Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the 2010 Red, White and You Conference, a teen leadership camp for eighth, ninth and tenth graders. At the opening of my presentation, I asked the kids to tell me a little about themselves. What kind of farm do you come from? What do you want to be when you grow up? What are you passionate about? What do you believe strongly in? When stating their career intentions and passions, there were students interested in pursuing agriculture engineering, accounting, business and journalism. Of course, there were several students who stood up and said they wanted to be farmers.
However, when these kids stated their production agriculture pursuits, I found it interesting that many of the students chuckled at the idea. Is farming and ranching not considered a career? Is it not a humble way to make a living? Or perhaps, is the idea so financially difficult that young people don't even think about it as a potential career?
The reason I note this is because in the opening of my speech, I told a story about how, as a kid growing up on a cattle operation, I was embarrassed to be a farm kid. I resented the hard work I had to do while my friends enjoyed living in town. My city friends had chores like making the bed and washing the dishes, and my chores were cleaning out the barn, feeding bulls, and helping my dad outside. It was so unfair, I thought at 10 years old. And, to make things worse, I got teased about having cattle and taking them to shows for fun. I certainly had to sort through a lot of insecurities before my heart found its way back to agriculture. And, when I asked the students if, they too, were teased for being from a farm, I was amazed at the show of hands that had similar experiences as I.
So, I was surprised that a room full of young people in agriculture would chuckle about kids striving to be farmers and ranchers, and I was quick to give praise to those brave enough to pursue such a noble career. I recently attended the South Dakota Governor's Agriculture Development Summit in Sioux Falls, SD where Governor Michael Rounds told the audience that 43% of young people in the state have a desire to be in agriculture after graduation. How many of these young people stick with it? What resources can these kids turn to in order to help develop these dreams into reality? What percentage of these students actually find their way to production agriculture, and how many are laughed at, ridiculed or teased because of their decision?
For all of you, like me, who want to be farmers and ranchers or are currently enjoying a career in food production, kudos to you! May we nurture the next generation of agriculturalists; they are our future, and I'm proud of them! Is your next generation pursuing a career in production agriculture? If so, how are you making it work?
(Photo taken at 2010 Red, White and You Conference. I'm in the front row.)