Studies have shown that a large percentage of people with college degrees don’t use them in their careers. Are you part of that statistic? I know I am.
I have a degree in Visual Communications from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. As an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, I thought working in fashion — doing merchandising and window displays — sounded like a lot of fun.
What they didn’t tell me was that there was not a lot of money in that career path.
As a high school senior my guidance counsel told me I should work in agriculture. I grew up riding horses on my friend’s grandparents’ soybean farm and always loved the farm life. Every aptitude test I took said I should work with animals. Now that I am, I realized that being a livestock farmer allows me to get back to those “roots” — figuratively and literally — of my youth. Being in that barn with the animals really is my happy place.
It took me a long time to find this though. Like many others, we sometimes move around, try new career paths, travel, date, explore, find ourselves. We fall down, we struggle, we endure heartbreak, success, highs and lows.
Another common expression is, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Do you agree with that statement? I began my college education as a clarinet performance major but changed majors after a year because I was too scared I’d never get a job and never wanted to teach, just play in a symphony. I wonder … if I would’ve stuck with it, would I ever have achieved my goal of playing in the Chicago Symphony? People discouraged me, sharing stories of “starving artists,” but were they right? As I write this, I realize I don’t really care. I feel 100 percent that I have really found my calling.
If you had ever met Dr. Pearse Lyons, former president and founder of the animal health company Alltech, you’d see that he was one of the most amazingly inspirational people you’d ever meet (Lyons passed away in March 2018). He had these famous quotes, “Do all things with purpose,” and, “Do what makes your heart sing.” Dr. Lyons said he never cared about money, he just wanted to help people. And boy did he ever. His words have inspired and stuck with so many. Have a purpose. “Do what you love and never work a day in your life.”
In my 20s, I had about four major career changes. From fashion to bartending to sales to even becoming an English teacher in China! They had their advantages and disadvantages but did they ever bring value to the soul? We can all find money or stability, but where I found I was the happiest was when I was either with animals, on a farm, or traveling the world. After living in China, I realized I was fascinated with culture. It inspired me to travel the world, but now that I have a career path as a farmer and ag communicator I’ve realized it’s been my calling in life to combine the two. I recently returned from Egypt, and it made me appreciate what we have here in our first world country. While so many people complain about food in our country not being “good enough,” I literally watched livestock roam the streets of Cairo (25 million people!) in 100-degree temps eating out of garbage piles. Many of the animals looked malnourished. I guess my sheep do have it pretty good!
This is my passion; my calling. And it feels pretty damn good to finally find myself and figure it out. If we all can share our passions and what makes us tick; if we can share that joy with others — why, isn’t this a great way to make the world smile along with you?
I enjoy educating and mythbusting and helping people not fear their food. Modern agriculture and scientific advancements do so much for humanity — if farmers are able to produce more crop on less land while using fewer resources, this is something we should celebrate. If modern medical and agricultural resources can allow people to live longer than ever before; if the world’s poorest farmers can thrive instead of survive; if we can all learn to be a little more appreciative and thankful for the abundance of affordable food on their plates; then my work here is done. Smile with the farmers and celebrate all that we have. It’s beautiful.
My hopes in writing this is to inspire others. Look within — are you happy? Have you found your calling and purpose? Maybe you have and that’s wonderful! Or maybe you’re between jobs, at a crossroads in life and wondering what’s next. Follow that passion and that dream. Follow your purpose in life, don’t be afraid to travel, open your soul and horizons, look outwards and upwards and realize that anything is possible. You’ve heard my story, now share yours in the comments.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.