This is Ozarks Farm & Neighbor’s annual Youth in Ag edition, where we celebrate the next generation of agriculturists.
I enjoy doing this edition each year, sharing the stories of these future agriculture leaders. Here in the Ozarks, we have some great young people involved in agriculture with wonderful ideas and goals for their future in the industry.
As I have written before, we older folks should encourage younger people to follow their agriculture passions, offer advice, and help out when needed.
Not supporting young people, whether they are involved in agriculture or not, is like leaving an orphaned newborn calf alone in a wide-open field and wishing it luck fending off predators, hunger and Mother Nature. The outcome will not be a positive one. Like that newborn calf, young people need nurturing, support, and someone who will have their backs if the coyotes come howling. They need a herd until they can get their feet under them and learn to care for themselves.
I’ve been involved in my local FFA alumni group for several years. I joined when my niece was in FFA to support her and the chapter. I cooked chili, made desserts, asked for donations and sold cookbooks; I did whatever I was asked because I wanted to show my support for the cause. Fast forward to today, my niece has graduated high school and college, gotten married, moved and is teaching in a nearby school district, but I’m still involved in the alumni organization.
It would have been easy just to be done after Madison graduated, but I found myself getting even more involved. I continue to help where I can and volunteer when I can.
When it was 10 degrees outside one early March morning with the windchill in the negative factors as I was trying to get seven classes of cattle and sheep lined out at my local fairgrounds for a dairy cattle and livestock contest, I questioned my dedication and my sanity, but I was there until the last kid loaded back onto a bus, and the last cow was on a trailer because that’s one of the ways I can show my support.
I have also become very close with a few people in the alumni association. They are people I consider some of my closest friends because I have spent so much time with them. Plus, they get me and my little ticks, which sometimes takes a special person sometimes.
I am often asked who my child or grandchild is in my local FFA chapter. When I say I don’t have any, the next question is always, “Then, why do you do it?” My answer: “Why shouldn’t I?”
Bill tells me I need to slow down on a few things, and he is right (never tell him I said so), but I feel like I’m going to let a young person down if I don’t help somewhere. I am stepping back from a few responsibilities, but I’m sure I’ll still be around when needed.
I challenge each of you to look at how you are helping youth in your community, and you can’t use the excuse that you don’t have kids or grandkids in the area. There’s always something an adult can do to support or mentor a young person. You never know when that few minutes of time or a pat on the back might change a kid’s destiny for the better.
All you have to do is find your place in the herd and help a young person find theirs.
Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]