A word about the bulletin board

On the south wall of the AgComm office sits this bulletin board.  Formerly, it was hanging, but that will be a story for another time.

Right now, I want to give you a tour of our bulletin board.  It tells a lot about the culture of our little office and explains what makes us who we are.

Let’s start with the “Eat Clean” posters pinned in the upper left hand corner.  These prototypes just might be the crown of the bulletin board.  Since last June, we’ve diligently worked on researching for these posters and figuring out how to best communicate vegetable safety to underserved audiences.  We’re happy to say that we’re taking photos for the posters this Friday and we’re quite excited.

Going counter clock-wise, you’ll see a letter to the editor I wrote about Occupy Wall Street and Lisa’s lovely visual representation of “The Labyrinth.”

Continuing counter clock-wise, there’s a gem of a document that Lisa found about phrases commonly used in research and what they really mean.  For example, “While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to the questions” really means “An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published.”  Suffice it so say, this has brought much laughter to the office over the past few months.

The picture of the Village  Vegetable People was printed and hung on the bulletin board when we first started the project.  For some reason, we thought they would be a fitting inspiration for us.  Don’t ask me why.  When we find ourselves bored or not knowing what to do with our time, we play with the Chinese finger trap that is pinned over the Village  Vegetable People picture.

In the office, we frequently talk about vocabulary  and punctuation (I’m not joking about this! )  That’s why there’s a defense of the Oxford Comma on the board.

The newspaper clipping served as inspiration when we initially started discussing how to effectively communicate information about vegetables—a subject that isn’t particularly interesting to many.

Starting in January, the miniseries “Downton Abbey” gained a bit of a cult following among the three females working in the office.  Every Tuesday we’d chat about what happened on Sunday’s episode, and speculate where the show might go.  Eventually, we fell prey to the “Which Downton Abbey Character Are You?” quiz and uncovered startling things about ourselves.  Abigail is Bates, Lisa is Sybil, and I am Matthew.  As Dr. Tucker didn’t participate in the Downton frenzy, we assigned him the character of Carson.  At the top of the poster is this quote from the stately Dowager Countess: “I do hope I’m interrupting something.”  A more apt commentary on our office I cannot think of.

On the topic of quotes, the last item adorning the board is a pithy little dictum from our very own Abigail Borron: “I know the wheel has already been invented.  I just think I can do better.  Just saying…”  Need I say more?

And that, reader, is the culture of our office on a bulletin board.  I hope you enjoyed the tour.



Some Purdue AgComm Students Visit Texas

At the end of February, 14 students from the AgComm program attended the ACT Professional Development Conference at Texas Tech in Lubbock, TX.  The four days of traveling and enjoying Texas  embodied why the Purdue AgComm program stands out among other fields of study at Purdue.

From my perspective, the trademarks of Purdue’s AgComm program are relationships, the priority of the individual student, and a passion for using communication to help the public relate to the field of agriculture.

During our time away, we found ourselves exposed to pockets of American agriculture we didn’t know much about.  From touring denim mills and wineries to walking through windmill and ag history museums, we enjoyed learning about the nuts and bolts of American agriculture.


Touring a denim mill in Lubbock

Thanks to the hard work of Texas ACT, we had some fun opportunities to meet professionals in our field and gain exposure to their work.  I especially enjoyed hearing Wyman Meinzer, an official photographer for the state of Texas, explaining his project of photographing a historic ranch in Texas.  Discussing the details of  the project, Meinzer’s passion for his work showed me the power and satisfaction that comes from doing work that you love.  I’d encourage you to check out the video of his work here.


At the American Museum of Agriculture

Finally, the trip to Texas offered us a chance to build relationships with each other.  In addition to formal schooling, I believe that an important aspect of college is learning how to invest in other people’s lives in a meaningful way.  Texas gave us the time and space necessary to do just that.  Enjoying some great food and drink establishments in Lubbock, touring the sites, playing Euchre, sitting and talking together on bus and airplane rides… the elements of the trip that gave us a chance to get to know each other better.


Suffice it to say, the trip to Texas was a wonderful experience that will go down in my college memory book as a great time of living the life of a Purdue AgComm student.

Ag Comm Student Speaks at Alumni Event

Brooklynne Slabaugh, a junior studying Agricultural Communication and Agricultural Economics, had the opportunity to represent her college and fields of study at the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry earlier this month.  Read her thoughts below.

