A few weeks ago I sat in the grandstands at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds for the Junior Fair Livestock Auction representing Ashtabula County Farm Bureau. I couldn’t help but think about how different this year was, and all I could think about was how hard that had to be.
Not too long ago, I was on the opposite side of a Junior Fair Livestock sale. To many, that sale was the celebration of hard work and the completion of a successful project, but to many, it was the end of a journey with our best friends. This year, they couldn’t spend that shining moment in the sale ring with their animals; they couldn’t shake hands and thank the buyers in person; they couldn’t hug their friends who understood exactly what they were going through. For Trumbull County, the youth didn’t get the chance for any type of Junior Fair this year. All I could think about was how hard that must have been, especially for those who won’t get to participate in their county fair as a Junior Fair participant ever again.
While this year was different — and it was hard — I hope you all walked away with the same values that even to this day, I carry with me. The values that at 18 years old, I didn’t realize I had. FFA, 4-H and those farm animals shape the person you will be — even years later.
I hope you realize that showing animals and life, in general, is more than banners and trophies. You spend countless hours in a barn with animals, taming, training, bathing, exercising, and cleaning stalls in an attempt to raise a champion. You put blood, sweat and tears into those animals. I hope you remember that all that hard work and responsibility will get you farther in life than those banners and trophies ever will. Hard work and responsibility are not taught. They are not won. They are instilled.
Not everyone is a winner, and that’s OK. I hope you experience not being a winner. Being a winner isn’t a direct correlation to the hard work you put in. Not being a winner teaches you to be humble, and I hope it teaches you to be gracious. I hope if you are a champion, that you celebrate that, but that you have learned to do it with humility and grace and to never take it for granted, because you are going to lose in life, in a million little ways. I can promise you though that you are going to win too. Your actions outside of that ring impact the person you are in that ring.
I hope you realize the importance of family and community. I hope you join them one day in supporting your local youth. I hope you realize they don’t have to volunteer countless hours for a thankless position to ensure there is a fair and they don’t have to come to a Junior Fair sale and pay more than market value for your animal. But they do, they do it because they know how important supporting the future of our community is. Many of them are those people because of 4-H and FFA.
I hope you understand financial responsibility and the importance of recordkeeping. Raising an animal and having a farm is expensive. Life is expensive. I hope you understand the true market value of your animal, and the importance of not spending more money than you have.
I hope you realize the value of life — whether human or animal. The love and care you gave that animal and giving it the best life you could in its time here, is so important, even when you know that animal has a purpose.
I hope you have learned how to cope with loss and death. As farmers, we experience loss and death more often than most. I hope you know it’s OK to love something or someone with all your heart and to have your heart break into a million pieces. I hope you know that it’s OK to cry. I hope you learn that loss and death are really, really hard, but that life goes on.
I hope you realize the importance of agriculture to the world. I hope that you take that realization and you use it to be an agvocate. The 2% of us who are feeding the world need you.
I hope you know that you only get out of life what you put into it. To succeed, you need to work hard, take responsibility for your actions and never give up. You can’t put a price — or a banner — on that.
Submitted by Mandy Orahood, the Ohio Farm Bureau organization director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties. She can be reached by email.
OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.