“You don’t belong”

By Faryal Sharif
Marion, Indiana
Community Leadership


“Sometimes I want to move to Ecuador and work on Jorge’s farm,” I say to him on the phone, referencing a friend I’d met last summer.

He laughs at me. “You couldn’t handle that.”

These were the words said to me by the man I was dating at the time. He had grown up on a farm near Celina, Ohio, and hadn’t realized that I had just recently declared my major in the College of Agriculture at The Ohio State University. Those few words stuck with me for the next few days, and the following thought went through my head: “I’m not cut out for this, I’m not cut out for this, I’m not cut out for this.” When I questioned myself, the reply from the back of my head was “You don’t belong in Ag. You’re a small, wimpy, non-white, woman.”

When I first chose to study Community Leadership with a specialty in Extension, I had little grasp on what any of those words really meant. I just wanted to declare a major and move forward in my college career. But, as I fell deeper down the rabbit hole of my degree, I realized this was what I wanted to do. Despite not growing up in the exactly the same rural environment as many of my peers in ACEL, I’ve had a deep desire to work on farms, to help and connect with the people of rural America, and to be an advocate for citizens at the community level. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why I wanted to do it, and because it was so hard to understand, I continued to argue with myself. Maybe I had a deep desire, but, well, was I really cut out for this? Once again, myself told myself: “You don’t belong. You’re a small, wimpy, non-white, woman.”

This attitude continued. I thought about changing my major. I thought about quitting college—if I wasn’t going to do this, I had no idea what to do otherwise. But I liked the discipline. I liked my classes, I liked West Campus, and I liked Columbus. I enjoyed the concept of leadership as something that could enable otherwise disadvantaged groups. Yet, I wondered what it would be like if I actually pursued a career specifically in the ag sector. Would people judge me for not knowing everything? Would I constantly feel out of the place? As I continued studying and doing job shadows of people in extension, I still couldn’t shake the thought: “You don’t belong. You’re a small, wimpy, non-white, woman.”

Then something magical happened. This summer I did an internship at Franklinton Gardens, an urban farm in Columbus. During my time there I started to get more involved in the field, traveling to places like Athens to work on more rural farms and interact more closely with members of the community. I packed CSAs and harvested tomatoes and planted microgreens. Every day of work, I would sweat and labor. One day, toward the end of my internship, I was clearing out some old beds to plant new crop. As I pushed a broad fork into some particularly stubborn soil, the following words resonated in my head, “You couldn’t handle that.” I smiled to myself. I just did. I went to lunch. Everyone around me loved and respected me. I wasn’t judged or told I was weak. I could do this. I was empowered.

That’s not to say everything that was in my head was completely wrong. Historically, women have not been invited to the big kid table in the field of agriculture, despite often being the backbone of the farming community. Women were expected to not only help in labor intensive work on the farm, but also be the ideal mother, daughter, and wife. In America, the role of people of color in farming had become invisible in many ways, as they lack access to many extension resources and are un-included in the agrarian identity. But, well, it wasn’t like we couldn’t actually DO it. It’s just that so many of us have been afraid to step up. We worry about the discrimination we may face and whether or not our qualifications will be undermined. But someone has to bear the burden. Someone has to help change the face of our agricultural landscape, and tell the girl who was majoring in Extension that “yes, you can belong.”

I graduate in a few weeks. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do. One day, I’d like to teach young people about the power of farming and good food that I had come to realize, and become a leader at the community level. Mostly, I want to continue getting my hands dirty with the soil of America. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go to Ecuador and work on Jorge’s farm.



Faryal at the Franklinton Gardens with fresh tomatoes.


Honduras Visit Video

In October, members of the ACEL faculty and staff traveled to Choluteca, Honduras. During this short trip, they met with the Ministry of Education, the advisory board of the Choluteca Vocational School, visited rural villages, the mercado and leadership team of World Gospel Mission.

