Jake Bodimer from Gallia County is a guest editor of the Growing our Generation e-newsletter. This article is part of his Oct. 24, 2016 edition.
Well it’s evident; fall is upon us. That also means the end of county fair season. This brings us back to what drew me into agriculture. I think initially it was the competition aspect of showing livestock. In order to strive for the best market hog, it was important to understand genetics, feed quality and animal health among many other things. I really took an interest primarily in genetics and creating that ideal mating to produce the next winner. That led to breeding my own fair pigs, then on to study animal science at Ohio State and so on… Growing up, my family farmed on a small scale. We raised a few acres of tobacco as well as sweet corn/green beans. I like to think that farm involvement helped develop my work ethic.
So that’s my quick story, but the truth is, my story is really very similar to many others who were involved in 4-H and who’s “spark” in agriculture started at the county fair. I don’t have to tell this group that the average age of the US farmer is basically retirement age. Farm Bureau and the Young Ag Professionals program play a critical role in helping to keep young people involved in agriculture. However, fewer kids grow up on a farm these days, so generating that initial interest has to come in another form. This point is commonly discussed when looking at the disconnect that consumers have with farmers. But it is also a critical point to think about when considering the need to develop and train the next generation of farmers.
Fairs offer competition, plus exhibitors get a chance to get to know people from all across the county/region and develop new friendships. These may be the incentives to first start a project — a friend is showing livestock so I want to join in. Exhibitors can pick up management strategies from their peers and bounce ideas off of others just like farmers do so well. Once that initial seed of interest in planted, it’s up to the individual to take it from there. Young people can reach out to local farmers to learn more and hopefully reach out to Farm Bureau to continue to develop their knowledge and skills.
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