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Coming to you from the Doshisha U. Coffee Shop

June 10, 2011

Ok, so I’ve fallen back into my old habits again. Even when I tell myself specifically that I’m going to BLOG REGULARLY FROM JAPAN, I can’t seem to find time to sit down and do it. So, right now, just for a little while, I have a few minutes between classes, and I don’t have an online test due today. I’ve found a seat in the little coffee shop in the Meitokukan on campus and am excited to finally recap these past two weeks.

First of all, classes started last Tuesday. I’m taking a Japanese postwar history class and Intermediate Japanese, and classes meet every day for an hour and a half. Sometimes, this can be a bit of a drain, but overall, my classes are really interesting. Japanese class is somewhat of a struggle because we started ahead of where I left off last semester at Tech, but I’m beginning to catch up, and I feel better about my language skills every day.

Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)

Last Saturday, our group went on a field trip tour of the city of Kyoto, which again, has one of the richest histories in Japan. We went to Nijo-Jo (Nijo Castle), where members of the Tokugawa Shogunate lived for over 250 years. Next we hit up one of the most famous Zen Buddhist temples in the world, Ginkaku-Ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion). The temple itself is over 500 years old, and the building and surrounding gardens (completely covered in moss) were absolutely beautiful. Finally–after a quick lunch and an awesome walk through Gion, the famous geisha district–we went to Kiyomizu-dera, another very famous Buddhist temple. It sits on the side of a mountain overlooking Kyoto, and the views of the city were breathtaking from the top. After the end of the field trip, we headed back down into Kyoto for some kaiten zushi, or rotation sushi.

The next day, after more sushi, a group of us went to karaoke with some of our Japanese classmates. It was very different from an American karaoke experience; we had our own private room with a little computer to pick our songs. We sang songs in English and Japanese, and I even managed to get in some Garth Brooks, “Friends in Low Places.” After karaoke, we walked to Nishiki Market, Kyoto’s well-known food and craft market, where we sampled fresh foods and homemade candies. I couldn’t work up the nerve to try some of the raw or pickled/otherwise-preserved seafood….

Kiyomizu-dera and the adjacent pagoda

Kiyomizu-dera and the adjacent pagoda

Then earlier this week, some of our group headed to south Kyoto to go to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, a Shinto shrine. Inari is the god of rice and agriculture in the Shinto religion. The shrine sits on the side of a mountain and is a collection of smaller shrines. The paths are all lined with torii gates, and a scene from the movie Memiors of a Geisha was filmed there.

Anyway, that’s all for now. We’re going to Osaka tomorrow for the day. It’s the culinary capital of Japan, so hopefully I’ll have some great food experiences to blog about! Check out my photos so far here.


Ohayo, Kyoto!

May 29, 2011

For folks who don’t know, I’m going to be living and studying in Japan for the next seven weeks. I’m part of the University of New Orleans-Japan 2011 Program and will be in Kyoto at Doshisha University. I have to be downstairs for an orientation soon, so this post is going to be short and sweet. 

I got to Kyoto yesterday at around 7:30 PM (Japan is 13 hours ahead of the East Coast, so it was around 6:30 AM Sunday morning back home) after landing in Osaka a few hours earlier. A couple other people and I waited around for two more members of our group to arrive and then took the JR Train separately from the rest of our group. The flight from San Francisco to Osaka was just over 11 hours long, and to be honest, was actually pretty comfortable. The only bad part about my day yesterday was the fact that United Airlines managed to leave my luggage in San Francisco. I’m told it should be here today…

View from my window

After navigating (with the much-needed help of a Doshisha student) the Kyoto subway system to get to our keishikan (dorm), we checked in and headed down the street in search of food. Like stereotypical college students, we ended up wandering into a 7-11. I had a noodle dish with pork and vegetables. We all took it back to my friend Debbie’s room where we ate and introduced ourselves to each other.

Anyway, I’ll post more about the keishikan and the program later. I have to run downstairs for orientation and a campus and city tour!