Dr. Jamie Cano and W. Tyler Agner were recognized by the mayor of Choluteca for the work they have been doing to improve the lives of the residents in the city.

This short video captures the highlights of the trip.


Each year, students from CFAES travel to Choluteca, Honduras as part of the a community development study abroad offered through the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership. The education abroad experience will travel again in May 2017. More details here.

Students interested in this program should attend the upcoming info session on December 1, 2016 at 6pm in 246 Agricultural Administration.

My American FFA Degree: Joanna Lininger

By: Joanna Lininger
Agricultural Communication

As a member of the Mohawk FFA chapter near Sycamore, Ohio, I was involved in activities from soil judging to job interview contests.  My Supervised Agricultural Experience included 173 acres of crop production and starting my own Boer goat breeding herd.

Receiving my American Degree proves that all of the dedication and hard work that I gave to the program was worth it.  I have learned a great deal through FFA and my love of agriculture grew.  In fact, I most likely would not be a student at The Ohio State University studying agricultural communications without FFA.

Through FFA, I was introduced to the Columbus campus and all of the opportunities it had to offer.  I am thankful for my experiences in FFA and honored to receive my American Degree.


My American Degree: Katie Fath

By: Katie Fath
Agriscience Education

In 2011, I zipped up my FFA jacket for the first time as a greenhand, from there I had no idea where that blue corduroy jacket was going to take me. In that jacket I have achieved so much, made many friends, went many places, and made many memories. It ended up showing me what my true passion was and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I found a true passion for agriculture and I decided I wanted to become an agriculture teacher and change lives of all the greenhands that walk into my classroom.

As I zipped up my FFA jacket one last time to receive my American Degree I realized without my FFA advisor and this amazing organization that cares so much for the future of agriculture and forming teens to be true leaders, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It shaped me to be the strong, courteous, independent women I am and lead me to setting goals and the will to achieve my goals like earning the high degree and FFA member can receive. Thank you to my family and friends who pushed me to be the best I can be.


Meet the Faculty: Mary Kivel

Loving to travel and hike, one of the newest faces to the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL) is Mary Kivel. The graduate and eLearning coordinator for ACEL, Mary works primarily with graduate students and helps with the eLearning within the department.

For the five years prior to becoming a member of  ACEL, Mary worked with graduate students in the College of Pharmacy. Prior to working at Ohio State, Mary worked at the high school level as an English teacher in Arizona, putting her English degree she earned as an undergraduate at Ohio State to good use. She has also previously worked on outreach programs with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

Day-to-day, Mary helps graduate students in a variety of facets, ranging from helping them apply to the program, to assisting them in orientation, to the minute nitty-gritty daily struggles graduate students might have. As for the eLearning, Mary helps with the online master’s program along with the eLearning that the department has for the face-to-face courses.

She advises students not to be afraid to ask questions. Mary says that within the department there is always someone to help. To contact Mary about any graduate questions within the department of ACEL, email kivel.1@osu.edu.


My American Degree: Abby Motter

By: Abby Motter
Agriscience Education

You can’t help but be overwhelmed with powerful memories when you zip up that corduroy jacket for what will be the last time. You remember what it was like trying it on for the first time as a freshman, how much anticipation and excitement you had for the years ahead. How funny official dress seemed, how baggy the jacket was for your scrawny body, and how strange panty hose felt. You remember the trips, the contests, the friends, the funny moments, and the transformation from what you were, to what you are becoming. You hold on to the happy times and the exaggerated simplicity of life as a high schooler. You remember the first paragraph of the FFA creed, the rules for Division of the House, and to tuck in your tally-wacker. You know the impact you can have on a younger member, and the powerful influence your FFA Advisor continually has on you and countless other students.


