Posts Tagged ‘FFA’

Where did your footsteps take you today and what kind of footprints did you leave behind?

This past Sunday Matt and I got to attend a special church service. The little church (very near where we farm and ranch in Kansas) celebrated 125 years! His grandparents were pastors there at the time they were killed in a car accident in the 1960’s. The message of the sermon was about footprints. My mind immediately began racing about the steps we take and footprints we leave in our farming and ranching choices. The bulletin for the service was titled “Celebrating Northbranch Heritage”; every farmer’s heritage is determined by his choice of footsteps.

(I didn’t have a picture from when the kids were little of boots – but this one is darn cute!)

I can’t help but think of how BIG some guys feet are and how ADORABLE toddlers are when they try to stand in the boots of those big men! Those young people are shaping their hopes and dreams based on the footprints we leave. Are we constantly stumbling? Are we walking proudly? Are we taking scary paths? Are we taking time to let them follow closely?

Just to lighten this up a bit…I guarantee, several times a week, we step in a pile of poop. When you have cattle in pens, there is bound to be a footprint in a cow pie. There are various ways to then clean those boots or shoes – just make sure you do before heading in the house! And I know I have attempted to step over an electric fence, only to lose my balance and get a zap on my inner thigh – yep, go ahead, laugh along with me! It’s all one can do when that happens! I hope our kids see when, in life, we figuratively “step in the poop” and learn from our mistakes! I also hope they notice that younger kids are already looking to them as an example and they REALLY need to carefully select their path!

Matt and I have been blessed with some pretty amazing footsteps to follow & we have blazed our own path a few times & all we can hope is that our “heritage” is meaningful in some way decades from now. Regardless, those who know us, are not a bit surprised by the spot in our path where there are tons of prints all in one area…those are the times we are dancing!

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As I start this post, I am watching the Ravens and Patriots battle it out for a spot in the Super Bowl. In years prior, I probably would have been cheering loudly (from our living room, of course) for the Patriots. However, I am quietly hoping the Ravens pull this one out. Truly, deep down, I won’t be disappointed whichever team wins – my disappointment happened throughout the season; most recently when the Broncos lost to the Ravens – hence…Ravens better win! (and since I am just now getting this posted – they did!) Honestly, I am struggling to really be a Bronco fan, but I do like Manning – so, since he is now a Bronco…  Regardless, the Colts have room for improvement next year & when next year comes around, I will hope they do better than they did this year. There must be some kind of luck in having “Luck” as your quarterback, right?

While we were in Denver for the National Western Stock Show, we get to spend time with some fellow Red Angus breeders from the Northeast. They are most certainly Baltimore fans! We were lucky enough to watch the Denver/Baltimore game in the Cowboy Bar right there in the cattle barn where all of our cattle were stalled. I have to say, I think the FEW Baltimore fans that were there were every bit as loud as the plethora of Denver fans!

Cowboy poet, Baxter Black was cheering on the Broncos at the Cowboy Bar in the cattle barn in Denver.

Cowboy poet, Baxter Black was cheering on the Broncos at the Cowboy Bar in the cattle barn in Denver.

Cattle shows are a bit like athletics. Everyone pretty much gets along – many become good friends, even – OUTSIDE the showring. Once in the ring, it’s no different from any sport. Each exhibitor wants the win! Also no different from sports – the most respected exhibitors are humble winners and gracious losers. One difference in a show as opposed to sports – ranches want their genetics to win. So, even if they don’t show the winning critter, as long as it is offspring from their genetics – that’s considered a win.

Friendly competitors in the showring.

Friendly competitors in the showring.

For all of my foodie friends and followers out there – this does apply to you. How, you ask? Well, the cattle that go to shows like this are competing to be the major genetic influence in many herds throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico and beyond. Even though we were in Denver, there were exhibitors there from Canada, and some people from Mexico spent quite a large amount of money at the Red Angus auction! The world becomes a pretty small place when you consider that beef is raised fairly similarly throughout the hemisphere and fellow cattle breeders are no more than an e-mail or phone call away. Everyone in the beef community has the common goal of a great eating experience for everyone who takes the opportunity to include beef as part of a healthy diet.

Kaydee has a smile on!

Kaydee has a smile on!

Finally – an update on how the kids did in the show.  I have to say, not bad for their first time at a show that big! They placed 2nd and 4th in class in the National Red Angus Junior show and they each placed 7th in class in the much larger open show. They were each showing a heifer they had raised – not one purchased from a large, well-known ranch. In addition, we all had a great time getting to know other Red Angus breeders we had not yet met and spending time with long-time friends. They both tell me they want to go back next year, so I would say it was a success!

All kinds of stories get told in a gathering like this!

