We just experienced another snow and ice storm in Northwest Arkansas. Our children have been doing online homework to keep up since the schools are closed. Once chores are finished and meals have been eaten, a little bit of boredom sets in. It just so happens to be National FFA week, so I spent one afternoon reminiscing while looking at old photographs.
I happened to run across a photo of my first 4-H project. She was a registered Holstein heifer we purchased at a sale from Steele & King Farms in Butler, Mo. I was so excited to get to show S&K Valiant Tiffany Bingo that following summer. I also found some photos of the crew who made up the Texas County Udders & Hooves 4-H Club. Like my own children’s club, ours was focused on showing livestock at area fairs in the summer.
I think I was probably in the fifth grade when I started showing dairy cattle. Our neighbors had a dairy farm and were incredibly knowledgeable about the business of breeding high-production females. The neighbor, Jimmie Coats, had done research and training for artificially inseminating his high producers to top-quality bulls. We had decided that Tiffany Bingo needed to be bred to a bull called Starbuck (his full name escapes me now). A straw of his semen was very expensive, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to afford it.
Close to Christmas, my godmother (also known as Aunt Glenda) called to talk to my sister and I about our plans and our Christmas wishes. I saw this as a window of opportunity to make a case for my greatest Christmas hope. I told Aunt Glenda all about my show heifer, Tiffany Bingo. Carefully explaining the importance of pedigree and the way it affects dairy production in future offspring. I worked up all my courage and told her this year, for Christmas, I would like some money to put toward the purchase of this expensive straw of bull semen to breed my 4-H heifer. She asked to talk to my mother. I think she was appalled that a 10-year-old girl was asking for bull semen for Christmas.
Christmas came around and sure enough, there was some version of a promise of a straw of Starbuck semen tucked into my stocking. Later that year, Hubba Hubba (yes that was our farm prefix) Britany Bingo was born and my herd grew. She was beautiful. Showing dairy cattle was fun and taught me about dedication to caring for animals.
It takes a loving adult to pour into 4-H and FFA students. I commend 4-H leaders and FFA advisors across the country for the work they put into helping kids with their projects. I look back at my own time in these organizations and am so thankful for the influence of these people had on my future.
By the time this edition is published FFA week will have come and gone. Agriculture is something we can celebrate all year long. I still believe in the future of agriculture, neighbor.
Jody Harris is a freelance communications specialist, gardener, ranch wife and mother of four. She and her family raise Angus beef cattle and other critters on their northwest Arkansas ranch. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Jody, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’