Well, it’s official; I’m an adult. I know this, not because I’m married and have two kids or because my hair is thinning.
I know this because I’m starting to think like my dad. Or at least I’m starting to understand what he meant when he’d say things like, ‘You’ll appreciate all of this one day.’ See, when I was in school, I tried to hide the fact that I lived on a dairy. I’d think, ‘Why couldn’t my family live in the city? Heck, even raising horses and beef cattle would be better than this.’ In my view, living on a dairy was a huge inconvenience that really cut into my time chasing girls. In those days, my worst fear was that I wouldn’t get totally clean before going to school. My dream was to get as far away from that place as possible. It’s funny how time has a way of changing your mind.
Nowadays, I appreciate my raising. Like a good friend of mine said, “I guess it just takes time to realize what you can sometimes take for granted.” Like most people, I refer to my youth as the ‘good ol’ days.’ Granted, in some parts of the country, raising dairy cows still doesn’t have the same glamour and prestige as raising cattle or horses. Then again, I’ve always figured I’d probably never have enough money to get into the horse business or make enough money to get out of the cattle business.
Though I’ve stayed involved in my family’s dairy and the industry, I miss the physical labor part of it. (Now, before you offer to “let” me work on your dairy free of charge, I should probably clarify that I also miss my body that used to be able to handle the manual labor.) These trips down memory lane have made me realize that I definitely want my kids to be brought up around agriculture, if not directly in it. Then there are times, like last winter’s ice storm, when I wondered if I really wished I was still back home with them milking cows and struggling with the weather.
At the end of September, I judged the dairy show at the Arkansas/Oklahoma State Fair. I can’t tell you how proud I am when I see kids working with their animals. It’s probably the same feeling adults had when they’d see me and my sister working with our show animals. Perhaps the smiles don’t always reflect the true emotions, but juniors represent our industry well. As the saying goes, the children are our future. I’m looking forward to seeing the latest generation of dairy entrepreneurs during World Dairy Expo.
I’m also proud of states like New Mexico. Though their average herd size is over 2,000, they still involve their juniors by allowing them (some with access to only a few acres) to work with nearby dairymen. These kids pick out their animals, take them home, feed them, and show them until around breeding age. Generally, the dairy will buy them back at that time. In the future, we could see more cross and weight classes at shows for youth that would not otherwise be involved. Regardless, we need to make sure we are keeping our youth educated and active in agriculture.
It’s ironic that I now live in town, and my son asks, “Why can’t we live on the farm?” Maybe that will change in time. Maybe someday he too will long for the ‘good ol’ days.’ As always, God does the rest. PD