“Agriculture is something I didn’t anticipate getting into. I had no connections at all to it until I was in college when I got an internship at a farm magazine. Since then, I have increasingly become interwoven into agriculture. It’s part of my day-to-day and a part of my heart & soul. It’s a passion for me that I can’t imagine doing without now.” Janice Person, advocate of agriculture and social media director for Monsanto Company, currently residing in University City, Missouri.
There is a lot of hate in the world. I have seen it in social media for Monsanto Company and from some of my friends. So before I dive into this blog feature, I have a few things to share. I love much of the work Monsanto does in biotechnology as well as their outreach work, like the rural grants they give area schools or this video that features my friend Debbie, her family and ranch. My parents do use some Monsanto products on our family farm but all farmers have choices in what they choose to grow and purchase. Read my friend Jenny’s blog to learn more about farmers and their choices.
Rather than waste time hating a company that is successful I would argue people could use their energy in building their own successful business and in making a difference for their community, state and country or even the world for causes they care about passionately. Like my friend Janice does for her communities and agriculture, whether working in her day job for Monsanto or investing much of her personal time in advocating for her passions.
I know and believe you need to see someone’s heart to know who they really are. There are plenty of people who have polish and look all put together that don’t necessarily have a good heart. But Janice, I know from first hand, in person experience has a heart for people, giving back and for agriculture. She could just go to work everyday and not engage personally in agriculture. She could collect her paycheck and benefits and work for any major brand in public relations, governmental affairs or social media. She doesn’t have to work for Monsanto. She doesn’t have to advocate for agriculture. She chooses to engage and empower others. So whether you believe in biotechnology, whether you believe in the advancement of agriculture globally, whether you believe in family farmers having choices of what they grow on their farms, do not fire bullets at my friend, Janice. She has passion and grit that we need more of in agriculture.
Janice and I have spent quite a bit of time together across the United States, both professionally and personally, over the past few years. I appreciate the insight and perspective she brings. She has spent a weekend at our home with our family, been to our farm to meet my parents and grandparents and is someone who I can count on for honest feedback as well as someone who rallies friends when the chips are down. Sometimes she just shows up to help when you need it most. For that commitment to friendship and agriculture, I am grateful.
On a personal note, Janice has been on a healthy weight loss journey over the past year. I admire her tenacity and commitment to getting healthier and sharing about it. It is not easy for any of us to keep weight off but I know from the rigors of frequent travel and long work days, it is grueling to make healthy choices and find time for exercise. Keep up the great work, JP!
I am honored today to feature Janice as a woman of agriculture, originally a city girl from Memphis, Tennessee, in her own words.
What is your role in agriculture today? Sounds like an easy question, but it is two-fold. I am social media director at Monsanto Company so that’s a professional role in which I connect with a number of organizations and individuals on behalf of the office. However, I also think my personal connections to agriculture in the past several decades are central to any role I play and personally I feel I need to be an advocate for agriculture. I started out advocating for cotton specifically but as my network grew extensively I have become more involved in a variety of crops, livestock, etc. I feel a personal responsibility to help others understand agriculture and do that while sharing my other passions (including travel and photography) through my blog & other social media channels. In fact, it was my personal passion for social media which led to it becoming my day job, so the integration of the two is pretty complete!
How has agriculture shaped your life? Agriculture is something I didn’t anticipate getting into… I had no connections at all to it until I was in college when I got an internship at a farm magazine. Since then, I have increasingly become interwoven into agriculture. It’s part of my day-to-day and a part of my heart & soul. It’s a passion for me that I can’t imagine doing without now. Friends frequently take great joy in pointing out that I even go on agnerd vacations at times but that’s just cause they haven’t gotten on the NoDak target list yet! Once they get to know such great folks they will understand how a trip to Wishek, ND ends up on you must-go vacation list!
What excites you about your community? I am really active with the farm blogging community. Seeing more of us broaden our skill sets to include outreach to the general public, knowing we need to open ourselves up in ways we haven’t needed to do previously. It’s exciting to be a part of such a diverse group – participants represent various crops, acreages, livestock, etc. And to know that farmers can treat all those differences with respect gives me hope that we will see that happen on a broader scale. There are real challenges for agriculture and the public to confront and right now people seem to get distracted by headlines. I’d love for all of us to be focused on making things better rather than pointing fingers.