Ja mata,


Ahhh, Spring in Blacksburg!

April 6, 2011

And we all know what that means…..horribly unpredictable weather. I spent yesterday in shorts enjoying nearly 80 degree sunshine, and I moseyed class today bundled up to fight the 35 degree mist. Hopefully tomorrow will bring some sunshine again, and we’ll be able to see everyone back out on the Drillfield playing soccer/frisbee/football/rugby/softball while, with some luck, I’ll get back out onto the golf course again.

A nice sunset over Blacksburg last week after a great round of golf

Anyways, a lot has gone on since my last post, and I feel like it’s becoming way too common for me to be apologizing for not writing sooner. Oh well, I’m just enjoying the ride that is college while trying to get all of my class work done as well as do the work for the other activities in which I’m involved, and most of the time, I’d rather spend most of my time doing that extra work. One of my favorite organizations I’ve been involved with is the Leaders Cultivating Virginia Association (like us on Facebook!), and tonight we had the opportunity to present a really exciting speaker here in Blacksburg.

Matt Lohr is the current Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture and a 1995 Virginia Tech graduate in Ag Education and Ag Econ, and we were lucky enough to have him speak on campus tonight. He talked about his background growing up on a diverse farm in Rockingham County, his time in FFA and how that shaped him as a person, what he gained from his experience at Virginia Tech, as an ag education teacher, and farmer, and his experience serving in the Virginia House of Delegates and as Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture.

One of the main points of Mr. Lohr’s talk tonight was that to be successful, in agriculture or in any industry, we have to be dreamers, that is we have to set high goals for ourselves and continue to work everyday towards those goals. Along the way, we may not be dealt the best of hands in life, but with hard work and dedication to the things we love, we can make a difference.

VA Commissioner of Ag Matt Lohr

Mr. Lohr is an excellent example of someone in agriculture taking that extra initiative to reach out and bridge the gap between ag and those who are not familiar with our industry. When he began serving in the House of Delegates in 2006, he was the ONLY FARMER in the entire 140-member General Assembly. Throughout his career, he has used his experience in agriculture to be a voice for the industry to communicate with non-aggies while working toward solutions for the ag industry’s most pressing problems. As Commissioner, he has worked with Virginia farmers to set the best course for Chesapeake Bay clean-up and with international governments to market Virginia farm products.

That’s all for now. I still have a lot of work to do on the Ag Econ Club BBQ fundraiser, a paper to write for a poli sci class, a take home Environmental Law quiz,  and more planning for my (hopefully-still-happening) trip to Japan this summer. Maybe tomorrow will be back to that Virginia spring weather we know and love.

Take Care,


National Ag Week in Review

March 22, 2011

Wow, my blogging goals are really not being met…

I think I’ve gotten to that point in the semester where I realized that I have signed on for about a hundred too many responsibilities on top of classes. As one of my good friends put it yesterday in a want ad on Facebook, “Overload mode: considering hiring an unpaid intern. Apply within.”

So, finding time time to blog among all of my other work has been a challenging task, to say the least (“BLOG” has been camping out at the top of my to do list for about three weeks now). I’m excited to find a few minutes this morning where I can actually sit down at the computer and type this out.

First things first, last week was National Agriculture Week! Here’s a column I wrote last week in celebration in the Collegiate Times. I was also honored to be selected by Virginia 4-H to go to Washington, DC and speak for agriculture with about 100 other students from around the country. Students representing all sorts of agriculture organizations (FFA, AGR, Farmhouse, Sigma Alpha, 4-H, Agriculture Future of America, NAMA, etc.) were gathered at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase by the Agriculture Council of America to learn about how to speak for our industry and discuss issues that are important to us. I met lots of great new people and learned a lot about the different issues affecting all of the different sectors within the agriculture industry.

