As a girl from an everybody-knows-everybody town, so small that you have to drive 20 minutes to get to the nearest restaurant, I knew choosing the University of Illinois for college would be a culture shock. What I didn’t know was that aside from discovering the beauty of late-night delivery food, I was also about to discover an apparently popular essence on this campus referred to as “The Burbs”. Of course, Chicago amounts for the bulk of the Illinois population, and in turn, Chicagoans are by far the majority party when it comes to campus life in Champaign. Given that the rest of Illinois essentially consists of small towns and miles of fields, the Chicago suburbs are full of people that have never witnessed any of that. Most of them have never even seen rural Illinois, much less do they know anything about it. I attend a world-class institution for college, yet the most considerable thing I have learned in my short time at the University of Illinois is that while these people may not understand rural towns or agriculture, they will be the first ones to give you an opinion on it. As an agriculture major here, I have heard plenty of ridiculous comments; however, I have assembled a list of the most “I swear if I hear that one more time…” statements Illinois ag majors hear way too often for attending a school perched at the heart of the U.S. Cornbelt.
- “Is that even a major?”
Yes, in fact, Agricultural Communications is not a made up major. Although the majority of ag majors do not require the time commitment and general distaste for life that engineering students experience in the “best four years of their life”. However, at least no one questions them about the actuality of the path they have chosen for their career.
2. “Champaign is literally the epitome of the middle of nowhere.”
I can’t express how often I have been driving my friends through Champaign to get food, and they start complaining because the mall isn’t good enough, and there aren’t as many places to eat as Chicago. So, apparently that justifies giving Champaign the qualification as the middle of nowhere. My definition of the middle of nowhere involves cornfields, dirt roads and pick up trucks, not buildings covering every inch of land.
3. “So…. you’re like a cowgirl then?”
Yes, I grew up on a farm. Yes, that included me raising livestock. However, my life is far from a western romance movie. The media has portrayed agriculture as being a cold-cut stereotype filled with rodeos, belt-buckles, and accents. On the contrary, I can name very few individuals that this assumption is actually applicable to. Agriculture is, in fact, a diverse industry full of people that wear everything from wearing cowboy hats to Nikes.
4. “Why do you sell your animals? That’s so mean.”
No, selling animals is not exactly my favorite part of the livestock production process; however, it is indeed the whole purpose. Not to mention that I would literally be losing money if I didn’t finish the process by selling the animals, and you would quickly run out of meat sources if everyone decided they couldn’t handle letting go anymore.
5. “The rest of Illinois is basically full of rednecks.”
Every single time I pass someone wearing boots or a flannel, that means I must know them, right? WRONG. First of all, having an agriculture background doesn’t authorize the establishment of some type of a secret cult. I don’t know everyone out of the thousands of students on this campus that may have a similar background as myself. It ceases to amaze me that due to the simple fact that I grew up on a farm, automatically diminishes every ounce of class and intelligence I could possibly have. Of course, there are individuals in the nooks and crannies of the United States that believe an “out in the sticks” lifestyle is one worth pursuing. A generalization of all individuals involved in the agricultural industry would be like me saying because one politician cheats on his wife, they all do. And let’s face it, no one wants to hear that.
6. “So will you talk to corn and play with cows for your job?”
Yes, in fact, I take classes on how to talk to corn so I can convince it to be so sweet. Honestly, sometimes I question the intelligence of some students on this campus. This question, oftentimes, immediately follows the inquiry about the legitimacy of my major. To verify, a major in agricultural communications is study and work focusing on the agricultural information and their stakeholders, not walking through fields tellings seeds to grow.
7. “If it weren’t for the city, everyone would move out of Illinois.”
I absolutely refuse to believe that the appreciation for natural beauty has completely vanished from this country. Aside from the list of a thousand reasons why, given the choice, I would choose a life in the country over a fast-paced city one every time, a horizon like this beats the lights of the city by a landslide. Although, this life is definitely not for everyone, it should at the very least be respected if nothing else the simple fact that these are the people that feed the world.