Most importantly you recognize that when you take off that jacket for the final time you have a responsibility. The support of your family, friends, community, and school – anybody who ever once bought a case of citrus trio, bid up your feeder calf at the fair, attended your chapter banquet, or coached your soils team, gave you the gift of the FFA. There was only one catch – now it is your turn to give back to the organization that has given us all so much. Receiving the American FFA Degree is noteworthy, yes; it signifies over 5 years of dedication to premier leadership, personal growth, and career success. However, the American FFA Degree is an opportunity to sit on the other side of the desk, and serve the next generation of blue jackets.


This year I have the amazing opportunity to watch my sister begin her journey in the FFA. When I hung up the jacket a little over a week ago I held on to the memories, knowing my sister is already making her own. I am excited to serve this great organization as an alumna, and work towards fulfilling my dream of becoming an Agricultural Educator and FFA Advisor. I know that my role as “Miss Motter” enables me to encourage more students to find their potential, chase after their dreams, and walk across that stage at National Convention one final time.

My American FFA Degree: Cody McClain

Cody McClain
Agriscience Education



The American FFA degree is the highest degree that an FFA member can receive, and I had the opportunity to receive this honorable degree on October 22, 2016.

Throughout my lifetime, I have always strived to reach my fullest potential regardless of the obstacles that I faced. Receiving my American FFA degree was a goal that I set for myself after I had attended my first National FFA convention my freshman year of high school. I was born and raised on a grain production farm, and I had the opportunity to have many first hand experiences with growing and harvest crops for production agriculture. These experiences guided my passion for agriculture and everlasting interest to be active in the industry.

When I joined the Upper Sandusky FFA, I soon realized that I would be able to practice my very own agriculture business through an supervise agriculture experience project, which lead me to seek out the other endeavors in FFA such as the National American degree. As I endured my final State FFA convention, I recognize the impact that the FFA organization made in my life, so I decide at that moment that I wanted to continue to pursue my passion for agriculture and make a difference in the lives of other agriculturist as a FFA advisor.

Since the application deadline for the OSU Columbus had closed, I decided to attend Ohio State ATI. This was the beginning of a journey that created remarkable memories and allowed me to continue my tradition of excellence in the field of agriculture.

Even thought I retired my FFA jacket and finish a chapter of my life, I have began another chapter that will be fulfilled with new and exciting experiences. The American FFA degree is a major milestone in my life that will benefit my future success as an educator. To this end, I am thrilled that I am studying to be an agricultural educator and hope to help today’s youth in agriculture be able to wear their FFA jacket proudly and receive their American FFA degree.

My American FFA Degree: Micah Mensing

Micah Mensing
Oak Harbor, Ohio
Agriscience Education

I can remember six years ago sitting in the Agriscience Education classroom at Oak Harbor High School. As I worked through my freshman year I had the opportunity to experience state FFA convention. This experience ignited my passion for the FFA as I learned of the multitude of opportunities I could take advantage of over the next four years.

During those inspirational days as I thought about my future in this incredible organization I dreamed of one day having the opportunity to be recognized on the state and national level. Fortunately enough throughout my FFA journey my Supervised Agriculture Experience developed, and opportunities to serve my community increased. These events combined with my passion for agriculture allowed me to receive my State FFA Degree. Receiving this degree inspired me to set a new goal, I was determined to one day walk across the stage at National FFA Convention and receive the highest degree one could earn.

Fast-forward two years to this weekend when I zipped up my blue jacket for the final time. Emotions of thankfulness, passion, and excitement all filled my heart as I prepared to complete my final goal as a member. As I consider my accomplishment I am forever thankful for the incredible people that have guided and impacted me along the way, the life lessons that I have learned, and the experiences that have built me to be the person that I am today while on the journey to receive the American FFA Degree.


Where Are They Now? Dan Toland


Dan Toland, a 2005 agricultural communication graduate, took the agricultural world by storm as he introduced and implemented the use of social media to promote and enhance agriculture.

Now a Delta Theta Sigma Fraternity alum, Dan spent time in college honing his communication skills as the editor of the AgriNaturalist and as an intern as a correspondent for Farm World newspaper.