It’s amazing how abundant the opportunities are in Purdue Agriculture. As a junior in ag communications and ag economics I have done more things in my three years at Purdue than I could have ever imagined. From going to an amazing leadership conference in Kansas City, Missouri to being able to lead one of the most esteemed clubs in the College of Agriculture, I feel truly blessed to have experienced all that I have thus far.

One opportunity that I was offered recently was to speak at the Annual Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry on February 4. This event is where all the “big dogs” come together with one common theme: their passion for Purdue and agriculture. Now don’t let me confuse you, I don’t consider myself one of the “big dogs”– I just got the amazing opportunity to speak to all of them.

I was humbled when the Ag Alumni staff asked me if I would thank the sponsor during the program of the Fish Fry. Oh boy, did I jump on this opportunity! Giving me, an ag comm major, the chance to speak to people who are passionate about the same things as me, was right up my alley. Although I did not get to say much more than the basic script of thanking the sponsors, the mere fact of being on stage in front of hundreds of esteemed people who love agriculture was a dream come true.

It’s unique opportunities like this one that keep me motivated to keep doing what I am doing in the College of Agriculture. It is truly an honor to be asked to help with things like this, knowing someone recognized me as a deserving leader. I would like to think I did a good job of representing myself and the departments I am a part of, ag communications and ag economics. I look forward to my final year and a half at Purdue and seeing what other things will come my way. Let it be known though, opportunities don’t just happen.  You have to embrace the small one’s you start with, build on those, and then you will see things come 360. That is how you create your own destiny.

Unmasking Photo Editing

This post comes from Jessica Thayer who is a senior in Ag Comm with a minor in Art and Design.  Using her knowledge of the topic, Jessica draws attention to the power of photo editing programs in this post.

Editing photographs has been around probably as long as photography itself. With advancing technologies making it easier and cheaper, it has become common for anyone to be able to manipulate an image and it’s important for people to realize this.

Photoshop and other photo editing software are allowing people to create images from scratch and edit original photographs to a point where they’re hardly recognizable. As a senior studying agriculture communication, I have come across many controversies surrounding the ethics behind editing photographs.

I’ve found that editing photographs can be easy and fun, but I’ve also found that there is a line you cross when you edit a photograph too much. However, this line isn’t black and white and is purely determined by a person’s ethics and purpose for editing.

For example, in my art classes I can edit photographs as long as I have a creative, artistic purpose for doing such. The same can’t be said for my journalism classes, where photographs should not be edited to avoid editorializing, a term used to describe when someone shows only the part of an argument that is their opinion.

When editing images for art, I’m not trying to deceive anyone; I am merely expressing my point of view in a creative way. When reading the news, people want facts, not the writer’s point of view. That’s why I think it is unethical to alter a photograph that will be published for a news story.

The Colbert Report from Comedy Central discussed how The Economist magazine unfairly manipulated its cover photo by editing out a woman.  Click on the link below to see Colbert’s report on the issue.

Colbert Video

In its television series, The Colbert Report uses photo editing to get across their message. It’s a comedy television series, so viewers expect to see photo manipulation, where they don’t expect to see it, is from news sources.

Even though it is easy to say photo manipulation should be left out of news stories, the topic isn’t as black and white when it comes to other forms of media. Manipulated photos are published without any warning label, so it’s important that consumers recognize that every image may not be showing the truth.

Did you know that many celebrity’s photographs are edited before being released to the public? The extent of manipulation varies depending on the photo editor, but there’s no boundary as to what can be edited in a photo.

Diet.com published a two part YouTube video investigating celebrity Photoshop makeovers and discusses the negative effects photo manipulation has on girls’ self image.  Click here for part 1 and here for part 2 of more info regarding this topic.

Photo Manipulation is a growing problem in the media. It not only has negative effects on the consumers, but it also negatively affects the media publishers. After coming across many manipulated images, consumers grow untrusting of the sources and the media then loses its creditability.

So everyone out there…be aware of photo manipulation. It’s everywhere and affects everyone.  Remember, consumers should protect themselves from hidden agendas and unrealistic expectations by being aware of photo manipulation and its affects on them and their community.  Also, media producers should stray away from manipulating images in order to keep their credibility and give an accurate representation of the truth. If both parties can accomplish this then the news will be presented by the media and critiqued by the public to effectively share information across all communication channels to help our communities.

