Friday, June 24, 2011

4-H is Good for Society

Recently an article was written questioning if 4-H livestock projects desensitize youth to violence since the animals they raise are eventually harvested for meat. I can answer this question on all levels because I am a 4-H alumni, 4-H parent and an Extension Agent . The short answer to the question is no, 4-H livestock projects do not desensitize youth to violence. It does provide many other benefits.

As an alumni of the 4-H livestock projects I can tell you without a doubt that I believe in the sanctity of life. I take the dignity of all living beings into account in all that I do. All of the animals that I have had the privilege of caring for over all my years of livestock production (including my 4-H years) were treated with the utmost care. I also understood from the very beginning why we raise animals for food. Each 4-Her begins the project understanding that the animal they are caring for will eventually become food.

This does not lead to cruelty or insensitivity but rather an understanding of the circle of life. I would even argue that 4-Hers in the animal projects have a better understanding of sensitivity than those who have not had that experience. They understand taking care of a living being, making sure it has all its needs met and that it is comfortable. However, they understand that there is a basic and inherent difference between animals and humans.

Our world was designed to give humans dominion over all other living things. They were put on earth for our use, i.e. food and fiber. They are also dependent on our care and that is where the life lessons of 4-H animal projects are.

As a 4-H parent I have seen my kids learn to care for their animals. From the very beginning they knew the purpose of the animals they were raising. They realized that the healthy meat on our dinner table was one of those animals that we raised with care and sensitivity. They are learning the importance of hard work by getting up each morning early and taking care of those animals first thing every morning be it summer break, a holiday or a weekend.

As an Extension Agent in charge of 4-H animal projects for the past 18 years, I can tell you without a doubt that every youth who has come through that same program have went on to be very productive, successful members of society with a great sensitivity for those around them. In all my years, I have never heard, read or seen any evidence that 4-H livestock projects desensitize youth, period.

So the answer to the question of whether 4-H livestock projects desensitize youth is an unequivocal no. I wish more youth had the opportunity to care for livestock. Then society would better understand the amount of time, effort and care livestock producers put into the meat on your dinner plate. I also believe that they would have a greater appreciation for all living things around them and the purpose of those animals. What the world needs is more involvement in 4-H, not less.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Faith of My Father

Today is Father's Day and our Pastor asked me to be a part of a tribute to Father's by determining what award my Father should get. This assignment was especially tough for me, I have the privilege of working side-by-side with my Father each day. I guess that is one of the things that drew me into farming. My Father is my beacon in life and serves as my role model even (and probably more so) as I age.

It was hard for me to decide on one area but I kept coming back to one thing. My Father is a man of faith like no other person I know. I suppose being a person of Faith is inherent in all of us who are involved in agriculture. After all we plant seeds each season not knowing whether it will rain or be dry, if it will be too hot or too cold or even what price we will get for those crops. Each time I worry or stew about the weather he reminds me that there isn't much I can do about it.

However, Dad's Faith transcends his professional career. He has faced each challenge in life with a rock solid Faith in God. Each trial he has been given has been greeted with the acknowledgement that God is in control. He has been the source of strength and courage for our family through each crisis. Spend time with Dad and you will realize the comfort and strength that comes with his unyielding Faith.

That Faith is put into action in our Church life also. Whether having the Faith to help guide a building project or admonishing his son about the church budget. Constantly he reminds me that a church budget is an act of Faith and not an exact science. Now I am grateful that he is sharing that faith with the youth in our church. I know his grandchildren and others are more than happy to learn from him, in spite of his humble misgivings.

Its funny how our Father's go from a hero-like status when we are children to the status of someone who is out of touch when we are teens back to a revered source of wisdom as we become adults. I am so glad that as I became an adult that I had the blessing of working with my Father.

On this Father's Day I am so thankful for the example he sets for me each day and that I am blessed enough to spend time with him each of those days and learn from him. I will strive each day to set the same type of example that I have been given by the Faith of my Father.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rain and Uncertainty

For much of this spring we have been in an extended dry spell. That allowed us to get our work done quickly but it did inspire quite a bit of apprehension among my fellow farmers and ranchers. The weather report on the 10 o'clock news became more and more vital and more and more disappointing each night. However, that worry about dry weather quickly disappeared and was replaced by a new worry.

Over the last week we have received enough rain to bring us back to normal or a little above. Just yesterday and last night we received about 5 inches of rain. This led to a lot of flooding and damage to our crops and the flood gaps across our streams and ditches. It also means lots of expenses from replanting and repairs. But that is all part of the cost of doing business.

I jokingly tell people that the middle between the two extremes is where our averages come from. The weather is both one of the best and the worst things about farming and ranching.
My wise old Father tells me that it does no good to worry about the weather and the older I get the more I understand.

The apprehension of missing rains and watching crops wither quickly turns to relief with the first rainfall. However, it also quickly returns to apprehension as the rain continues to fall. Even though we know there is nothing we can do, I would guess many of my fellow farmers and ranchers pace and watch like I do.

So why be a part of a business where the best plans can be thwarted by something you can't control? I guess it all comes back to the fact that farming and ranching are more than a business. None of us farm and ranch to get rich, we chose this profession because it is in our blood, it is part of us. We suffer through the lows and revel in the highs because feeding the world is our passion. Along with that the uncertainty that the weather brings is just part of the core of who we are.