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Today's word on journalism

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Career advice:

"Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was stabbed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire, then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer -- and if so, why?"

--Bennett Cerf (1898-1971), co-founder of Random House (Thanks to alert WORDster Tom McGuire)

Hard-working cattle rancher finds his future in raising agricultural awareness

By Maddie Wilson

November 16, 2007 | Ah, February. The snow was deep, the ice particles floated in the air and the cows were calving. And Bill Munns was out among it all at 6 a.m.

That's when the chores started on his family's ranch. Munns and his family woke up and fed the horses and cows, and laid hay to start the day. Fifty-five minutes later, Bill and his siblings caught the bus for the long ride to school.

They returned to the ranch at 3:30 in the afternoon to the after-school snack Mrs. Munns had waiting, and then headed straight outside to take care of the nighttime jobs. In the evening, they went out to the fields to check all the cows. They looked for cows that needed doctoring. And during this time of the year, they were careful to look for any new calves that were born during the day. They tagged these calves to match their mothers' and laid more hay for more births.

When it started getting dark, Mrs. Munns had dinner ready. After a long day of work, the Munns family headed to bed at 8:30, resting for the next day when they would do it all again. There was little time to do anything else.

"I don't remember doing a lot of homework," Munns said. Somehow, it still got done; he graduated from high school and is now a junior at USU.

Although Munns does not have the work schedule required on the ranch anymore, he still thinks about agriculture every day, among the many other activities and responsibilities he stuffs into his life. After all, agriculture is the science of life, he said.

Life is full of many other things for Munns. Take 2007 USU homecoming king, serving as the state vice president of the National FFA Organization, raising a grand champion steer, completing an internship with agriculture in Washington, D.C.; and of course, spooking his friends every now and then in the "haunted pig barn" back at his family's ranch. How does he do it all? Maybe his motto, "Work for what you believe in" has something to do with it.

Munns' work ethic was acquired by growing up on the 3,000-acre ranch, which might also suggest where his motto originated. His mother can recount times when Munns really did work hard for what he believed in, even if it was just himself.

Bill believes in himself, even when others do not, she said.

When he went to Bear River High School, Mrs. Munns recalled, he wanted to run for student body president. But, his peers told him not to run because he did not have any experience for the position. Even the girl he was running against told Bill he had no proper background. But Bill knew he could do it, and ran anyway. And he won.

"Bill wants to be a part of everything," Mrs. Munns said.

This included serving an LDS mission, which Munns said has been the greatest achievement of his life so far. But his method of paying for the mission was unique.

Munns raised his own small herds of cattle separate from the rest of the cattle on his parents' ranch. He kept records on them as he was raising them, and won production awards. One steer won grand champion in the Box Elder Fair in 2002. Munns was awarded $12,000, which paid for his entire mission in Toulouse, France.

Although cattle ranching played a prominent role in Munns' life, he said it is not something he would like to do for a living.

"I love that way of life, but it's something that's too hard for me," Munns said. However, he would like to have a "hobby farm" someday. Munns said that his oldest brother Sonny is next in line to inherit the ranch.

Still agriculture is important to Munns, and he hopes it is in his future, just in a different way. Munns was a member of the National FFA Organization for six years. The organization, which changed its name in 1988 from Future Farmers of America, deals with agricultural education. According to its Web site, the organization "is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education." Munns was the vice president of the Utah Chapter for a year in 2003.

Munns said he plans to use his agricultural education major and political science and economics minors to educate the public about beef production and nutrition whether in the high school arena or in Washington, D.C.

"I would like to pursue a short mini career in ag policy, working with the political side of the ag industry back in Washington," Munns said. He said he would like to work for the USDA, a senator on agricultural issues or the ag senate. After that, he said he wants to teach high school for a couple years while he finishes a higher degree. Then he'll move to university administration.

Munns wants to help people understand the necessity of agriculture, especially when it comes to family farms.

"You can't grow everything you need in a greenhouse," Munns said.

And people cannot live completely off the grocery store, he said. They need to know where their food comes from, and whether it is safe to eat.

He also wants to ensure the future of his family's ranch and promote the importance of the family farm. Munns said the family farm is disappearing. Farmland is threatened by higher demand. Land expenses are rising, and if they rise too high, he said families will not be able to afford the land and their farms will vanish.

Corporations are buying the land, but the farms need to stay, Munns said.

"Farming will always be necessary as long as we want to eat."

The family farm is important because they have ethics and values that corporate farms might not have, Munns said. Corporate farms do not have the "relationship with the ground" that family farms do.

Corporate farms have some benefits, though. Although Munns did not know whether corporations make more money than family farms, they can provide health and retirement benefits. Munns said his parents will never have a retirement plan, but they are able to sustain themselves for years with their ranch.

Aside from his agricultural efforts, Munns was awarded a USU Ambassador Scholarship, which requires that he work with recruiting students from high schools and community colleges around the state.

Munns' life has been full of work, and his future looks even busier, as he plans to run for ASUSU office in the spring (he said it is too early to disclose which office he will be running for). But, Mrs. Munns said he always seems to make it. Maybe it is because of the work ethic he learned from growing up on a ranch. Maybe it is because he has lived by the words "work, work, work." Maybe it's just his personality.

"Bill spreads himself thin, but always pulls through," Mrs. Munns said.

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