I thought that I knew what living in rural America was all about. I mean, I grew up in a rural county of 18,000 or so. Lived in a small home just off my grandfather’s farm. Watched my grandfather as he went about his job as a rural county Vet. But, since marring my sixth generation farmer, I have learned that I really grew up in what he calls “the city”, and had no clue about life on a real farm.
I am glad that my kids are learning more about agriculture than I did. And I am really glad that Brian and I have chosen to make 4-H a part of that educational experience. Now, I did grow up with 4-H, but it’s was not the same 4-H as my husband did. See, to me 4-H was all about speech competitions, poster projects, and baking contest. My parents would have died before they ever helped me tackle an animal care project. So, I really had no base for comparison when Brian and Ella came home in late October 2012 and announce in the middle of our home building that we were going to do the Market hog 4-H project.
Now given how my 9 year old has tackled previous animal care issues, I thought that my husband and I had just taken on three pigs to take care of, but I have to be the first to admit that I have been wrong. My daughter has really stepped up for this project. She has fed, watered, cleaned, and worked with these three pigs for the last three months getting ready for her first show with the dedication of an Olympic athlete.
So now here we are, two days away from show time. She is so excited she can barely sit still, and I have more stuff to pack than I can keep strait. This is worse than when she did beauty pageants.
And I’ll tell you what else you what else I have learned, she has had to learn a ton of written and visual material for this show as well.
I thought hog show meant we go and wash the pigs and clean up the kid and show pigs, but 4-H takes this seriously. She has had to learn breeds, genetics, animals welfare issues, medical care issues, how to read medicine labels, on and off label uses of medicines, types of vaccines, protein and energy content of feeds, mineral replacement, metabolic definitions, how to identify cuts of wholesale and retail meats, and how to label the anatomy of her hogs. Last night at the county Skill-a-Thon she took a test as a 4th grader that I would have had trouble with in high school. And then she gets done and tells me how fun she had had. (Even being as big a geek as I am, I’m not sure my definition of a fun Saturday night in fourth grade would have been learning about animal care, safety, and taking a test)
So, win or loose, place or show, I am proud of my daughter and my husband.
Ella has shown me again how much fun it is to learn new things and how surprising it can be to see life through your child’s eyes. My husband constantly amazes me with his love of agriculture, his patience, and love of teaching our children to love the land and animals that live on them as much as he does.
I am also thankful for programs like 4-H which exist to teach young people, whether they live in rural America or in the inner city about the joys of animal care and self confidence.
Many thanks to Mr. Randle Kimes our Clay County 4-H Agent for all hard work he has done with the young women and men of Clay County to get them ready for our 4-H State Market Hog Show!!!