All kinds of stories get told in a gathering like this!

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Just ask any one of the nearly 4000 people that attended the Nebraska State FFA Convention in Lincoln last week. They will agree with UNL IANR Vice Chancellor, Dr. Ronnie Green, AGRICULTURE IS SEXY!  I have been working with this group of FFA members for the past three years. They may or may not think I am sexy & honestly, I do NOT want to know if they do! However, they are great kids & most importantly, they help keep me young!

They are pictured here with their Ag Ed instructor and FFA Advisor, Amy Tomlinson. They don’t look happy or excited at all, do they?  We started three years ago having half of an idea of what was expected of us & have progressed to earning the honor of State Champion Ag Sales Team and will represent Nebraska at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis in October.

After really thinking about our situation, I am glad we didn’t qualify for National until this year. We are a mature team and will represent our state well. We are going into the contest with countless hours of practice, laughs, studying, and quite a bit more laughing. I am well aware of my limitations and know that I should never be a high school teacher…some kid would head home missing appendages, or worse… But, to work with them on a special project for a couple months per yer – VERY rewarding! I know there was a time when I was young and had their level of energy (it was more than a few years ago), but I truly admire all of the youth that were in Lincoln last week. They are all involved in a ton of activities & they are extremely talented!

So, what else is sexy about agriculture? You  name it. To me, it usually looks pretty good…for instance, I snapped this great picture of my husband tagging a calf. I don’t get to spend many days or nights with him this time of year, so he looks good to me just going about his daily work! 🙂

The young men at the State FFA Convention thought Miss America was totally sexy! And, they really appreciated her positive and intellectual message regarding agriculture policy and perception in the U.S. My son, pictured below with his fellow FFA member Erika, but much to his dismay, not with Miss America, thought it would be great if Miss America became a CommonGround volunteer and stayed at our house…often! He is so cute! 🙂 I am VERY proud of him for doing so well in Creed Speaking – a gold medal is quite an accomplishment for a young man who used to be absolutely terrified of any public speaking!

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If you have checked out my blog at all through the months that I have been writing, you know that Kaydee & Emmet are significant contributors to the content. Often, they do things or say things and I don’t tell them that I’m going to share it (that’s my secret way of getting back at them for the gray hairs they cause me!). Today, I decided to ask them for specific comments. My question was simple, “What do you think of when I say Food Day?” Responses were short and sweet! Kaydee: “lunch”;  Emmet: “Prime Rib”. That’s all – just keep them fed and they are happy kids.

Obviously, I should have narrowed that down a bit! They are hungry all the time and often that appetite is earned from either working outside or participating in school and athletic activities. Food Day priority #6 discusses fair conditions for farm workers (which Kaydee & Emmet would correctly say they qualify as); their wages, working conditions, health care, and so on. One of the mentions in the written explanation of the priority was in regard to children working on family farms. Our kids have been helping with age appropriate jobs on the farm since they were big enough to know what was going on. Other than some grumbling on days they would rather hang out with their friends, they are proud to know that we trust them with a task like filling mineral feeders, checking cows, feeding, spraying thistles, or whatever is on the job list for the day. They do get a paycheck for the work they do & they know they don’t get paid for hours put in, but for work accomplished (another source of mild grumbling at times, but such great teaching moments!).

Farm kids are totally capable of tasks on their families farms & more importantly, they are respectful of what their family is doing – producing food for a rapidly growing population. When Kaydee was a freshman, she earned State Runner Up in FFA Creed Speaking. She could make anyone who lives and loves agriculture get goosebumps when she recited those words that mean so much to so many.

Kaydee at National FFA Convention 2010

Yesterday, Emmet had to recite The FFA Creed for ag class & he nailed it! For those of you who haven’t heard The FFA Creed, here it is; I don’t know of any other document more true to what farmers think, do, and feel:

The FFA Creed

I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.

I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.

I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.

I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so–for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.

I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.

The creed was written by E. M. Tiffany, and adopted at the 3rd National Convention of the FFA. It was revised at the 38th Convention and the 63rd Convention.

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How would you picture a school farmyard?  Maybe a cute little barn, some chickens, a goat or two, and yes, definitely a bucket calf and some ducks!  Sandy Creek FFA is starting Rising Sun Produce, but it will not be the picturesque little scene you just envisioned.  They will NOT have chickens, bucket calves, or ducks.  Somehow I think there may be a goat somewhere in the future.  They WILL have strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, lavendar, cilantro, parsley, melons, pumpkins, and other yummy stuff.  I can see it now; every kid who refuses to help their mom with a garden will have a blast with their friends at the FFA farm.  Moms just aren’t as fun to pull weeds with as friends are. 