Of my current home community, there are several things. I am a huge baseball fan and St. Louis is a place where that can be done with great gusto! When I moved here two years ago, it was the first time I had lived in the Midwest which means I’ve built connections to a whole new region, its sense of place and people. And I see why folks here love their sweet corn so much! It’s still close enough to my roots that I can get to Memphis a decent amount and have been lucky to host a lot of guests. And I have to admit that its nice to live in a place that while it is a big city has a real close tie to agriculture – both in innovations of plant sciences and in production.
When was the last time you tried something for the first time? Does it count that I recently attended my first National FFA Convention? A couple of travel adventures I did recently that I hadn’t done was attend a day-long sumo wrestling tournament and I set out on a solo 10-day road trip. I try lots of new foods including a recent vegan dish I really liked.
What do you do to encourage others? Who/what serves as a source of encouragement for you? I try to keep a generally upbeat attitude and share that in positive ways. One thing I do a lot is hashtag tweets or comments with something like #youROCK to remind people they do indeed rock. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt by looking at things from various viewpoints when the first view isn’t to my liking. Like everyone I can be negative at times, I try to vent that with trusted friends & family in a way to keep it from becoming a drain on them and others.
In terms of encouragement for me, I have so many great sources among family & friends I don’t really even know where to start but maybe I should start with the amazing set of women in my family, from my mom to sisters and nieces, I have incredible women in my life. The men are also awesome, we just don’t connect as often but if they sense I need them, BAM they are there!
What is your favorite home-cooked meal? I love my mom’s homemade lasagna or her baked ham with potato salad. At my house, home-cooked meals tend to be on the go. A favorite for me to fix at home is usually cooking a big pot of red beans & rice or pasta that I can go to a couple of times.
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor? His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His ability to remain calm despite things that are out of control is incredible. He also has a lot of interest in learning new things and is willing to try to bite off major topics. He really reminds me that it is the big picture you look at but you need to remember that small actions taken everyday are what builds the big picture. I’d love to learn more of his philosophy than I’ve been able to pick up from the books & speeches, etc. He looks like he’d be an incredible mentor & coach too!
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be? Wow. That’s a big question. It depends on the crowd! But I would love to help more people see how useful true critical thinking can be when it comes to the information we all find online and how our rush to judgment without critical thinking can have negative consequences. I especially would like to talk to people about the real Monsanto, farmers, etc. It wouldn’t be a simple speech but a good dialog of give and take and it is really part of what I do regularly. To me a lot of people get sucked into believing something that on another day, they would see right through.
What makes you smile? I love smiling and having a good time – that can happen most easily when I am with family and/or friends whether we are sitting around telling stories, catching up on the day-to-day or pondering life’s big moments while we take on an adventure. Travel is likely to bring smiles along with the sense of adventure. Live music brings lots of good times and maybe some dancing.
It’s nearly impossible to not stay connected with Janice in social media. Connect with her personal blog and the Monsanto blog. Follow her personal profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram and even if nobody seems to follow Quora, she’s there. Thank you Janice for having such passion and a good heart. I admire you and am thankful for your loyal friendship.
I missed a Women in Agriculture feature on November 22 because I became an AUNT for the first time. Photos are on Facebook and Instagram of our new and perfectly healthy niece and cousin, Nola, named after our Grandma Nola. My sister is lovely, healthy and glowing and my brother-in-law is over the moon excited to be a new daddy. We are blessed.
Subscribe in the right column of this blog by email to not miss any updates. No SPAM, I promise! I have far more than 30 Women In Agriculture to feature in this series and am going to continue it as a weekly feature starting in December.
Earlier Women in Agriculture features this month include:
November 24: Chris Chinn, Modern Hog Farmer & Mom from Missouri
November 23: Lara Durben, Minnesota’s Turkey, Chicken & Egg Agvocate
November 16: Marie Bowers, Oregon Grass Seed Farmer
November 1: Introducing 30 Days of Women in Agriculture
For a listing of all the 30 Days Bloggers that Holly Spangler rounded up, visit here.