Just the bees’ knees: Some reflections on reports of a “punny” industry

To inaugurate our new series, I’d like to begin with a post written by my fellow Ag Comm. co-worker, fellow Downton Abbey fan, and the gal who introduced me to PHD Comics, Lisa Schluttenhofer.  As those of you who have previously read this blog know, Lisa is an Ag Comm. major and Spanish minor who will graduate this May. 

In several of my classes, I’ve been instructed to avoid clichés and puns “like the plague.”  However, there is an industry in which, for some reason, even the most educated journalists fall back on overused slogans, puns, and old adages.

I would like to present this nearly ubiquitous contradiction to the cliché rule:  the beekeeping industry.  Sadly, puns seem to be the only way to introduce anything related to my favorite six-legged insect.

Here is just a sampling of real leads encountered in the last few years:

“She’s the queen of her hive.”

“There is quite the buzz in the beekeeping world.”

“City residents are making a bee-line to beginning beekeeping classes.”

“It’s not a sting operation, but beekeepers are giving a honey of a deal at the local farmers market.”

Feel free to groan.

Despite the puns, beekeeping is serious business.  In fact, honeybees are responsible for pollinating nearly one-third of our daily diet, including fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts.  Without honeybees and beekeepers, we would miss out on a meal each day.

The honeybee population has plummeted since the introduction of a small parasitic mite called Varroa destructor, and in recent years, beekeepers have reported a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.  The media were all over that, shall we say, like “honey on a biscuit.” (Ok, I made that one up.)

These news articles introduced the American public to a relatively unknown field.  The importance of pollination and the realities of this ag industry were indeed, news to some people who realized for the first time that without honeybees, much of every consumer’s food would not be around or would be very expensive.

It’s a crucial industry, and while the puns are cute, they don’t convey the seriousness of the situation.   So, if you are beginning a career in agriculture, remember the importance of the honeybee.  For those entering the journalism field, consider the words of your first mass communication class.  Avoid the puns; report the news.  Oh, and “bee” happy!

Senior thoughts on Ag Comm

Okay, now that you’ve recovered from the sheer shock of seeing a new post on this blog, I’d like to introduce you to a series we’re doing this semester.  Yes, a series.  You’ve seen that word before on our blog. And this time, the posts have already been written and are prepared for publication.

Last fall, the seniors from our major completed their capstone course.  Over the semester, they extensively researched the communication skills of students in Purdue’s College of Agriculture and gave a presentation for faculty and staff about their findings.

In addition to their research, each student completed a piece for the department blog about communication, Purdue, agriculture, and/or the intersection of the three.

It’s my pleasure to introduce this wonderful of series of posts written by my fellow ag comm classmates.  Over the next several weeks, you’ll read about everything from how the media covers the bee keeping industry to the advantages of cooking for yourself.  You’ll gain insight into the students who comprise the ag comm program and learn a bit about agriculture and communication too!

I hope you’ll enjoy reading the thoughts of these burgeoning young men and women who are about to bid adieu to Purdue and embark on a lifetime of communicating excellently about agriculture.


Almost half-way through the semester!

Wow!  It’s been pretty quiet around here on the blog.  As you may know, the academic year at Purdue launched on August 22.  Classes, meetings, research, writing proposals, and reading… these are the things which are filling the days of us folks in the Ag Comm office.

Suffice it to say, when I stopped and counted up how many weeks we are into the semester, I was amazed to discover today marks the end of week six.

About a month ago, Lisa mentioned a series we were planning titled “Life on a Plate.”  Rest assured, that little series has not been forgotten.  I’ve put some thought into what my plate should look like and I thought I could give you a preview today.

  • My beverage is a drink I’ve enjoyed on four different continents and in eight or so different countries.
  • My vegetable is something my mom makes every year around this time… it’s purple and I like it cooked with apple cider vinegar and brown sugar.
  • My protein is definitely meat!  I prepare this dish in my slow cooker with lots of herbs and garlic.
  • My fruit… well, they come in all different colors and textures.  I love them because they affirm the value eating in season and enjoying the sweetness of nature.
  • My grain is something I bake regularly.  I’ve tried all different types too… light, dark, 1/2 & 1/2.

Looking forward to continuing this little series with you!

–Abigail Maurer, Ag Comm Junior and Research Assistant

An insider look inside the labyrith

It’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged here, but I just wanted to catch you up on what’s new in the labyrinth, a.k.a. the ag comm office.

