Story by Debbie Lyons-Blythe, ’88 (ACJ)
I’m a cattle rancher, a mom, a wife and a journalist. Not a journalist in a traditional sense; I’m a blogger. Bloggers are committed to connecting with readers in a direct, open and casual way—nearly the total opposite of traditional media. My blog is www.KidsCowsandGrass.com,and I blog about my passions: my family, my ranch and the Kansas Flint Hills.
For generations, farmers and ranchers have been raising food for our country, while their numbers have dwindled. There are many reasons for the diminishing number of American farmers, but ultimately it meant that fewer and fewer children were returning to farm with their parents. They moved to town and raised the first generation that had no direct tie to the land. So the successful farmers got bigger and more efficient and learned to grow more crops on the same amount of land, and we were able to keep America’s food costs relatively low. But we were so busy working all day, every day on the farms and ranches, that we didn’t make the time to talk to people about what we do.
Today we are faced with generations of people who are asking questions about how their food is raised. They have the money to purchase the best food for their family, the time to make the best decisions and the interest in good health as well as the access to the Internet to find out anything they want. What is lacking is information from the source!
If someone is searching for information; someone else is going to provide it. I believe that most people who are asking questions about what happens on a farm, really just want to know so they can buy the best for their family. But without factual information from the source, we can’t expect people to make good decisions. So we have to step up. We as agriculturists must begin talking to people who want to know how we raise their food.
I began blogging in 2009 with the plan that I was going to “tell the story” of a beef cattle ranch. That quickly morphed into answering questions and making new friendships with people across the country. In order to truly answer a question, you must truly hear the question, and we’ve had enough time not listening. It is time to step up and get involved in the conversation—become an advocate for your way of life and incorporate it into your life.
I use my journalism education nearly every day. Not only do I write, but I also do radio and television interviews as well as speeches to encourage new people to become advocates I also talk to consumers, so they can meet the kind of people who raise their food. My degree from KSU didn’t give me all the skills to blog, but it taught me something much more important: the world is always changing, and we must evolve with it. My communication education is evolving every day as our society becomes more transparent and mobile. What worked 30 years ago, doesn’t always work today—both on the farm and in communication.
Debbie Lyons-Blythe is a cattle rancher near White City, Kansas. She and her husband Duane Blythe graduated from K-State in the late 1980s. All five of their children are K-Staters. Meghan graduated in 2013 with a degree in ag economics. Allie will graduate in May 2015 in hospitality management. Trent is a junior in wildlife and outdoor enterprise management. Tyler is a freshman in agriculture technology management and Eric is a freshman in animal science. Among other family members, Debbie’s mom Jan Lyons graduated from K-State with a master’s degree,e and Duane’s grandfather L.J. Blythe is a K-State graduate as well. They are a multigeneration ranch and the embodiment of a K-State family!