What do you think adults (parents and 4-H/FFA leaders) can do to encourage youth like you to remain involved in the agricultural industry?
I’m sure there are lots of ways that I’m not thinking of. I haven’t been involved in the agricultural industry for very long. I’ve only been doing this for three years, so I don’t know it all, and I don’t have all the answers. I DO have some opinions and ideas, though. I don’t think there’s anything you can do to guarantee that a kid will remain involved in the agricultural industry. The only thing that can be done is to do things to encourage kids’ interest in it for right now every day until they are old enough to make up their minds.
Show us lots of options.
Every once in awhile my family and my dairy mentors and I talk and kid around about what I can do in the dairy industry when I grow up. They aren’t real serious conversations. They usually happen after an event. Like one day we were giving antibiotic injections to cure our heifers’ hacky coughs. When the breeder told my mom to hold onto the bottle carefully...it cost $400...later we were joking around saying that I could grow up and invent a cheaper medicine!
Other times after I have my dairy booth somewhere and I’ve talked to little kids and given them promotional items and dairy recipe ideas, we talk about how I could actually make money doing that sort of thing when I grow up by working for a dairy council.
When I’ve raised orphan calves and sold them at auction, we’ve talked about what it would be like to raise calves on a large scale.
When we’ve been in the milking parlor at the Tulsa State Fair or at the Payne County Fairgrounds, we talk about what it would be like to run ALL the cows through the parlor by ourselves every day.
Give us lots of different experiences and opportunities.
Take us places and meet people. Let us touch stuff.
The other day I got to try to palpate a cow during a preg check. I was shoulder deep and didn’t have a problem with it. I told Ms. Jennings, my Ag teacher, that my mom would be mad...because she wasn’t there to see it and no one took my picture! (I was right.)
When I can find a day in my schedule, I’m going to take the owner up on his offer to spend a day with them watching artificial insemination, embryo transfers, flushing, and stuff.
My parents and my Ag teacher are always encouraging me to have new experiences. They sacrifice a lot of their time to take me places and show me new things. Ms. Jennings takes students to at least seven dairy judging contests. Those that are going on to compete at the state level go to even more.
She even gives us 7th graders opportunities with CDEs (career development experiences). I worked on studying for the vet med test.
Even when she was going to be doing FFA activites and couldn’t be with us when I went to my first national level dairy show, Ms. Jennings talked with us and explained how everything would go, provided all the supplies and equipment we would need...right down to giving pointers on decorating the stalls, and encouraged us to call her if we had any more questions. Even when she couldn’t be there, she was providing a great new opportunity.
One day I will probably try out to be on one of the cattle handling teams. I know that they will work beef cattle in practice and competition, but dairy cattle need to be caught up and given vaccinations and stuff, too. I do it for my own animals now, and I’ve helped do it for other people’s animals (some that were as wild as beef calves straight off the wheat pasture).
My mom told me I should submit some writing to Kara Eschbach of the Tulsa State Fair Livestock office and that’s how I got my own blog and eventually began writing for Proud To Dairy and Progressive Dairyman. My parents encouraged me to buy more heifers after I got into it. They could have said that one was enough, but they didn’t.
They encouraged me to expand my herd through purchases and breeding.
Teach us how to interact with people.
Help us “network”. Introduce us to people. Help us make contact by ourselves. Teach us how to talk on the phone. Teach us how to introduce ourselves properly. Teach us how to shake hands PROPERLY. (A handshake leaves an impression.) Teach us how to dress appropriately for each occasion. Teach us to speak up and look people in the eye. All of those things sound silly, but it will help us network with people. I’ve kind of got a weird talent, but my mom says it’s an awesome thing. I remember people’s names, faces, and where they are from. That’s good to have when you are trying to make connections for future opportunties. Teach us how to make our own opportunities. Help us figure out who to ask and HOW to ask someone for something.
I know it takes a lot of sacrifice by my parents and grandparents for me to do all that I do, not just money, but time.
Help us have FUN experiences. There’s a time for serious work, no fooling around, and work as hard and as fast as you can. My mawmaw was boggled one night when she saw us unload from a dairy show. She couldn’t believe we moved so many supplies and carried so much equipment so fast. (She should see us load up and set up!)
There’s also a time for making a game out of work. I remember those times racing my mom with buckets or wheelbarrow or forking straw. We got the work done and laughed a lot, too.
Give us some attaboys. Call our attention to when we do a good job. Don’t just look at it like it’s our job and we should do it right. Let us know we did it right. We sure get told when we’ve done it wrong. Help us step back and admire the fruits of our labors.
Teach us what to look for in our jobs and help us decide if it is right or not. (Good enough usually means it’s not.) Brag on us, don’t just expect that we know you’re proud of our work and of us. Remind us every once in awhile.
When a person has happy memories associated with their work, and when they are confident in their quality of work, why would they want to go do anything else?