This month, I'll graduate from Kansas State University with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural communications and journalism. I'm eager to begin my career, but as a green agricultural journalist I admit I'm a little apprehensive about whether I'm ready to be turned out on the job market.

It occurred to me that perhaps that same sentiment is one probably shared by most folks in the beef industry. After all, is there a seedstock producer, stocker/backgrounder, commercial cow-calf producer, feeder, packer/processor or retailer who isn't wondering exactly where this fast-changing business is headed?

Actually, I find comfort in that rapid pace of change. That condition for an agricultural journalist, as well as for any producer, packer or retailer, offers tremendous opportunity.

For better or worse, the beef industry will always face changes and challenges. Whether they come in the form of new laws and regulations or shifts in consumer preferences, there always will be critical information that producers need to succeed. As an agricultural journalist, I can help pass this information on to folks who need such knowledge in a form they can understand and use to operate successfully.

A 2000 Gallup Organization survey found that farmers most depend on agricultural publications for information. That's good news for printed media in a society becoming more reliant on the Internet.

Because agricultural publications are such valued sources of information, readers entrust journalists with a great deal of responsibility. My journalism instructors taught me to get to the point, something that government officials and scientific researchers seemingly weren't trained to do when they speak or write. These sources provide a wealth of information, however, and my career will require me to sort through it and distill the most important facts for my readers.

I recently was asked about my chosen career in agricultural journalism. When I responded, the man chuckled and quipped, “What's that? Do you interview cows?”

No, I won't interview cows, but I do plan to write about them and the issues related to raising them. And my job could be very important to tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of readers around the country. Hopefully, someday you'll see my byline again in BEEF magazine or another livestock publication helping to translate the latest news into something readers can use.

I'm excited to begin my career with so much happening in the beef industry today. And I don't expect it to slow down. As consumers get pickier about the beef they eat, as technology continues to shift and evolve, and as old production methods are replaced by newer, more efficient techniques, the beef industry is moving ahead at full-speed.

With so much going on, and at such a rapid pace, I know my best course for success is to arm myself with information and prepare for whatever the future might hold. The same goes for anyone in any business, including beef producers. And, I'm looking forward to being a part of the effort to deliver that information to the beef industry.

Shannon Hartenstein is an Abilene, KS, native and a Kansas State University senior. She is serving a summer internship with BEEF magazine and its sister publication, The Corn and Soybean Digest.