So, that fence building crew I talked about a few days ago? The productivity possibilities are dwindling!  School is encroaching into the summer productivity space. Obviously there will be some time spent on the FFA farmer’s market effort and vineyard; then, there is volleyball – with weights and conditioning and camps; football – with weights, conditioning and camps; and basketball – with weights, shooting practice, and camps.  Add in Driver’s Ed. and  that MAY leave a couple good days per week for Kaydee & Emmet to earn some money.  So much for just hanging out at the pool and baseball field for our kids.

I remember as a youngster having plenty of time to play in the sprinkler (we lived too far from town to go to the pool) and go fishing and spend all night playing softball.  I really hope Kaydee and Emmet enjoy how they choose to spend their time this summer.  Since we don’t live in town, the kids’ early morning workouts are good for the body and for socializing.  And, I REALLY hope we make time to go fishing at least a couple times this summer; catch and release, of course!  Who wants to ruin a fun, relaxing evening of fishing by having to clean them?  Not me!

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There are so many choices of things for kids to do after school!  I think school sports are great and if we weren’t a farm family, I would probably push my kids harder to participate in more school sports.  Then you can throw in drama, groups like FFA or FBLA, and the list can go on.  I will say, I am a believer that as long as the kids are busy and responsible to be somewhere, they aren’t making trouble (at least I hope!).

Kaydee and Emmet don’t go out for track and I am totally o.k. with that – we have plenty of things they can be doing that certainly could be qualified as somewhat of a workout!  The last day of school is getting ever closer, which means (at least on most days….when there aren’t sports camps or driver’s ed.) a full crew for building fence!  Yay!!!  I have to say, I wish I could spend time with them putting posts in the ground; I know my arms would be MUCH more toned.  Tamping posts is very good for the upper body!

I had to do a presentation tonight at a meeting, so I didn’t get home until about 8:30, but here’s what I found Kaydee doing when I pulled in the drive:

What a responsible young lady!  We have a cattle show coming up exactly one month from now.  Emmet already had his heifers rinsed, blown and tied to the fence.  Kaydee was getting hers done.  Neither of them had eaten supper yet; they were taking care of the cattle first.  This routine will take place almost everyday  through September, which is when the Nebraska State Fair is held.  That will be our last show with this group of heifers.

Only the few cattle that are 4-H or FFA projects for the year get baths and get their hair blow-dried.  In the showring, presentation is almost as important as the structural correctness of the critter.  Folks who “fit” cattle for the showring are kind of like hairdressers.  You want each hair to be the right length and going the right direction.  Really good cattle fitters are almost like artists!

Just across the grass from where Kaydee was working, Ringo was chewing on a bone from a roast we ate last weekend.  He was in doggie heaven!

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State FFA Convention in Lincoln, Nebraska….Gotta Love It!  Both downtown Lincoln and UNL’s East Campus are a sea of navy corduroy cladden young people.  Those young people are the agriculture leaders, and I would contend, over-all leaders of their generation.

I was not fortunate enough to have Agricultural Education in my high school.  I truly felt that when I got to college at UNL, I was a full year behind my counterparts to were FFA members; they already knew the ins and outs, who was who and the what’s and how’s of the agriculture community.  I caught up, but that experience gave me a tremendous appreciation for the opportunities bestowed upon my own kids.

I dropped Kaydee off this morning at a new event for Nebraska State FFA.  She is participating in the first-ever Ag Issues Academy.  I am JEALOUS!  36 young folks from all over Nebraska are going to come out of this sessin knowing how to communicate with their governmental leaders and knowing good, effective ways to influence the future of agriculture and farming.  These kids are going to work with lobbyists, spend time training and then go to the capital.  Tomorrow morning they will have breakfast with the senator from each of their respective districts.  Kaydee is very excited to visit with Senator Tom Carlson!

I will give you a quick update on the Farmers Helping Japan via Red Cross project.  As of today, farmers have donated a total of $41,406 through grain and cash donations via the Aurora Cooperative.  I know other cooperatives are jumping on board and I have visited with Illinois Corn Growers’ staff about starting a similar program there.  Again, farmers are a very kind and generous people.  One of the donors yesterday stated to me that the truly good and kind hearted people always help out someone in need with no expectation of a returned kindness.  He is right!

The event for yesterday regarding the cows was a good old bull fight.  A neighbor had been using a bull this winter and needed a place to keep him for a few weeks.  The minute he walked into the pen with the other bulls, the fight was on!  Matt got to the yard from haying the cows & he could hear bellering and trees breaking and all kinds of ruckus.  Well, after a bit of effort, the newcomer got put in a pen by himself for a couple days until everyone gets settled down.  I tell you, it’s spring, as as they say on Bambi, everyone is “twitterpated!”

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