Stepping Up for the Future of Agriculture- Are You Willing?
When it came to our first year in New Mexico, we had a lot of expenses. With a cross country move, buying a new farm, renovating the new farm, and then the normal expenses of four kids, we didn’t have a lot of extra money to throw right at buying livestock. Regardless, a new place meant new friends for the kids, new endeavors they wanted to pursue, and a new 4-H chapter.
Moving out west seemed to open up a million possibilities for my kids when it came to 4-H, livestock and farm life. We had more land, agriculture is big, and respected here, and there is a great 4-H club and leadership. Eager to get involved, the hardest part was choosing what exactly they wanted to do for their projects. After much discussion and speaking to different agents, and breeders, our son decided on poultry, and dairy heifers. Initially, he was interested in doing boer goats, but locating a breeder with available, or affordable stock on our budget proved a bit challenging.
We were able to purchase two dairy heifers from a local dairy. We met the dairy manager by chance, in a tire shop of all places. My husband struck up a conversation, and we were invited to the dairy that weekend. My son was told to choose anything that he wanted on the property. The owner, sold him the heifers below market value. The dairy manager was helpful with everything from feed choices to branding details to help us get started.
After some time went on, one of the boer goat breeders contacted me again. She needed some help, and had a couple extra whethers available. She and my son made an agreement to get “paid” at an hourly rate in credit towards the stock. He spent months working off the animals, (because he could only work a few hours at a time, and around his school schedule). However, there was no mistaking his pride when he received his “paid in full” bill of sale and his goats! They were his, no strings attached, not purchased by his parents, but through 100% hard work and dedication.
This arrangement did so much more for him then save us some money and get him goats. He learned skills, management, the value of work, how to work for a boss, and accountability. Even if he comes in dead last place at the show ring, he will have learned more than any other child that simply had an animal purchased for them.
Sadly, we just got the news that due to life changes, our friend would be selling her home and her herd. As much as my heart broke for this kind person for having to leave her dream, it brought up an important question.
Who is going to step up to keep educating these kids and getting them involved in agriculture?
It is no secret that the future of agriculture lies with our youth. Veteran farmers are aging out, and with agriculture under attack from so many angles, we are in serious trouble if we do not start engaging the next generation.
Often times, farmers may want to become involved, but not really know how.
Contact your local extension agent- Your extension agent is a valuable resource. Not only do they have their ear to the ground when it comes to local agriculture, but they tend to know who is looking for what. They can get you connected with local groups, 4-H clubs, and even families that are desiring to get involved.
Create a work program– It’s no secret that there never seems to be enough hours in the day on any farm or ranch. Take advantage of eager youth, and help educate them in the process. By letting them work side by side, not only will you get more thing accomplished, but they will learn the skills and trades necessary for this lifestyle. Letting them work off livestock will also help get them started in the industry, with little capital. Kids that can begin their herds at a young age, have an automatic head start, and more chances of succeeding when they’re older.
Consider a lease program- Leasing an animal can be beneficial to both parties. On one hand, you retain ownership of the animal. Although you do not get paid for the animal up front, you do not have the expenses of raising it. The leasee, gets the opportunity to raise that animal, learn about it, show it, and gets to participate in the accompanying 4-H or FFA groups. At the end of the project, you can get the animal back, or have it sold, and then be paid the animal’s value at the time of it being leased. Different 4-H groups have different rules when it comes to leasing, so be sure to check with your local 4-H agent to develop, or fine tune a lease agreement before offering it to a 4-H member.
My question for you is, how are you helping our future farmers? This is something that cannot be put off onto others. If everyone thinks “Oh, they’ll handle it” then nothing will ever get accomplished. This is not something that can be left to the parents, the school systems, 4-H or FFA alone. All of these aspects combine to help, but without the involvement of those active in the industry, we’re all just spinning our wheels.
In life, we all want to leave a legacy. Even down to our headstones, we want people to remember who we are. What better legacy is there to leave, than one where you are remembered, and loved for helping educate, children, set them up to follow their dreams, and help save agriculture as we know it?