Learning skills, raising future leaders on the farm

Growing up, some of my fondest memories are centered around 4-H, but mostly the time spent with my animals. Now, seeing my son experience his first year of 4-H brings me so much joy, though I can’t help but reminisce about the days when my mom handled all the planning and preparation for me. Watching my 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter learn essential life lessons through our small farm and 4-H involvement fills me with pride.

Despite the exhaustion that comes with their involvement in various sports — from baseball and softball in the spring to football and cheerleading later on, with basketball thrown in during the winter — the growth and life lessons they are getting are so valuable.

Last spring marked our family’s first experience with fair animals, a significant adjustment for us all. Our evenings became a whirlwind of rushing home from work and school, changing clothes, and diving straight into chores — feeding animals, washing calves and evening walks, night after night. While there were moments when I sent them in to eat and shower while my husband and I tackled the tasks ourselves, those instances were rare. Through this routine, my kids are learning the value of responsibility, perseverance and the satisfaction of seeing their hard work pay off, not just in the show ring, but in the bond they develop with their animals.

Attending the National Cattlewomen’s WIRED conference at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute was a recent highlight for me, particularly the opportunity to hear from Dr. Temple Grandin. Her journey, from facing ostracism and bullying due to her autism to becoming a renowned professor and advocate for animal welfare who has completely revolutionized animal handling and facilities, is truly inspiring. Dr. Grandin shared that our educational system needs to be transformed. It should accommodate different learning styles, particularly for children on the spectrum, emphasizing the need for hands-on learning experiences and real-world skills development. We are not meant to sit at a desk all day and be expected to learn in the same way and at the same pace as others in the room.

As a parent, I’ve observed firsthand the impact of excessive screen time on my son’s behavior. While he enjoys video games and technology, we’ve had to establish boundaries to ensure he maintains a healthy balance. He has to earn limited screen time through chores and behavior, but we as parents are not perfect, and there have been times where he has sat for hours in the winter and played video games while I worked. During those times, I see a major change in my usually quiet, calm, sweet and caring boy. Extended screen time overloads his emotions and causes outbursts and frustration. He then learns another valuable life lesson that there are consequences and that involves me locking up devices and him having to earn that time back.

He woke up Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. to join me in a cold barn to wash and blow dry his heifer before a cattle show. He was happy and excited, and after a long busy day at the show, he was asked to help us unpack everything and take care of his heifer again. I knew when I put her in her pen and he yelled “Wait, Mommy,” and ran in and gave her a pat on the neck, a kiss on the face and told her “You did great girl, you’re a good Fancy,” we are doing something right with our kiddos. These moments are a testament to the power of hard work, responsibility and connection. We’re not just raising children — we’re raising future leaders who embody compassion and resilience and embrace hard work and dedication.

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.
Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
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Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
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Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
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Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
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Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
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Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
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Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
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Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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