Dan and wife Stephanie cheering on the Buckeys

Dan and wife Stephanie cheering on the Buckeyes

After working at a sportswear company in Wooster, OH in the role of sales, service, and graphic design following graduation, Dan landed a job at Ohio Farm Bureau Federation in 2007. At OFBF Dan was the website editor while also writing for the Buckeye Farm News and Our Ohio publications.

At the time when social media was emerging as a big driving force in the communication world, Dan was assigned the role of taking it on at OFBF. Making head-turning moves, Dan created a social media platform for OFBF that caught the attention of organizations across the country. The impact and presence that OFBF had in the digital world due to Dan’s adept attention to their social media was groundbreaking for an agricultural organization to do.

Realizing that having farmers tell their own stories was the most effective way to get a message across, Dan posted a guide for farmers to use social media for “agvocacy” on Ohio Farm Bureau’s website. This “guide” bolstered Dan’s expertise and he soon found himself traveling all over Ohio conducting training for farmers and agribusiness professionals to use social media as an effective form of their communication and agricultural advocacy.

Calls from various publications and other organizations around the country started pouring in, all asking Dan the same question- “How was agriculture applying social media?” Dan became a featured speaker, presenter, and trainer at conferences both national and international. He was invited to speak not only on behalf of the agricultural industry, but oftentimes solely because of his grasp on social media as a whole. These successes helped him transition into the role of director of digital strategy for Ohio Farm Bureau, at the same time becoming involved with the AgChat Foundation.

Today, Dan’s professional career has led him to a position as an account manager for Wilt Public Relations, which is a small startup, full-scale public relations, marketing, and communications firm based in Springfield, Ohio. Specializing in biosciences, the company helps clients in the agriculture, energy and environment, and health and wellness sectors with any and all of their communication needs.

Dan is thankful for a very progressive, trusting and flexible boss, who allows him to have a very good work-life balance. Dan works out of my home office in Findlay, Ohio, 60-75 percent of the time, while also making regular trips to the Springfield office as well as client visits and such.

“In addition to account management, you could also say that I’m the office technology nerd. I am a big proponent of taking advantage of today’s technology to enhance work and collaboration, allowing our workforce to work where they want, how they want and always be connected and have everything a their fingertips to get their job done,” says Dan.

For future or current students, Dan says that the opportunities in agriculture are there for the taking. While internships are key in gaining experience, he stressesthe importance of staying humble and applying an attitude of continual learning and improvement.

He advises to view social networks as living, breathing resumes for prospective employers, so it is a smart idea to take a solid inventory and evaluation of how you represent yourself online.

Dan loves spending time with his family, including wife Stephanie, 7-year-old daughter Lily, and 1-year-old son Oliver. A Cleveland sports fanatic, Dan admits the Cleveland Browns have shortened his lifespan, but his loyalty is unyielding, and this loyalty for Cleveland is shown as Dan admitted, “I cried for three days after the Cavs FINALLY brought a championship to Cleveland.” With the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, you can bet that family time in the Toland household is consisting of a lot of baseball-watching.

Lily Toland

Lily Toland

Dan with son Oliver

Dan with son Oliver

My American FFA Degree: Kelse Brown

Kelse Brown
Edgerton, Ohio
Agriscience Education

Receiving my American FFA degree is the highest honor a member of the National FFA organization can receive. For me to receive this award is a great honor and has marked an end to my journey as a student/member of the FFA. Of an organization that has grown to over 600,000 members, I am a part of the 1% that has made the ultimate achievement of earning this degree. Over the past 6 years I have been able to meet some pretty amazing people and had the chance to engage in opportunities that never would have been possible without the FFA. I may have unzipped my jacket for the final time but the memories made, the lessons learned, and the passion and desire for success will stay close to me forever. I will always be a supporter of the National FFA Organization.


Kelse Brown, American FFA Degree recipient