“I love to hear the relief in someone’s voice when they hear an honest explanation of how or why we do things a certain way in agriculture. I have had the privilege of witnessing countless ‘ah-ha’ moments, whether through my blog or other social media, on one of our Moms on the Farm Tours, after a talk, or just a question out in public. It is so rewarding to know that I helped someone to feel a little better about their food.” Dr. Janeal Yancey, University of Arkansas
Dr. Janeal Yancey has told me I can only call her Janeal. I will abide by her wish but she is quite a woman and that Kansas State Ph.D., in Animal Science (Meat Science) with a Dissertation Title of Effects of pre-rigor injection of sodium citrate or acetate, or post-rigor injection of phosphate plus salt on post mortem glycolysis, pH decline, and pork quality attributes, Published in Meat Science 2006 and Journal of Animal Science 2008, is a GREAT asset in her engaging and breaking down meat science bunk myths. (I hacked that detail from her LinkedIn profile and have no idea what it means. But I am impressed.)
I remember clearly the first time I ever read her Mom At the Meat Counter blog and was completely enthralled with her, her story and her outreach. My friend, Ryan Goodman, had contacted me about his friend, Janeal, starting a new blog that I would enjoy and he was right. Janeal later told me I was one of the first blog comments she ever received. She followed up with me. We formed a friendship and later met “in real life” at an Agchat Foundation conference. What is so important that you need to know about Janeal is that she is a scientist, a professor, mom, a wife and an active volunteer that willingly shares her expertise and knowledge on tough subjects to tackle to bring clarity in confusion.
People love sexy headlines. Emotion. Lies or gossip. And scientists have hidden behind sexy headlines that they can prove are not true, not on purpose but just not always knowing how best to communicate the truth of how things really are.
Rather than just letting the frustration build, Janeal did something about it. She shares her voice. She blogs about antibiotics in meat, pig housing in gestation stalls, and the difference between organic, natural or grass-fed meat. Those are all topics I would love to tackle but I am not an expert. But I can share Janeal’s expertise. She is creating the content to change a conversation. Literally, I have been speaking about these communication topics for now years. I feel like the oceans have opened some days when I read Janeal’s blog to bring clarity in confusion of what is safe in meat. Now, her content is not on the Huffington Post, yet. She doesn’t have a show on network television. The Washington Post has not hired her to be a weekly columnist. But she is making a difference by engaging in the conversation. Her voice is making a difference, just like all of our voices can.
Even more impressive? Janeal doesn’t just share her expertise online. Twitter, Facebook, blogs are mediums to build relationships, engage and share information but I believe in local involvement and making a difference where you are also. Janeal is actively engaging with offline events and tours, locally in her community and state like Moms on the Farm Tour. You can read about her education passion in her below words.
Now that I have gushed about her, you might be able to guess: I am truly honored to feature Janeal today. I specifically want you to hear from her today because in literally minutes, hours or a couple of days at the most from delivering her second daughter. I wanted her to read this as some fun reading to pass the time during labor, instead of meat science journals. Although, she might read those too.
Janeal is from Cross Plains, TX and currently lives in Alabam, Arkansas, near Huntsville with her husband, Ed and daughter, Vallie, age five and soon to be a big sister. Meet Janeal Yancey, a woman in agriculture.
What is your role in agriculture today? My role in agriculture is mainly about education. Although I’m trained as a meat scientist, I really feel like my role is educating people about the meat industry and animal agriculture.
I work at the University of Arkansas and teach classes in Animal Science, specifically Meat Science. I get to teach kids about an aspect of animal ag that most have had little or no exposure to prior to coming to the university. Even farm kids don’t know much about the meat industry and all the details that take an animal from their farm to the grocery store. There are a lot of people and really interesting science involved in getting meat safely from a farm to your plate and people don’t know much about it.