1. Road Trips:  Dr. Tucker, Abby, two grad students- Roy and Fally- and I headed to Wooster (pronouced Wu-ster), Ohio for a meeting with the Ohio State contingency of this research projects.  Highlights of the eventful trip included the realization that we are starting a 4,000 consumer survey, looking in every small town in eastern Indiana for an ice cream shop, and a scantily clad man walking down the hotel hallway.  And, of greater importance to the project: Abby and I presented our team’s research!  Though it looked for a bit like we’d have to change our entire game plan, we are back on track!

2.  Team Meetings: Every few weeks we get together to discuss new things and directions for our projects.  We are making progress! I get insanely excited about the potential of a sticker that reminds people to wash their vegetables.  We always have food at these meetings, which leads me to my next point.

Life on Plate/Life on a Plate: Purdue Ag Comm's response to MyPlate.gov

3. Upcoming blog series: At our next meeting, we will be featuring “Life on a Plate,” (Loap according to Abigail, LoP in Dr. T’s mind).  5 items, including a beverage that describe our lives.  Dr. Tucker says he has his menu almost planned.  The first installment will likely come the last week of August; check back!

4.  Classes start next week: Wow, none of us are sure how that happened!  By the way, after taking a somewhat roundabout approach to my college education, I’ll be in both the Freshman class (152) and the Senior one (480), so I’m sure I’ll meet some of you there!

~Lisa Schluttenhofer, Summer Research Assistant

The Pot Pour-ee of the English Language

Okay. So call me quirky, but… Wait, don’t. I can only handle so much name calling in one day around this crazy nerd-based environment we call an office. I don’t need it dished to me virtually, too.

Anyway, I have this strange habit when reading quietly (in my head, that is) of saying words as they’re phonetically spelled. As a result, I often have to catch myself from saying them phonetically outloud in conversation.

For instance, the French word “potpourri,” which immediately brings to mind this peach-scented mixture of wood chips and dried flowers I had in my room as a child, has become a menace to me from the reading and speaking sense. Pronounced “po-pour-ee,” I relentlessly butcher it in my mind. “Pot-Pour-ee.” And, then I struggle to not say it out loud. Much to my chagrin, I’ve been caught a few times. It’s not pretty.

But, of course, it doesn’t stop there. “Hors d’oeuvre.”  Frankly, let me be honest. I had to look this one up to spell it correctly. Also a French word, my horribly off kilter phonetic pronunciation results in “Hor de vor.” Using the same response I gave my high school history teacher way back when, as we were studying something about the Prussian Regiment and I hopelessly attempted to read a passage from the text book… “No, I’ve never taken a lesson of French in my life. Is it that obvious?”

Some might squawk at my admission of these challenges I have… “How dare ye admit to such a weakness! And, you call yourself a professional communicator! Poppycock!” But, I consider it par for the course. I’d bet money that most of you have similar stories (though, perhaps not based in the French language). And, by golly, I find it humorous and fun to talk about.

Perhaps someday I will share my personal story about the weather term “wind chill.” But, hey, even I realize the need to take my communication transparency one step at a time.

-Abigail Borron, Academic Advisor

Understanding the farm

This passage from Wendell Berry may be one of my favorite quotes of all time:

 “If one wishes to farm well, and agrarianism inclines to that wish above all, then one must submit to the unending effort to change one’s mind and ways to fit one’s farm.  This is hard education, which lasts all one’s life, never to be completed, and it almost certainly will involve mistakes.”

Recently, Wendell Berry has become a favorite author of mine.  I find myself intrigued by and drawn to his thoughtful outlook on farming and society.  His emphasis on acting locally and understanding the sacred elements of agrarianism and culture stir me.

Wendell Berry’s thoughtful statement on agriculture has a profound application for the field of agricultural communication.  For example, consider this slight twist on the quote above:

“If one wishes to [explain one’s point] well, and [communication] inclines to that wish above all, then one must submit to the unending effort to change one’s mind and ways to fit one’s [audience].  This is hard education, which lasts all one’s life, never to be completed, and it almost certainly will involve mistakes.”

For the ag communicator, this is one of the trying tasks in communication.  Yet, the rewards of this undertaking will undoubtedly yield a bountiful harvest.

–Abigail Maurer, Ag Comm Junior and Research Assistant