When people ask me what I’m studying at college, I usually say agriculture and communication for simplicity’s sake. When I say agricultural communication, people are usually confused. I understandably receive quizzical looks and they amusingly question if that means I learn to talk to cows and corn. Although I find myself slightly tired of that joke, I have found it echoes larger questions. Specifically, people want to know what an ag comm major does and why I chose that major.
In a nutshell, I define agricultural communication as the field of study which seeks to understand and practice the sharing of agricultural information between traditional agrarian audiences and the general public. If we’re operating under the auspices of Wendell Berry’s statement that “Eating is an agricultural act,” you’ll quickly realize that this specialized aspect of communication touches everyone. Agricultural communicators will seek to address your attitudes about various ag related topics (Mad Cow disease, genetically modified organisms, international agricultural economies, etc…) and have an informed conversation with you about these issues.
So, why did I choose this major?
First, I love people, words, and food. This major perfectly brings those three elements together. My course work at school includes subjects ranging from animal science to principles of persuasion to social psychology. Currently, I’m working with Dr. Tucker, Abigail, and Lisa Schluttenhofer on a research project which addresses the food safety practices of underserved audiences. This project reminds me that agricultural communication requires a desire to fully understand how food and words intersect in society.
The second reason I’m in the field is because I hold the belief of French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Food/agriculture is not merely a means of staying alive; it reflects the essence of who we are. Think about where your food comes from, who/what prepares it, how and when you are eating it, and with whom you’re eating it. From my experiences in Russia and India to my family’s garden, I’ve come to deeply believe that our food offers us a commentary on how we understand our world and what we value.
It’s exciting to realize that my undergrad years at Purdue merely mark the beginning of a journey through agricultural communication. Looking to the future, I hope to study how the food practices of a community influence the culture of that community. I want to care for people through the words I write and the food I prepare while highlighting and questioning the subtle beliefs our society has about agriculture. And, the next time somebody asks if I talk to cows and corn, I’ll chuckle then explain that agricultural communication is so much more!
—Abigail Maurer, Ag Comm Junior and Summer Research Assistant