Thursday, March 31, 2016

28 Things That Inspired my 50 State Roadtrip

I'm overwhelmed by how many people have responded to my less than traditional post-graduation plans. When I made the decision to roadtrip to all 50 states blogging about food, travel and agriculture, I was nervous people would think I was crazy. Instead, people have been incredibly supportive and curious to know more. Everyone asks, "Why!?" It's a long answer, but here's what I came up with on a plane ride home from Texas.

1. Why I Farm - I'll never forget sitting in the basement of Carver Hall at an Agricultural Business Club meeting with goosebumps as I watched my first Why I Farm video. Every time I watch one, I can feel that same emotional lump rise in my throat. From that first clip, I knew I wanted to tell stories like that. 

2. Humans of New York - Everyone has a story. Brandon, the photographer behind the famous blog, tells people's stories in such an authentic way. After following HONY for years, I feel as though I know hundreds of New Yorkers even though I've never set foot in the city - yet. Reading just a paragraph or two about these people makes me think differently about who I meet in the airport or walking to class. I have no idea what their story may be, but they're human, and their story matters.

3. This Viral 50 State Roadtrip post - About a year ago there was a viral Facebook post about the shortest route to all 50 states. After seeing it, I couldn't think about anything but loading up my car and hitting the road for days.

4. Coriell cousins - Growing up, I had lots of older cousins to admire. I always looked up to my Coriell cousins because they were awesome at Uno and made the best whirlpools when we went swimming at hotels. They also traveled tons. I distinctly remember standing in front of a map of the United States in the hotel lobby of AmericInn in Whitewater, Wisconsin watching them point out all the states they'd been to. I thought to myself, "Whoa... I want to be like that some day!"
I don't know how it started, but I do love to travel!

5.  Travel bug - I don't know if it was the countless road trips to Des Moines and Wisconsin as a kid, or my international experiences in Spain and Ireland. Somewhere along the way I was bit by the travel bug and I can't seem to shake it.

6. College industry tours - If you've been following my journey for long, you know industry tours have been the highlights of my college years. There's just something about learning why people do what they do and seeing them in their element I can't get enough of.

7.  FFA & Katie (Lewis) McWhirter - You know those people in your life you just can't picture your life without? Katie McWhirter, my high school FFA advisor, is one of those people. Her passion for agriculture, the sacrifices she made for us students, and her perseverance through tough situations are just a few of the things I've always admired about her. She's positively impacted so many people. Without her listening ear or encouraging words I wouldn't be at Iowa State.

8. My dad - Without a doubt, my dad has inspired this trip. I can't point to a specific thing he said or did, but there's no question he's a big piece of my adventure. It's hard to put into words all he's taught me and how much his support means, but here's my best attempt from last Father's Day.
I'm so thankful for my parent's support of this next
adventure in my life.

9. My mom - Nearly every time I visit family I hear, "You know, you're just like your mom." or "Aren't you just a little Melissa?" I take it as a compliment. It's fair to say I have her to thank for my independent spirit and love of life on the go.

10. The grocery store - Maybe this post is revealing a few too many of my quirks, but sometimes walking through the grocery store blows my mind. Do you ever stop and think about all the people and places behind the colorful fruits and vegetables? Or the journey your ice cream has made from the dairy?

11. Clipping news articles at Beck's - One of my jobs at Beck's last summer was skimming publications and clipping articles. I read so many farmer spotlights. Each time I finished the story, I had this urge to go visit the farm. There are so many caring, innovative, passionate people in rural America. I want to meet them all!

12. Farmland Screening & Panel event - Last year I helped organize the Farmland Screening and Panel event at Iowa State. Seeing 6 men and women with farms as different as they come enjoy each other's company and telling positive stories about all types of agriculture was so inspiring.
These girls have taken jobs in the ag industry all around
the country. I can't wait to visit them while I'm traveling!
Photo Credit: Creative Spirits in Ames, IA

13.  College peers - As graduation gets closer and closer, my friends are getting spread further across the country. Everything they are accomplishing is so exciting - I want to see it all. So, I'm going to. I've been waiting four years to see their hometowns or new jobs. This is my chance.

14. My passion for agriculture - Growing up in rural Iowa, it's not hard to pick up a little bit about corn, soybeans, cattle, and hogs. Going to Iowa State, I've tried to learn more. Driving around the state only makes me more curious about the crops I haven't seen. What about almonds? And peaches? Or alpacas? I'm on a mission to find out.

