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Trumbull County’s fair was last week, but Lake, Ashtabula and Geauga County fairs are all in the next six weeks, and these works relate to each one!
It’s fair week, and as we set up in the Farm Bureau area, I watched the hustle and bustle of families as they prepped for a busy week.
It’s been longer than I like to admit since I was on the opposite side of a Junior Fair. Actually, this year, I am about to experience my first fair as a show mom in Ashtabula County. The last few months have been a whirlwind of baseball, softball, work and 4-H. My 9-year-old is showing two calves this year, and our mornings and evenings are filled with feeding, walking, brushing, washing, blow drying and training — both kids and cows. I am always proud of my kids, but watching all that he has accomplished and how hard he has worked has been amazing.
Every morning (even before summer break) he wakes up and feeds the calves. Every night he washes and walks them, and while his dad and I are there to help, he takes the majority of it on himself. In between his hands-on training with the calves, he reads his beef resource handbook, keeps track of feed and miscellaneous expenses, growth, and treatment records, sets goals for each of his projects, learns parts of the animal, breeds, feet, and leg structure, feed types, and more.
He has learned about balancing rations and reaching nutritional goals, has treated ringworm and an infected navel, and is learning how to raise a heifer that will be raised to have a calf that he or his little sister can show. While our lives have been hectic, the lessons and values he has learned are priceless.
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.
To all of our Junior Fair youth exhibiting livestock this week, 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 further 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 is okay. I hope you know that not being a winner is OK. 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 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, but 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 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 record keeping. 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 okay to love with all your heart and to have your heart break into a million pieces. I hope you know that it’s okay to cry. I hope you learn that loss and death are really, really hard, but that life goes on, and that you can, in fact, live and love again.
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 two percent of us that 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.
Happy Fair Season! Please come out and support these amazing youth at the county fair sales! These kids are worth investing in.
Submitted by Mandy Orahood, the organization director at Ohio Farm Bureau Federation for Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties.
OFBF MIssion: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.
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