On March 15th, National Agriculture Day, we traveled into the District and spent some time on Capitol Hill visiting with our elected officials and sharing the importance of agriculture. We weren’t really lobbying for any specific issue, but rather, we were trying to spread the word about how essential agriculture is to the future of the United States and to the world. I talk about a lot of this in my column, but one of our main points was that farmers and ranchers are working hard each and every day to use the latest production practices and technologies to continue to feed a rapidly growing world population while being good stewards of the environment and protecting our resources for future use. We were met mainly with great enthusiasm, except for my little run-in with Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), which I’m going to blog/write a column about very soon. Basically, he informed me that farmers and ranchers don’t care about the environment, and that “big agriculture” causing widespread economic and environmental problems. I offered him an open invitation to my family’s farm in Southwest Virginia, but I doubt we’ll be seeing him pull up the driveway any time soon…

The Virginia folks with Congressman Goodlatte

Others, like (former House Ag Committee Chair) Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) were very supportive. He did offer some words though that agriculture (as well as everyone else) should be bracing for budget cuts as no program or area is off the table to be looked at to be cut. We stressed the importance of agricultural youth education through programs like 4-H and FFA, and he was very receptive.

Anyway, that about sums up my National Ag Day experience. Check out AgWired for further coverage, including interviews with me and some other attendees about why we were there.

This week is shaping up to be another busy one, so it’s hard to say when I’ll be able to post again. I’ve got two tests, research to do, meetings with professors, planning for my summer trip to Japan (which is still on at the moment), and preparation for this year’s Ag Econ BBQ. Also, I’m a finalist to serve as the Undergraduate Representative to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, and I am interviewing with the Board on Sunday. So, much of this week will be spent in preparation for that.

Thanks for reading!


Long Time, No Blog

February 23, 2011

Wow, it’s definitely been a crazy two weeks since I got back from Texas! It’s that time of the semester when midterms have been happening, and to be honest, studying has taken most of my time lately. With that said, I’m sorry for the long time between posts.

Earlier this month, after the Cattle Industry Convention, we in Virginia had our state cattlemen’s convention in Roanoke, which is a short drive up the road from Blacksburg. At the convention, many cattlemen and women gathered from across the Commonwealth got together to discuss the industry and learn about issues going on within it. We had some great talks from both Colin Woodall and Gregg Doud from NCBA as well as many other industry leaders.

Me presenting at the Virginia Cattlemen's Convention on social media in the beef industry

I was very excited to have the opportunity as a part of the Collegiate Beef Leadership Council to present a workshop, along with Scott Bennett, about utilizing social networking tools to connect with others in the industry and spread our message to consumers. One of the main points that we tried to really stress is that social networking, via Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc, is becoming an ever-important tool for the beef industry–and really all of agriculture–to form relationships with our consumers, with the people who are really interested and curious about what we do. Being active in this way is really going to play a big role in how we are able to communicate with people and how our industry is perceived.

With that said, we cannot forget to communicate in more traditional ways with folks. I literally just had a conversation with someone in my dorm’s hallway about the safety of beef products and how that’s related to how we raise cattle on my family’s farm. It’s always going to be important to communicate why we do what we do with consumers, and the bottom line is that they TRUST us to give them the right information. It is our responsibility as people within the industry to be active in telling our personal stories.

Well, that’s all for now. I don’t have any big exams this week, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on. I am interviewing Wednesday night for an Undergraduate Representative position on Tech’s Board of Visitors, and I’m meeting later this week with a university librarian to get some guidance on background research for some work I’m doing on Japan-United States ag trade relations. Also, I’ve been communicating with the Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture’s office to get Commissioner Matt Lohr to Blacksburg to speak this spring; I’ll spread the word on more details once those are worked out.

Take Care,


Back to Blacksburg!

February 8, 2011

Corpus Christi skyline from the bay

Well, as I sit here in the hotel lobby in Corpus Christi waiting for our group’s shuttle back to the airport, I reflect back on what I learned during this year’s Southern Ag Econ Association meeting.

