The livestock industry’s greatest product isn’t the number of shows organized, nor the amount of banners awarded. It’s not even the elite livestock bred to compete at the highest level. Our greatest product is the youth that will go on and use the skills they learned to impact their communities in a positive way.
Youth involved in the livestock industry, regardless of social standing or background, are provided with the opportunity to cultivate the skills needed to meet the demands of an ever-changing workforce and our industry’s evolving adversities. They learn the true meaning of passion and work ethic. These young people have a desire to innovate and improve, using problem solving skills unrivaled by most of their peers.
Why is the livestock industry such a unique place to learn these skills? The type of kids involved in the livestock industry vary. Some raise their pigs at a neighbor’s house while others come from a farming family. Some show at their county fair, and others may show across the nation and various levels in between. Regardless of the species or extent to which they show, the skills kids are learning and the effort put forth to care for livestock each and every day cannot be replicated anywhere else.
Throughout the average 120 days spent raising a showpig, our youth learn commitment. Working hard only one day with their animal will not get them where they want to be. Our kids learn the importance of grit and toughness. Our kids learn to push forward to have numerous good days within their project. They learn how to have professional conversation long before some of their peers, while talking to industry professionals. Livestock kids also know the importance of a firm, sincere handshake, strong eye contact, and “please” and “thank you.” They learn to deal with hardships and know how to persevere. Kids in our industry don’t all get a trophy, showmen get “the gate” and get placed fifth even after months of hard work. Our kids have to go back to the barn, reevaluate and work hard to reach their goals. Showing livestock makes evident the reality of competition and toughness. In addition, the show ring teaches our youth the importance of good sportsmanship and helping out your competitor, when they’re in need.
When reflecting on my past experiences in the show ring and barn, I am deeply appreciative of the agriculture community, the mentors, and opportunities that I have had which have taught me the importance of hard work, grit, respect, perseverance, teamwork and sincerity. The lessons our youth learn in the livestock industry are invaluable.
The youth in the livestock industry hold great value as “AGvocates,” as they tell the story of the swine industry. Their stories can lead to potential change and positive actions. Junior livestock organizations provide the network and resources for kids to see the wide variety of opportunities in agriculture through various breed organization shows, leadership conferences, and other career and personal development opportunities. These opportunities provide rich learning experiences for kids to see the world through a wider lens giving them a bigger perspective.
This wider view helps them to see all the possibilities available to them in the industry. As their knowledge grows, so does their story. Kids who show livestock often play on sports teams, are leaders within their schools, or are active in their local community through their church or an organization. This provides a platform to have meaningful conversations with their community members about the swine industry. Young people can share their passion for showing pigs and shine some light on modern day swine production. These anecdotes help bridge the gap between producers and consumers of all ages.
The time and method of how kids tell the story of agriculture isn’t just reserved for 4-H meetings or the family dinner table. Their conversations happens organically during school presentations, in the bleachers at a football game, at a friend’s birthday party, or on the bus to a field trip. It happens without kids even realizing they are bonding and telling the story of AG by simply sharing what they do at home. Telling their peers at school recess about “Spot” their favorite purebred pig in the barn, soon transforms to them helping to tell the story of our industry in broader terms while in a scholarship interview or college classroom.
When kids are raising livestock countless lessons are learned, including integrity, compassion, honesty, and resilience just to name a few. Each kid’s journey may lead them in different directions, whether they chose a life and career path of farming, being a doctor, or artist. No matter what direction they take, their experiences and perspectives will be with them forever. They will help shape, share and tell the story of agriculture. The experience young people having showpig livestock is invaluable, as they help tell the story of agriculture.