By Mayzie Purviance
Last week I wrote about the current Miss Montana. Miss Montana is a contender for the Miss USA pageant, not Miss America — Miss USA and Miss America are represented by different individuals. Miss USA is part of the for-profit Miss Universe Organization. Winners of Miss USA go on to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant. The Miss USA contest is considered more of a “Glitz” competition, meaning it is more focused on outer beauty.
Miss America is a non-profit organization. Miss America is the highest title a person can hold within the Miss America Organization; queens do not advance to compete after winning Miss America. Miss America’s point system is based on each contestant’s personal interview, on-stage question and personal platform. The Miss America pageant does factor in the evening gown category but there is no longer a swimsuit division and the program is instead heavily based on scholarships. MP.
“Miss America is more than a title, it’s a movement of empowering young women everywhere to dream big, to insist that their voices be heard and to inspire change in the world around them.” That’s the official mission of the Miss America Organization stated on the Miss America 2.0 website.
Lily Steed is a freshman agribusiness major at Middle Tennessee State University, a contender for the Miss Tennessee pageant and a proud, eighth generation farmer. Steed’s family began farming in 1839 and now runs a USDA certified swine production farm in Laguardo, Tennessee. Steed said along with the daily chores of a swine operation, her family showcases multiple agri-tourism attributes like “pick your own strawberries, blueberries and blackberries” and “chop your own Christmas tree” ventures; a general store for commodities grown on the farm; and an event center for weddings and other events which also includes a catering service. Needless to say, the Steed Family stays busy.
“Being raised in this environment and holding an agricultural outlet for my community is why I am so invested in agriculture and passionate about educating others,” Steed said.
Although she is majoring in Agribusiness, Steed also plans to obtain her agricultural education license in hopes to educate in the classroom during the week and work on the family’s farm on the weekends.
As stated in the editor’s note, each Miss America contestant runs on a specific advocacy platform. Steed’s just so happens to be something she’s incredibly passionate about and has been her entire life: Agriculture alliance.
“Agriculture alliance is a platform centered around aligning high school students with connections in the agricultural career field,” Steed said. “Currently, only 0.08 percent of our farmers are millennials and the average age of today’s farmer is 65 years old. My goal is to bump up that 0.08 percent statistic in Generation Z by really enforcing the idea that if we do not have a new crop of agriculturalists arise soon, to be frank, we will die — most likely not immediately — but over the short term of 20 years, our farmers won’t be replaced quick enough as they will be dying off.
“With my platform, I speak first-hand with the farmers who are struggling; the farmers who are so physically and mentally tired and strained that you can see it in their eyes,” Steed said. “You can also see, however, the fire that burns for agriculture, the fire that burns for the United States of America”
Steed said she often shares one of her favorite quotes when speaking to young adults, “A farmer is someone who works 400 hours a month while losing money feeding those who think that you’re trying to kill them.” She said that quote directly correlates to her passion for agriculture.
“I have a passion for agriculture because I believe that the way God made us, so uniquely down to the smallest sub particle, revolves around the ability for us to grow healthy food, harvest plentiful crops, and create a substantial way for us to live,” Steed said.
“Many people are starved of the facts that make up agriculture. When talking to elementary school students, many of them do not even know that their food doesn’t come from the grocery store. If we can start young, we can reverse what we have done,” Steed said.
She said when she’s talking to young adults, the biggest agricultural objection she’s heard is the concern of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“It’s funny though, that is also the same topic that I blow the most minds with,” Steed said. “When I tell someone there are only 11 Genetically Modified Products, their jaws drop. When I tell them that GMO-free peanut butter is a marketing gimmick, again, the jaws drop. It’s all about misinformation.”
Although her passion for agriculture can be chalked up to her upbringing, much of her appreciation for the industry can be summed up in one simple phrase.
“I support agriculture because a girls gotta eat in all honesty,” Steed said.
Due to her current title of Miss Middle Tennessee and social media presence, Steed is able to influence thousands of people to support the agricultural industry. She uses her platform to correct agricultural misinformation and effectively educate the public.
“I plan on influencing others to support the agriculture system simply by telling them the straight up facts,” Steed said. “Without our agriculturalists, we would have no food, clothes, shelter, warmth, and the list could go on. When people know how frightening the truth is about our future, they tend to start to care more.”
Steed said the Miss America Organization provides her with the opportunity to connect with others who may not have listened to what she had to say otherwise. Miss America has given Lily Steed a voice, and with that voice, she’s speaking the truth about agriculture.
“In complete transparency, I love the dresses, the makeup, the cute outfits, the interviews, I love everything about pageantry,” Steed said. “However, the ONLY reason that I stumbled onto the glamorous path to Miss America was to promote agriculture. In my experience, everyone has a different reason for competing. For me, the crown isn’t a shiny hat I like to parade around in, it’s a steppingstone to get me to where I want to be.”
“Agriculture will ALWAYS be my number one passion, my number one goal, reason, fire, drive, you name it – it’s agriculture,” Steed concluded.BACK