June 20, 2024

Rural Issues: Believing in the next generation

Fairs, jackpot livestock shows and cattle breed association junior regional and national events are underway in America’s heartland.

This is rural America’s time to shine, and no star burns brighter than the boys and girls participating in 4-H, FFA and junior livestock or junior fair activities and competitions.

We hear a lot about how young people are not “measuring up” in society today. We hear about their lack of initiative, their irresponsible behavior and their inability to communicate effectively.

Walk through the building with 4-H projects at your county or state fair, take in a junior livestock show or any of the many summer events where ag youth are showcased — and your faith in the next generation will be restored.

We live in a world where people who raise livestock are being unfairly and undeservedly criticized for animal husbandry and welfare practices. Those with no basic knowledge of livestock production have the audacity to challenge those whose life’s work is focused on raising cattle, hogs, goats, sheep, or poultry.

The anti-animal agriculture crowd waves a flag of moral superiority while tossing false accusations and junk science at anyone and everyone involved in livestock production.

It is refreshing to witness boys and girls caring for their animals and working so hard to highlight their animals’ strengths in the showring. Show day is the culmination of weeks — for some species, months — of work at home.

Experience in agricultural youth organizations offers young people the opportunity to find and use their voice.

By practicing and studying in a safe environment, young people learn to voice their opinion and to communicate more effectively by judging livestock and giving reasons.

They are more confident and thus better prepared to address the misinformation that might be tossed at them.

Young people may also learn to collaborate with other youth to accomplish a common goal, whether it is building a fire at 4-H camp or building a picnic table to raise money for FFA. Through those experiences, leaders begin to hone the skills that will be used throughout their lifetimes.

Fewer kids grow up on farms today than in the previous generation. Without daily exposure to farm life, it is easier for young people to believe the lies being told about the way American farmers treat the land, air, water and animals.

Agriculture feeds a hungry world, but the power of this industry goes beyond that. Farmers also provide the resources to clothe and fuel the world.

There will be millions of new mouths to feed in coming years, many of whom rely on U.S. food production to meet this need.

Let us all support the organizations and individuals who provide young people with the tools and knowledge to tell their own story and help the rest of us tell ours.

Young people in this country are our finest natural resource — and our future. If we give them the opportunity today, they will be ready when it is time for them to lead us and join the team that will feed the world.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.