Students Set Out to Tell “A Showman’s Story”

( Beth Lamp )

COVID-19 has stalled out many youth activities this summer but being “grounded” hasn’t stopped a small group of Iowa students from fulfilling their mission to increase agriculture awareness throughout the country. These students are part of CAC Media Group (CAC) and recently accepted a new challenge despite the pandemic: filming a livestock video titled, “A Showman’s Story.” 

This video, sponsored by Clinton County Iowa Farm Bureau and Sunglo Feeds, tells the story of Caleb Kruse, a young swine exhibitor who raises and shows purebred Durocs. CAC teamed up with Fresh Films, a nationally recognized film company, to produce this video, which is expected to be completed by September. 

With a passion for agriculture and communications, CAC wants to share the positive impact of agriculture on the world, their communities and most importantly, their own lives.

Jenna Stevens, executive director of CAC Media Group, started the group when she was a serving as a special education teacher at Northeast High School as a way to help students gain experience communicating about agriculture. When she was offered a position at the Clinton County Farm Bureau, she insisted the program go with her or she wouldn’t take the job. She is now supervising her fourth team since the program began.


Caleb Kruse shows his Duroc to judge Carson Deppe during the filming of "A Showman's Story."

One-of-a-Kind Opportunity
“Everybody should be able to experience agriculture even if they don’t live on a farm,” says Ella Krukow, a high school junior from Princeton, Iowa. She serves as CAC’s photographer.

CAC stands for Current Ag Concerns, but most of their communications work is geared specifically to the livestock industry, explains Beth Lamp, a high school senior from Charlotte, Iowa. 

They work for experience and simply because they love what they do. “We want to be a part of something that means something to agriculture. And that's where this group comes in,” Lamp says.

For Megan Clark, a high school junior from Welton, Iowa, agriculture has always been a part of her life. She shows cattle and lives on a diversified crop and cattle farm. She plans to pursue a future career in agricultural communications.

“As the population grows, we’re figuring out new things within technology and discovering different practices we can do,” Clark says. “It impacts everybody, whether it's the food you eat or the clothes you're wearing. The sky's the limit for things you can do with ag. Getting to be a part of that and spread positive light to it is something that I want to continue doing.”

CAC operates on funding from grants and awards. The group typically travels around the country covering agricultural events ranging from the National FFA Convention to the Velocity World Finals for the Professional Bull Riders in Las Vegas. 

“They were conducting interviews with the cowboys at the PBR before they had a driver's license,” Stevens says. “They were in the actual arena with their cameras shooting photography and doing social media posts. It's something that most adults don't even get to do, so to be out there as a student is a really cool opportunity.”


CAC Media Group filming "A Showman's Story."

Behind the Scenes
One of the purposes of CAC is to help the members develop skills they can take with them in communications. “A Showman’s Story” is not only helping them reach their goals to spread agriculture’s story, but it is also helping them learn new video production skills from filming to editing. 

“But, before we even started thinking about filming, we had to spend a lot of time thinking about what we were going to need for supplies and how many volunteers we needed to help put this video on,” Lamp says. 

Carter Mommsen, an eighth grader from Goose Lake, Iowa, is the newest member of CAC and says he learned a lot about graphic design through the video process. He was responsible for designing banners for use in the video as props. 

Fresh Films coached the students and helped them with the filming process. The students learned how to change the settings on their phone to get optimal video footage and discovered how to use new tools.

“It took us two days to film a seven-minute video because we were looking at different camera angles, deciding whether we wanted the shot facing forward or from the back. It was really cool to get to learn all about the different lighting and shadow effects that go into it as well,” Clark says. “Before you would think, ‘Oh, you just shoot it,’ but there's a lot more to it than that.”

In addition to learning about video production, Krukow says she also discovered how much hard work and effort go into caring for show livestock. The time and energy invested into the animals is impressive, she adds.

“I hope people who watch this video take away not only how much animals mean to the exhibitor, but also how much these projects mean to everyone else around them,” Lamp says. 


The crew that helped film, produce and enact "A Showman's Story."

Mythbusters
Clark hopes people watching the video can see the pride youth exhibitors take in raising their animals. She will be presenting a TEDx Talk next March about the negative images and ideas presented to people throughout social media about animal agriculture and her personal experiences with it. She says this video is one way to tell the true story of what happens in agriculture.

Although social media is a great tool, it also has its share of challenges. It can be full of mixed messages when it comes to agriculture, Clark says. People often don’t see the positive side of agriculture because of groups spreading lies to promote opposing agendas. 

“People get really confused because some things you see on social media can persuade your views so much,” Clark adds. 

She hopes CAC allows people to see that the newest generation of agriculturalists emerging and continuing to shed a positive light on an industry that truly keeps our world going. 

“One thing we have all noticed through CAC is just how little knowledge people in urban areas have about the agriculture industry. This video helps explain some of the things that go on and will give them more background about how we do things,” Mommsen says.

It's important to help make that connection between the producer and the consumer, he adds. 

“People need to know where their food comes from and how it's produced, especially with fewer people being directly tied to food production,” Mommsen says.

From writing weekly columns and taking photographs to hosting an ag broadcast for their local TV station and producing their first video, CAC is determined to do what they can to share agriculture’s story and promote what farmers do day in and day out to keep this world going.

To stay in touch with CAC and their projects, follow them on Facebook.

How has your child kept their 4-H experience going during COVID-19 despite canceled shows and events?

Farm Journal is celebrating 4-H during Farm Journal Field Days, the new American Farm Show—a free virtual event Aug. 25-27. Text photos or video of your 4-H’er and his or her project with the tag “FarmON” to 31313, or tag #FarmON on social media. Select photos and videos will be shown as part of the virtual #FarmON concert Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. Central on AgWeb.com, YouTube and RFD TV. Register now!

More from Farm Journal's PORK:

A Conflicted Mom’s Take on Showing Livestock During COVID

5 Reasons Why Your Child Should Join 4-H

Don’t Let the Challenges Hold You Back

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