Growing up on the farm, I always knew I was different. I drew pictures in class of cows having babies, wrote stories about helping my dad haul manure, and explained in detail to the other kids about where that lunchroom cheeseburger came from. Oh my poor elementary school teachers trying to understand what type of child my parents were raising. Yet that’s just it, growing up in agriculture or more simply on a farm, we are different. Not in how we look, how we dress (unless it is our dirty work clothes), or how we act, but it runs much deeper in the lifestyle we live.
It was always hard to explain to my high school best friends that no I could not come over at 7 pm to eat supper and hang out. I tried every excuse in the book at first, but then, I started to realize that I was proud of what I was doing. 7 in the evening was when I started rinsing heifers. They could not be turned out until at least 9 pm when the sun went down. Yes I could make the late night bonfires but I was always the first to go home, because there was a to-do list with my name at the top for tomorrow. From hauling hay, to mowing the grass, to running seed around to help dad in the fields, there was never a shortage of work. Being 21 now, I enjoy social events just as much as any other student, but there is not a free weekend I have spent at school because there are too many jobs at home that need to get done and it is not only a family affair, but a team effort.
Collegiate Livestock Judging, attending national livestock shows, and merely attending three full years of college in the agriculture divisions at both Lake Land Junior College and Western Illinois University, have shown me how close the agriculture community is. I became very good friends with a girl at LLC whose dad happened to go there some 30 years previous with my dad. One of my dad’s former teachers was a substitute professor and allowed me the opportunity to work on his cattle. Most recently, we had a guest speaker in my agronomy class who is a professor at Mississippi State. He and Dr. Bernards, my professor, knew each other when they both were getting their masters, one at Purdue and one at Michigan State. Now basic geography tells us, these schools are not close together, but conferences brought them both together as they had similar interests, and to this day they bounce ideas and information off of one another.
Many professions claim to be very close through constantly seeing similar patients, meetings or seminars that they see each other once a month at, or maybe they talk every day at the office. Agriculture though runs much deeper than just a conversation. The passion it takes to put everything you have on the line on a daily basis is something anyone outside the industry may never understand. It takes long days, sleepless nights, and constantly praying mother nature and the markets go in your favor to be able to have the funding needed to buy the newer piece of equipment, that next semi load of livestock, or another 100 acres of land to help next year be even more prosperous.
The industry is not just those farmers and ranchers out in the fields. It includes the insurance agent that helps fund the purchase of a year’s worth of seed. The trucker who hauls milk to and from the farms to be processed. All the way to the grain elevator in charge of storing and purchasing the end products. There is trust and honesty needed in these relationships to keep an oiled running machine that is constantly running.
We in agriculture need to remember to all stand together. As an industry we have been more and more in the spotlight and not for the positive reasons we should be. Many are criticizing the way things are done because they believe false videos, incomplete information, and the newest trends that make people become highly opposed to what agriculture is doing in the ways of trying to feed, clothe, and allow variety to a constantly growing world. Standing together as agriculture enthusiasts to highlight the truth on one of the closest and most important industries that exists, (we do feed people more than three times per day), is a necessity to speak out on our behalf.
The recent wildfires that destroyed thousands of acres, homes, and took the lives of many livestock and humans, have brought out the best in ag. From sending fencing supplies, precious hay bales, or sending man power to help get the challenging jobs done, we will always rise above. It is a team effort to pull through and move ahead even through hard times. In agriculture, you are never truly alone because your neighbors are always there and ready to help. There is never a day to rest, feel sorry for ourselves, or try to solve the world’s problems, but there is always time to be thankful, feel blessed, and appreciate the many opportunities, close relationships, and people agriculture brings together.
My name is Olivia Claire and I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University. I have a passion for showing cattle, livestock judging, and anything to do with working outside. This farm girl just so happens to also be a fair queen promoting agriculture! I attended Lake Land College where I received my Associates in Science. I now am working towards a Bachelors in Agriculture Science with a minor in Agronomy, Agriculture Business, and Animal Science. It is truly an honor and great experience being part of Leatherneck Nation!