Driving a “moving beef billboard” — a van covered with grilled steaks promoting America's beef checkoff program — certainly ranksp as one of the most unique, perhaps even silliest, jobs ever.
But 25-year-old Tracey Orsburn doesn't give it a second thought. For Orsburn, who is marshalling the Beefmobile on its second tour across the country, the job represents an opportunity to deliver a serious message.
“My goal is to inform beef producers how their checkoff money is being spent,” says the Nebraska native, who hangs her hat in Harrison, NE, when she's not on the road on behalf of the beef industry.
In her quest to inform and educate, Orsburn, who earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture education from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 2002, has traveled to 32 states in the Beefmobile and logged 47,000 miles — all in about 10 months. She primarily visits livestock auction markets, where the colorful van attracts plenty of attention.
Additionally, Orsburn sets up a display table with checkoff information and addresses the crowd with a five-minute synopsis of what checkoff dollars have done for the industry. She highlights everything from promotion and marketing to research development of new products, consumer safety education, and industry enhancements through programs like Beef Quality Assurance.
Her favorite part of the job is simply talking with producers, she says.
“I think it's important to be that one-on-one person for people to talk to,” she says, adding, “I'm not out to change people's minds, but I want to give them examples of how checkoff dollars are spent and the resulting products and programs that benefit the industry.”
Orsburn and her Beefmobile also have visited grocery stores, Wal-Marts, food festivals, and such large livestock events as the National Western Stock Show in Denver.
A people person
What prepared Orsburn for her unique job? She credits two years of teaching high school agriculture in Rushville, NE, as a helpful training ground. Growing up, she was active in 4-H and FFA, and has experience working on yard crews at the Crawford Livestock Auction in Crawford, NE, and Sheridan Livestock Auction in Rushville.
After she was hired by the National Livestock Producers Association to be the Beefmobile Wrangler last November, she received extensive media training to help prepare her for delivering the beef checkoff message.
Orsburn says a highlight of the past year was the outpouring of support for what she's doing and the program she represents. Meanwhile, her biggest challenge was traveling alone and navigation — she says she's now adept at using Internet map location programs.
She admits to getting many funny looks on the highway. “You can't go anywhere incognito,” she says. But if it means the beef checkoff program is getting noticed as well, it's worth it.
Orsburn plans to continue traveling with the Beefmobile another year, then pursue a public relations career in agriculture.
In its two years on the road, the Beefmobile has been so successful at producer education that another Beefmobile will be added in 2006. Two additional wranglers will be hired along with Orsburn to help take the moving billboards across the U.S.
Visit www.beefmobile.com to learn more about the Beefmobile and its upcoming schedule.
Kindra Gordon is a freelance writer and former managing editor of BEEF magazine who is based in Spearfish, SD.