I advise clubs and work with a couple of quiz bowl teams within the department. When I get to work with kids outside of the classroom, I really have a unique chance to expose them to aspects of ag that they’ve never seen before. Being away from my family is hard, but I love to travel with the students. We’ve been to meat plants and whiskey distilleries; all kinds of farms including sheep, beef, dairy, oranges, strawberries and a hay seed farm. Last summer we even got to visit a catfish farm and processing plant. Working with the students in extracurricular activities also means challenging them to stretch themselves in new ways, helping them take on leadership roles and organize events, hopefully preparing them to be future leaders in agriculture. It can be hard (on me and the students), but it’s worth the challenge.
We have a great undergraduate research program at the U of A, so I have the opportunity to work with undergraduate and graduate students on research in my field of Meat Science. I love research and the challenges that come with conducting sound experiments, but the chance to help students learn about meat science in such an intense environment trumps the excitement over the research. Teaching them how to conduct good research and discovering new things about our industry alongside them is so rewarding to me.
Recently, I’ve jumped into education in a whole new way, trying to reach the general public about the meat industry and animal agriculture. I love to hear the relief in someone’s voice when they hear an honest explanation of how or why we do things a certain way in agriculture. I have had the privilege of witnessing countless ‘ah-ha’ moments, whether through my blog or other social media, on one of our Moms on the Farm Tours, after a talk, or just a question out in public. It is so rewarding to know that I helped someone to feel a little better about their food.
How has agriculture shaped your life? I grew up on a small, hobby farm in rural Texas. We had sheep and hogs for FFA projects and horses for rodeo. Both my parents came from farm and ranch families, but both earned their living off the farm. I always loved being outside with the animals. My most cherished memories growing up are those in the barn or at a stock show, spending time and working with my family. We are trying to give my daughter some of those same memories.
I was never good at sports, and my small school didn’t offer many extracurricular activities other than FFA. Agriculture was where I found my niche in life. I loved learning about food production from beginning to end. Thanks to the support of my parents and great ag teachers, I thrived in FFA. I was good at something. I went to college in an agricultural field. I never considered anything else. When I was done with my undergrad, I wanted to keep learning, so I went to grad school in agriculture. Not only has agriculture shaped my life; specifically agriculture education has shaped my life and brought me to where I am today.
What is your favorite home-cooked meal? Mom’s chicken-fried steak fingers, fried potatoes, green beans seasoned with brown sugar, Dad’s gravy spread over two pieces of sliced white bread, and sweet tea. I wouldn’t want to think about the calorie count.
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor? I’ve struggled with this question, but I really want to answer it. At first, I thought Laura Ingalls Wilder because she was a mother, an educator, a writer and was a pioneer woman. I’ve thought of entertainers that I admire like Carol Burnett, Dolly Parton or Tina Fey. I’ve also considered some women pioneers in politics like Ann Richards, Hillary Clinton or Susan Combs (former Texas Ag Commissioner, now Comptroller). I thought of great women in science like Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin (biophysicist who’s research was critical in helping Watson and Crick discover the structure of DNA). I’ve considered great women in food like Julia Child or Ree Drummond. There are women I’ve actually known and been mentored by, like Janet Riley (American Meat Institute), Mindy Brashears, Rhonda Miller, or Elizabeth Huff-Lonergan (meat scientists at Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Iowa State). Although I’ve only met her once, I’ve learned so much from Temple Grandin. Then there are women in my family like my great-grandmothers that had wonderful, successful lives, but I never knew or only knew as a child and could have learned so much more from as an adult. None of these women are exactly like me. I really don’t know much about several of them, so I couldn’t decide. Unfortunately, we don’t really get to pick our mentors, but I think we learn from the women and men that come before us and apply what we can to our own lives.
What makes you smile? Those ‘ah-ha’ moments in people’s faces when they learn something new. Being with my family.
Subscribe by email to receive an update and a promise of no spam on this 30 Days of Women in Agriculture series. The response to this has been tremendously positive and I am going to continue it past November as an ongoing weekly series. Also I currently have this giveaway available through Thursday, November 14 for two winners of holiday baked goods, shipped to your door. And now you are hungry.
Earlier Women in Agriculture features this month include:
November 1: Introducing 30 Days of Women in Agriculture
For a listing of all the 30 Days Bloggers my friend Holly Spangler rounded up, visit here.