Leslie Cooksey, of Pickaway County, is editor of the Aug. 28, 2017 Growing our Generation e-newsletter, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.
Hello farm families! My name is Leslie Cooksey and I am from Pickaway County. My husband Seth and I have two children, Peyton (age 6) and Sadie (age 1). Our agricultural careers keep us busy in addition to raising our daughters through hands-on farm experiences. I grew up on a small family farm in Ottawa County where my family raised grain crops, beef cattle, and hogs. We live on Seth’s family farm where he grew up raising grain crops and beef cattle. Seth and I were active in 4-H and FFA growing up and have continued to be a part of the agricultural industry through our family and careers. Seth works for Gabriel Family Farms as their farm manager and I work for Ohio State University Extension as the 4-H Extension Educator in Fairfield County.
I think we can all agree that if you were raised on a farm, you want to share that experience with your own kids someday. We are making that happen as Seth and I have had a shared interest in family farming and agriculture growing up and now with our own family. Although our girls are young, they are not strangers to dogs, pigs, cattle, and horses! When Peyton was three, she had her first experience with peewee showmanship helping a family friend show her feeder calf. Additionally, she has gotten involved with the Pickaway County Fair peewee hog showmanship and more recently, the Winter Buckeye Show Circuit. This has definitely kept us busy at home and on the road, but Peyton enjoys it so much. Sadie is taking interest as well, although only one year old! She watches everything her daddy and sister do and wants to do the same. We are looking forward to Peyton’s participation as a 4-H Cloverbud in Pickaway County the next couple of years and teaching both of our daughters about the hard work and responsibility that comes out of raising livestock.
Although most probably only know of Wagyu Beef from a fine dining experience, Seth has been learning about the production of this beef breed for the last four years in his position as farm manager at Gabriel Family Farms. Wagyu cattle originated in Japan and is known for its incredible marbling and flavor. Currently, GFF has 60 half blood cows that they breed to their Wagyu bulls for meat purposes and they have 25 full blood cows that they breed for genetics. The Wagyu herd also includes full blood bulls that Seth leases out for other farmers to breed to their heifers/cows and GFF buys the calves back for a premium price. Additionally, Seth oversees a feedlot operation for their “all natural” fat cattle that are marketed in Nebraska to Imperial Wagyu Beef who processes and distributes to fine restaurants and chefs across the United States.
I have been very fortunate to have worked for The Ohio State University in the agricultural industry in three different positions. Upon graduation with my bachelor’s degree in agricultural and Extension education, I moved back home and worked for a year and a half with my home county Extension office as their 4-H program assistant. Then, a wonderful opportunity came to me to return to the Farm Science Review full time on campus after having worked there for three and a half years as an undergraduate student. The Farm Science Review was a unique job that I loved very much. Not only because of my co-workers (we made a great team), but by networking with individuals from over 600 agricultural companies who exhibited at the annual farm show. Through my student and full-time positions, I worked 11 shows. In the meantime, I completed my master’s degree in agricultural and Extension education and advised a collegiate student organization on campus.
It was a dream of mine to be a part of the 4-H program beyond my years as a member. After I had my master’s in hand, the opportunity to apply for a 4-H Extension educator position close to home came my way. I have been in Fairfield County for almost three years, and the youth and volunteers have been so helpful in helping me to learn about their local program and community. The learning experiences and life skills gained as a result of the 4-H program are incredible. I am always fascinated to see what projects show up at summer judging and the success of kids at the fair. It’s not about the ribbons and trophies, but the friendships that form, the memories made, and the opportunity to help youth become empowered leaders among their peers. Although this position keeps me busy and ties up some evenings and weekends with family, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a position where I can include my family at times. I feel that it is so important to show our children what we do everyday and that we enjoy what we do. Not everyone has the opportunity to share those experiences with their kids. I mean, how cool is it that going to work with mom means going to the fair or visiting another fair?!
Although Seth and I grew up showing beef cattle and hogs (and lambs for me just one year!), we are slowly starting to get into the show cattle business ourselves. Seth’s family has been raising show cattle for a number of years, and Seth has learned a lot from his parents in doing so. We are excited to share this experience as a family in the coming years. Peyton is learning a lot and loves to get her hands on the calves too! She’s even starting to tell her dad what to do!