Q&A with Emma Morris, National and California Beef Ambassador
Nov./Dec. 2013 California Bountiful magazine
Name: Emma Morris
Age: 17, a senior at Etna High School
Where she lives: Etna, in Siskiyou County. Emma lives with her parents, grandparents and two brothers on a ranch that has been in her family since 1852.
Hobbies: Snowboarding, volleyball, basketball, riding horses, hiking, swimming and hanging out with friends
Earlier this year, 17-year-old Emma Morris won the title of California State Beef Ambassador, edging out 12 other competitors who were all older than Emma. In September, Emma represented California in the national competition and was one of five students selected as National Beef Ambassadors.
Why did you decide to enter the state competition in the first place?
I did it last year, too, and competed as a junior. Once I got involved in the Beef Ambassador Program and saw the opportunity, it really sparked my interest because I live and breathe agriculture, so why not advocate for it?
What did you win as a state ambassador?
I won $550 from the California CattleWomen and an all-expense-paid trip for two to the nationals in Arkansas.
What were you required to do in the state competition?
There were three parts I was judged on: media, consumer and a current issue. The media portion is a mock interview to see how you respond to issues about beef and telling your beef story. The consumer part is a mock consumer interaction to see how you'd respond if consumers asked you questions. You're judged on poise, your answer and knowledge about the industry. Then we wrote a 250-word response to a current issue about animal welfare.
What was your response?
I said there are many measures that the beef industry and beef producers take to ensure animal welfare. Basically, it's our top priority because it is our livelihood. Keeping animals happy and healthy is what we aim to do. There are many programs such as Beef Quality Assurance that farmers follow to ensure animal welfare. We want to show consumers that we do treat animals right and we are looking for happy animals, and ultimately, a wholesome product.
Where did you learn so much about beef and cattle?
I can't tell you how priceless the lessons are that I have learned on my own ranch, from my dad and grandpa and watching them. I also took the MBA (Masters of Beef Advocacy) program online and it gave me a ton of info about the beef industry. And I work closely with Melanie Fowle, the past California CattleWomen's president.
So you raise cattle on your ranch?
Actually, we grow alfalfa hay. That's our main source of income. We also grow wheat occasionally as a rotation crop. This year, we also did 40 acres of sunflowers. We have about 70 cattle on our ranch. We sell them live at auctions. We also raise steer for the fair, and we always butcher our back-up steer, so we eat beef off of our own ranch.
What is your favorite cut of beef to eat?
Probably a top sirloin. It's just really juicy and good. But I also love the hamburger we get from our steers because you can do so much with it – from tacos to cheeseburgers to whatever. I eat beef on a daily basis.
What are you hoping to get out of this whole experience?
I hope to major in ag communications or get a communications degree. Also, having so much knowledge of an industry is rewarding because even just talking to my friends, I am able to give them information about beef … and share the positivity of the industry.
Where do you want to go to college?
I am looking at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, possibly Davis or Chico. They have a good ag program, a good Young Farmers and Ranchers program—and a volleyball team, too!
What kinds of jobs in agriculture interest you?
I was just at the Beef Council office and they pretty much run everything beef in California, so I think that would be a great job for me when I'm older. I thought about going into ag law with an ag communications emphasis.
What are your duties as a National Beef Ambassador?
It's a year-long post. We do a ton of advocating for beef as a team. We go to major events. They were at the Boston Marathon this year and the World Ag Expo. A lot of major events are on the East Coast because of the higher population and because they aren't as educated on the East Coast about beef, I think, as they are on the West Coast.
Are you having fun?
Yes, definitely. It's a little out of my comfort zone talking to people and approaching them. But it's been really cool to see how much positive feedback I get.