15. "You have to leave home to appreciate where you came from." - I remember Katie McWhirter telling us it's okay to come back to our hometown, but leave and get other experiences first. As I look back, this couldn't have been better advice. I appreciate all Columbus Junction taught me now that I've been somewhere else. That's part of what is Roots Journey is all about.
Interning at Enchanted Acres was a fantastic learning

16. Enchanted Acres - My first internship was amazing for so many reasons. One of the best parts was seeing people experience agriculture hands on for the first time. Watching kids' face light up when they made the connection between pumpkin pie they had for snack and the pumpkins they picked in our patch was priceless.

17. Iowa Corn - Interning at Iowa Corn was just as great, although totally different. I've blogged about this summer before, but I could go on and on. Being part of the team coordinating the Iowa Corn Indy 300 gave me a lot of awesome event planning experience - and the confidence I needed to start to planning my trip.

18. "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." - Anyone who's been involved in Agricultural Business at Iowa State has heard this quote at least a few times. It's so true. I've had the goal of traveling to all 50 states for a long time, but it's not something that is just going to happen. So, I'm taking my shot.

19. "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." - In high school I ran, and we heard this Steve Prefontain quote a lot. I've been given the gift of farmer friends, freedoms to travel and write, and a passion. I can't waste this opportunity.

20. Farmers market vendor experience - I've always liked doing my own thing. When all my friends got jobs at the grocery store and dairy sweet, I decided to start my own farmers market business. To this day, I don't know of an adventure that has taught me more or given me more role models. Besides serving customers, I loved chatting with other vendors who had many more years of experience growing and making things for their local community. I witnessed the power of a local economy and the joys of getting to know your local farmer.
This duct tape prom dress was just
one of my out of the box ideas in
high school.

21. Anyone and everyone who has supported my crazy ideas over the years - To everyone who bought lemonade at the end of my driveway - you inspired me. To everyone who bought my scones and dog treats at farmers market - you inspired me. To everyone who thought I was still normal after wearing a duct tape prom dress - you inspired me. To everyone who cheered on my team as we raced a cardboard boat in the Mississippi - you inspired me. To everyone who believed in my blog as I stumbled through college - you inspired me.

22. Lady in Economart - A few years back, there was a moment in my rural hometown grocery store that solidified my personal goal of a career in agriculture. I was in the checkout line behind a woman who requested a new milk because "the cows had gotten to" hers. There was sand and dirt stuck to the condensation of her milk carton. It may have been dropped on the floor in the stocking process, but there was no way it could have been the cow's doing. Milk is hauled off the farm before it's put in the jug. Don't get me wrong, I'm not making fun of the woman - there are plenty of agriculture things I don't know. But in that moment I realized I'd been taking my ag teacher, and the friendly farmers around me for granted. Not everyone is fortunate enough to meet the people that feed and fuel their lifestyle, or visit a farm. That's when I decided it was my turn to step up to the plate to tell the story of agriculture.

23. #AgChat community - Over the last year or so, the AgChat community has taught me so much. Just by participating in the weekly Twitter discussions on Tuesday nights I've made many friends and been introduced to agriculture like almonds and dairy. The best part is, last November at AgChat Conference I met many of my virtual friends in real life. When I brought up my roadtrip plans, everyone was very supportive and eager to offer much needed advice.

24. AgVocates - There are so many amazing agvocates I've learned from and look up to. Each time the Peterson Farm Brothers come out with a new video or a new blog post from one of my favorite ag bloggers pings into my inbox I'm inspired to do more.

25. God and His creation - The creatures God created and the people He has made to be stewards of his creation amaze me every day. Creation and the great Creator are ultimately what inspires me.

26. Century and Heritage Farm Award Winners - I'm always up for a good story, especially old ones. There are generations of great stories hidden among the sweat and stewardship put into these 100 and 150 year old farms. I really want to know them. 

27. Janice Person's A to Z lists - Janice has a really cool list of Farms A to Z on her blog. Just like when I was skimming articles for Beck's, each time I read about a new farm I wanted to visit. I wanted to get coffee or take a round in the tractor with everyone she wrote about!

28. Farmers - Last but not least, I'm inspired by farmers big and small, each doing their part to provide their world with choices of feed, fuel, and clothing. Many do their job with little recognition. The day to day chores leave little time to tell their story. That's why I get out of bed.

It is always dangerous to start naming people and places who've made an impact on you. I know I've missed some, but I think it's worse to keep this list to myself. Please know this post isn't an exhaustive, and the order is not significant. The point is, why not roadtrip to all 50 states? I have so many reasons why.

For more on my upcoming adventure check out the Why I Farm Roadtrip tab.


  1. This sounds like such a great adventure. A road trip to all 50 states is definitely on my bucketlist. Your reasons are all so inspiring and your passion about Ag, food and travel is very apparent. Can't wait to read more about it.

  2. Sounds like an amazing trip! I hope you have tons of fun and write lots of inspiring blog posts. Good luck!