When I was a kid, I remember one of my cousins giving my grandma a painting of a mallard duck one Christmas, and feeling confused as to why he gave my grandma such a weird gift because as far as I knew, my grandma was not a particular fan of ducks. However, my grandma lit up brighter than the Christmas tree when she got it. She was so proud of it and showed it to everyone and even hung it up in her living room for the next few years. Now, you may say, “Of course she was happy to get it. Being proud of and impressed with mediocre works of art from her progeny is a grandma’s job,” but in hindsight, there was more to it than that.

Today, my cousin is a professional artist. I’m not biased or anything, but I think his work is beautiful and powerful and real. I’m not saying my grandma’s praise of his artwork as a teenager was a defining moment for him, but I know there was one. Somewhere along the line, he thought, “Hey, I think I could do this,” and someone – a teacher, friend or family member – said, “Yes, you can,” and it stuck. Having that power is a heady thing.

In the cattle industry, many of you, especially the ones with a higher percentage of gray hair, have a similar power. In some cases, you might be the neighbor people look to for an example or the patriarch or matriarch of a farming family. You are the leaders in your industry, communities and families. If you were brought up in the ag industry, there have likely been several “yes, you can” moments from trusted mentors along the way. If you are bringing someone along to follow in your footsteps and take their place in the agricultural community, there is a high probability you’ve had a “yes, you can” opportunity.

I imagine some teaching moments come more naturally than others, but the effect of those moments carries far beyond that initial shoulder pat and mumbled “Good job.” Think back to the first time you learned to brand, administer vaccines or drive a car. I will hazard a guess that the first brand probably took a couple of applications to get right, that the first needle stick likely left a bruise and that there was a fair amount of jolting and swerving involved in that first driving lesson.


Skip ahead to where you are today. For the sake of everyone on the road, I hope that at least your driving has improved. Today, it’s your turn to take the opportunities that come to support others in the industry. It doesn’t have to be a mentorship role, either. I think the titles of neighbor and friend work just as well. Regardless of our gray hair count, we all have something of value to share, even if it’s the simple support of a “yes, you can” or better yet, “yes, we can.”