of culture and racism, gave me insights on these issues that I can use to help improve how I handle issues of race and diversity in the classroom or in a 4-H program. I think this concept is easy for me, because I haven’t developed 20 or 30 years of experience working in one area, but I would challenge everyone to try looking at things from this approach next time they attend a conference or convention. It may amaze you how much you learn.

3. Collaboration & Communication are KEYS to success.

Several of the presentation at the conference also focused on the necessity for collaboration–between disciplines, between universities, between faculty and departments, etc.–in order to increase the success of getting studies funded through grants. This seems common sense to us newbies, because I can easily see how I would benefit from working with some of the rockstars in Agricultural Communications field (Dr. Emily Rhoades, Dr. Courtney Myers, Dr. Billy McKim and many others). However, when you have been in the world of academia for many years, I can see how it would be easier to just want to work with the people you are used to working with for years. But, opening up to new possibilities is going to be essential in the next few decades to ensure that research is as efficiently and effectively conducted as possible. Collaboration and effective communication can help prevent duplicate studies, and expand the scope of studies so that the results are relevant to a larger, broader audience. This helps ensure that organizations get a maximum return on the investment they put in when funding the grant together. Social scientists need to work to find their niche in these multidisciplinary collaborative teams to ensure that they are providing valuable input and that the field of social science research remains relevant.

4. Always seize the opportunity to enjoy a bit of food and fun with colleagues! 😉

Finally, (and you may take this last bit with a grain of salt) it is important to utilize these opportunities to actually enjoy spending time with your colleagues–from your University\organization or from across the nation. These gatherings are definitely created to allow for academic advancement and learning, but they also allow for a wonderful opportunity for members of the profession to catch up with old friends and share in conversations about what is going on at their university or organization. These experiences allow for building of friendships and strong networks of support that are much more challenging to build while going through the motions at official events. I will say one of the most enlightening conversations I participated in about research while at the conversation was over dinner one night at TGI Fridays. While it is obviously very important to be professional and courteous at all times, it is also nice to be able to explore the city where the conference or convention is being held and enjoy building friendships off of the conference time clock. I would not advocate skipping events or anything important, but make sure you take time to enjoy the location. There is a reason they don’t host these conferences in Podunk, Nowheresville.

So, those are the four things I learned while attending the AAAE Conference, in addition to adding a few more important contacts to my list of professional connections, stuffing myself with amazing local Ashville food, and attending a concert after which I got to meet the piano player. All-in-all, it was a wonderful week and I am glad I got to go and present my research! I look forward to maybe attending next years conference in Ohio.

Until next time,


Are you being an AgVocate??? If not, you should!


Dear Readers,

My apologies for failing to deliver on the Ag Week blog series I promised. I’ve been extremely busy the last few weeks putting the final touches on my Master’s thesis. Also, for various reasons, most of the people who were lined up to write posts were unable to do so. Thankfully, however, others are doing a much better job of getting the word out about agriculture. For example, listed below are some awesome resources for learning more about AgVocacy and the social media campaigns being launched by several ambitious young people to help increase agricultural literacy and decrease misinformation about agriculture.


AgChat Foundation: Empowering a Connected Community of Agvocates


Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl


“NEW I Love Farmers They Feed My Soul”


I Thought I Wanted To Be An Agtivist…I Was Wrong


This week, many of my friends have also been sharing the video below. I can say for truth that it is a wonderful example of how youth today are working to show the importance of American agriculture through utilizing great skills they have learned about marketing and public relations. Please take time to watch!



Until next time,





Ag Perspectives: Women in Agriculture


Photo courtesy of Erica Berman and the HIP Paris Blog.

Do you remember when you were a little kid, and everyone asked you what you wanted to do when you grew up? We always say a “teacher” or “astronaut”, or if you were really ambitious you said “president”! How many little kids say “farmer”? More specifically, how many little girls grow up wanting to be a farmer? I know when I was a little girl I never considered a job in agriculture. Now, as a young woman involved in a family cow/calf operation, I often wonder how I came to have such a deep affection for agriculture. When I reflect upon the many reasons why I love the farm life, I am reminded about how the farm keeps us alive rather than us keeping the farm going. Have you ever tasted beef that is truly fresh that you raised? What about those early Saturday mornings spent in the garden picking those bright red tomatoes and itchy okra? And, of course you can’t forget those warm summer nights resting out on the porch reflecting on all the hay you got done that day. Just the idea of providing for your family from your own land and living a quieter life is reason enough for me to stick close to the farm.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, only 14% of farms in the United States are operated by women. Many of these farms are small-scale, earning under $50,000 a year. The farms operated by women are often less likely to be in a favorable financial position than a farm operated by a white male. As a result these farms rely heavily on income off the farm. Perhaps the low number of women as principle operators is due to the low number of females having a degree in higher education. In 1970-1971, women earned 4.2% of the undergraduate degrees in agriculture and natural resources. In 2000-2001 the number increased to 45.1%. This is an improvement, but women are still in the minority in agricultural fields. So, not many women are entering the agriculture careers, but what about the young women that grew up on a farm and are leaving for another life? What are their reasons? Is it our media that encourages women to be more feminine and pursue a refined career? Are there equality issues still being bantered over like it were the 1970s? Whatever the reasons women feel pressured to leave the farm for a “better” career and life it is truly a sad thing. From my own experiences I have not been interviewed for jobs in the field of agriculture and my agricultural knowledge has been discounted because of my gender. I also find it funny when you tell people what field you are in and they are shocked. What is so crazy about being a woman and enjoying dirt and cows?

Just as there are many young women exiting the field of agriculture, there are plenty of notable women still going strong in the field. This article is dedicated to them- to the women that serve as directors, board members, managers, and producers. These women are keeping American agriculture in a forward direction. So, in order to honor National Women’s History Month and National Agriculture Day, thank you to all the women that are dedicated to producing fine agriculture products!

About The Author: Lyssa McKenry  is currently an Administrative Support Assistant for the UTK ALEC program and also teaches an undergraduate course in Agricultural Extension. Lyssa has a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication. She and her husband, Aaron, have a cattle farm in East Tennessee.

From altering viewpoints . . . A look at Today’s Agriculture


For those of you who do not know, yesterday was National Agricultural Day 2012. Agriculturalists around the nation worked to help promote agriculture and increase agricultural literacy. On of their promotional messages was a wonderful video including messages from actual producers. You can see the video below . . .

I thought this video was interesting because it provided a producer viewpoint on today’s agricultural industry, instead of a corporate agricultural viewpoint. This inspired me to seek out some varying viewpoints from others who are involved with agriculture from a variety of different standpoints. This inspired a weeklong blog series on Agricultural Perspecitves. For the next few days, this blog will be featuring short posts by some of my fellow agriculturalists about their own perspectives of agriculture and issues that are facing the industry today!

I hope you enjoy!