Random thoughts about rural kids, the cattle market and the beef industry’s future

Troy Marshall

June 16, 2016

3 Min Read
Random thoughts about rural kids, the cattle market and the beef industry’s future

I attended our state FFA convention last week and among other things, watched the public speaking contest. If you’ve never done that before, I encourage you to do so, even if you’re like me and, as you get older, catch yourself thinking that things were better in the “glory” days. For example, who’s the better basketball player, Michael Jordan or Lebron James? Michael Jordan, without a doubt.

But it was great to see young, talented, smart, hardworking kids doing their best and to be reminded that the future should be a whole lot better than the past. 

While there were some very good speeches and presentations, what struck me most was the topics that the kids elected to talk about, things like sustainability, GMOs, animal welfare, educating the consumer, international trade. Perhaps it is because these kids are not immersed in our circles and instead are interacting more with young people from non-rural backgrounds, but they are acutely aware that we have to get our message out about our products and how they are produced. 

They also have a way of making you feel old. I’m not sure they are aware that there are network news shows; they get their information on their phones and through the web, and occasionally when they watch some cable news with their parents. They don’t use email or Facebook. They may have accounts but they only use them reluctantly because their school, teacher or some other adult essentially forces them to in order to communicate with them. 

Instead, they are using Snapchat, Instagram and other social media platforms, things I know about only because I’ve heard the names. Today’s youngsters don’t have faith in the media or politicians and their world view is shaped more by their peers than their parents or older generations. 

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With that said, it is striking that what really separates rural kids from their urban counterparts is that the rural kids interact far more with the preceding generations. That helps our youth bridge the gap between their generation and ours, which tends to be focused on the day-to-day things and simply can’t fathom that people outside our industry believe some of the misconceptions that exist. Perhaps we should spend some time listening to the “kids” because they truly get it. 

Moving to the markets, every convention and marketing committee meeting this summer will discuss the futures markets and the concerns that have been raised relative to the new era of rapid trading/computerized trading. This isn’t the first time there have been concerns raised about outside factors influencing the market in unexplainable ways. 

However, what seems to be different is a general belief that instead of acting to change things, we have to figure out a way to deal with these changes. It comes down to the old saying that “you can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube.” The focus is instead on adapting to the new environment we find ourselves in. 

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