First of all, I had the opportunity to view some really interesting paper presentations, including one on nutrient credit trading programs presented by my friend Annah. I love to be able to see the cutting edge in agricultural and environmental economic research going on across the country from leading researchers in our land-grant universities. Also, I really enjoyed being able to be at this conference during a pivotal time for the agricultural economics field. We are at a time now when the agriculture community is going to be relying a lot on the research and knowledge of folks who understand economics and how ag markets function. Unfortunately, many people, especially some at universities, are questioning ag econ’s role. One of the main questions they ask is, “Why do we need two economics departments?” Ag economists must be able to define ourselves as applied problem solvers who are indispensable in resolving the issues in agriculture and continuing to feed the world. This was the message of Texas Tech professor Darren Hudson’s talk at lunch yesterday. And, even though I don’t see myself as someone who is going to take my education to the point where I’ll be doing economic research at a university for a career, I feel like I have greatly benefited from being a part of the ag econ program, and I am very passionate about what ag econ does and convinced in the value of ag econ programs around the country.

This morning at breakfast, we heard the keynote speaker for the conference, Mr. James Dodson, a cotton farmer and Vice Chair of Farm Credit Bank of Texas. He talked about the present and the future of agriculture, and much of his talk was directed toward students. His main point was that for people to be successful in agriculture, we have to have to have a strong financial system, be able to connect with our consumers, and possess initiative and entrepreneurship to continue to be world ag leaders.  Mr. Dodson really connected with all of the folks in our group, and I think we all appreciate having the opportunity to hear him speak.

Virginia Tech Ag Econ enjoying some Whataburger

Finally, I really enjoyed getting to spend some time with my fellow quiz bowl team members and classmates. Getting to spend three days with them in this beautiful weather was definitely a highlight of this trip, and now I’m really looking forward to the rest of this semester.

On my plate for the rest of the week: stats test, LCVA meeting, and Ag Econ Club meeting tomorrow; Virginia Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting in Roanoke Thursday night and Friday afternoon, environmental law exam, and finally, the LSAT on Saturday (for which I’m going to need a lot of luck). Hopefully I’ll be able to post again after all of that madness calms down. Until then, it’s back to that chilly Blacksburg weather!


Another Airport, Another Post: Convention Wrap-up

February 5, 2011

Fellow NCBA interns Kay, Laura, Katie, and Michael at the airport in Denver

Once again, I’m writing this while sitting in an airport; this time, it’s Denver, and I’m waiting for flights to Houston then Corpus Christi for the Southern Ag Econ Association meetings and Quiz Bowl competition. I wish I had gotten to post some more throughout the week here at the 2011 Cattle Industry Convention, but NCBA kept all of us interns busy from before the sun came up until late into the night.

Even with the busy schedule, I have to say that this was a great convention! First of all, I met a great group of interns from all corners of the country. It’s really nice to meet a group of people my age who are as passionate about the industry as I am, and I’m sure that we’ll all stay connected throughout our careers in the industry. From doing our responsibilities for NCBA, to kicking field goals on Invesco Field, to enjoying the dancing and festivities of the convention parties, we really bonded and I’m sad to see everyone go.

Second, I really enjoyed getting to see how the industry is looking ahead to the future. This is an exciting time for beef producers. Cattle prices are at record highs, and new technology is allowing farmers and ranchers to produce more high-quality beef for consumers around the world. And speaking of around the world, US beef producers are also expected to export more and more beef to countries around the globe, and people are very excited about beef’s future in global markets. In the end though, a common theme of this convention is that beef producers need to stick together to stand up to intrusive government regulation and the activists who portray our industry negatively. It’s only if we work together that we can move forward and continue to be successful in providing the world with a safe, wholesome food source.

Well, that’s all from Denver. Check out my Twitter for updates from the convention, and check out the #NCBA11 feed as well. Next stop: Corpus Christi for Ag Econ Quiz Bowl. The weather is supposed to be sunny and 60s in South Texas, so maybe I’ll finally get to wear the sunglasses I brought!

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