A Different Perspective on Agriculture
Story and Photos by Rhea Lynn Leonard
Texas commodity groups strive to develop and maintain opportunities for producers while also working to educate consumers about the importance of the agriculture industry. Among these commodity groups, a Texas Tech University agricultural communications graduate is heading communication efforts throughout the state of Texas.
Lindsay West Kennedy is the communications director for both the Texas Corn Producers Board (TCPB) and the Texas Peanut Producers Board (TPPB).
Upon graduating from the University of Arkansas in May 2005, Kennedy headed 600 miles west and decided to begin a new adventure at Tech to obtain a master’s degree in agricultural communications. After meeting a group of Tech students at a professional development conference hosted by Arkansas, she visited Lubbock and loved everything about it.
“It was one of those things that hits you like a rock,” Kennedy said. “I knew very quickly Tech was where I was going to continue my education.”
After graduating from Tech with her master’s degree in December 2006, Kennedy returned to Arkansas to start her career by helping to establish a regional agricultural newspaper called Ozark Farm and Neighbor–Arkansas. She gained valuable experience as the publication’s managing editor and worked to develop the paper’s circulation.
Although she was able to begin her career in her hometown of Prairie Grove, Ark., where her family has farmed since 1860, Kennedy knew she still had unfinished business in Texas. When the communications director position at the Texas Corn Producers Board and Texas Peanut Producers Board came open, she applied.
“I threw my hat in the arena to see what would happen,” Kennedy said as she chuckled. “The next thing I knew, I was moving back to Lubbock.”
Kennedy has now handled the media and public relations for both Texas commodity check off boards for just over two years. She maintains both organizations’ Web sites, writes press releases, attends farm shows and coordinates with communicators from each commodity’s respective national organization. In addition, she also spends time educating consumers and children about the importance of agriculture.
TCPB and TPPB strive to provide producers with better market opportunities, better crop varieties, and to help the corn and peanut industries succeed at the state level. The voluntary corn and peanut check off programs use producers’ dollars for research, promotion and education.
Kennedy said both boards allocate a considerable amount of their yearly budgets to fund research aimed at developing varieties that produce better in the unique and diverse Texas growing conditions. The research dollars ultimately help farmers to be more efficient in growing crops, which allows them to maximize their profits.
“We want our growers to have a good crop and be able to make the most out of it every year,” Kennedy said. “As a check off board, we provide the organizational support to help extend their opportunities in the market place.”
It’s Kennedy’s job to make sure the public has a positive image of the corn and peanut industries. She said the general public is becoming increasingly less educated about agriculture, often not realizing their food comes from a farm rather than a grocery store. Getting the message out to the public is very important and rewarding when they grasp the importance of agriculture, she said.
“It’s a tall mountain to climb,” Kennedy said. “However, it’s what makes my job fun and challenging.”
Marie Hefley, a senior agricultural communications major from Texline, Texas, is the communication intern for Texas Corn and Peanut Producers.
“Lindsay is an amazing person, very knowledgeable, and makes my job not only a learning experience, but very fun and enjoyable, as well, ” Hefley said. “She is very professional, but also a great friend.”
Hefley works for Kennedy and helps do various office work, keeps up with industry news and other necessary tasks. Hefley said she enjoys her internship, and it has been very rewarding. As Hefley smiled, she said this internship has been a great learning experience, and she continues to learn about the industry each and every day.
Kennedy enjoys working in the agricultural industry in Texas. After being gone from the great state of Texas, she was glad to come back. With a smile on her face, she said it was one on the best decisions she ever made because she ended up meeting her husband, Byron.
“Texas has a sense of adventure that I love,” Kennedy said. “I’ve learned a different way of agriculture, different perspectives, and every day brings a new challenge to communicate the great things agriculture does for our country.”