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Recapturing Agriculture's Youth

21 years ago today, my parents, Dave and Peggy, were on their way to the hospital in Sioux Falls, SD. The date was November 13, 1987, and their first daughter, Amanda, was entering the world. As the story has been told to me, my dad was racing down the interstate, a nervous soon-to-be daddy trying to get his wife to the hospital to ensure a safe delivery and a healthy baby.

Then it hit him. It was the morning of Friday the 13th. Certainly, this wasn’t a good sign to have your baby born on a day filled with bad luck.

“Peg, do you know it’s Friday the 13th?” my dad asked, with worry in his eyes.

“Well, I’m not waiting until tomorrow!” my mom hollered back. Needless to say, I think I have an average load of bad luck, no worse than the next guy. No worries.

Yes, it’s my birthday. So why do you care? Well, being 21 years old today reminds me that my youth is quickly passing me by. Soon I will graduate from college, get a job, buy a house, maybe get married and start a family. Then I start to wonder, will cattle be in my adult story? Will I be able to continue my family’s cattle operation or start my own? Will I have to find new ways to market my cattle in order to make it? How will I get the money to pay for new equipment, purchase cattle and pay the bills?

Perhaps it’s these worries that send so many young people “packing” away from a career in agriculture. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about how we are going to assist our nation’s youth in this endeavor. So many young people ditch the country life for more lucrative jobs in the cities, and they mourn the loss of wide-open spaces, pastures of cattle and chores to do in the evening. Yet, it is much easier to make it financially by following this path.

This is the exact topic that I will be presenting at two conferences this winter, Women In Blue Jeans in Mitchell, SD and The Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference in Grand Rapids, MI. I hope to get people to stand up and take action on this issue. And, I'm not the only one talking. In the past few months, Alaina Burt has written an excellent series of stories to help youth find their homes in agriculture. I suggest you check them out, if you haven’t already in our print version.

So what do you think? Are you making room in your business model for your next generation? Are you encouraging these young people to continue the beef cattle tradition? Post your comments; I’m up for a big discussion.

*Disclaimer: Thanks Mom and Dad for letting me share bits and pieces of your life on this blog, too! You guys are the greatest parents a kid could ask for! Don't forget to get me a birthday present!


Note: This is a picture of my parents and I at SDSU's Little International. Stories about this event to come this Spring!