The Untold Realities of a Gay Man With a Passion for Agriculture

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Introduction

Homosexuality in agriculture isn’t always what you imagine it to be. For example, farmers liking farmers or cowboys having the hots for other cowboys. Even if we do usually smell a lot better, dress better, and know how to win a lady’s heart more than the regular guys that isn’t the case. It’s about trying to be the person you are meant to be in an industry that may lack knowledge of a very diverse group of individuals. People often think less of gay men in agriculture because of their sexual orientation. They call them names and find themselves in awkward conversations due to lack of support because of lack of knowledge. I am Logan Runyen and this is my story of homosexuality in agriculture.

In the beginning

While attending grade school, I just wanted to be like everyone else and fit in, just like any other kid would want to feel. I enjoyed school to an extent when it didn’t involve doing math problems and defining vocabulary. I had the teachers and some family who made every day a lot more enjoyable or, so it seemed. Unfortunately, there was one thing that always hurt me and has forever scarred me. The bullies were often disguised as very close family members, friends, and strangers. I mention family and friends because they disguised themselves to appear as they would never judge me. They taunted me, called me names, and made fun of how I acted. I wasn’t like everyone else, and it didn’t make sense as to why it had to be me. There was always one phrase that included a specific word that scared me, haunted me, and made my stomach turn. It made me feel like I needed to disappear or fake it and never tell anyone. As the years went on, I seemed to get stronger but really it was only the beginning.

Everyone enters high school scared yet so excited about having only four short years left. I immediately wanted to join so many clubs and make as many friends as possible. After living in a small farming community, it was highly recommended to join FFA and be as involved as possible. I considered joining, and I instantly froze when I walked into the first interest meeting. I felt as if my heart was going to explode, and I could feel the pressure behind my eyes. I felt that feeling you get right before the first tear is about to make its way out of your eye. It was instantly a change of mind as I left to go back to my homeroom for the rest of the day. It was the bullies who I had done my very best to avoid because I couldn’t handle anymore name calling. They kept mentioning a word that continued to haunt me until my senior year of high school. Senior year had finally arrived, and this was going to be my best year ever. I finally was comfortable with people and didn’t let other opinions get to me as easily. FFA was going to be my thing even if it was the last thing I did. During all the great opportunities I was experiencing, I had neared a turn in my life I never knew I would encounter.

College is supposed to be the place and time when you start to form into the person you are meant to be. You get to figure out who you really are and plan for a future while hoping it all goes as planned. Over this period, I had several more people always ask me or would push me to think that thought I had been tormented with several years before. I avoided it as usual and did what I thought was best and forced myself to fake it. I hid the real me by having best friends who were girls, and it would make me feel as if this is what love really was. I had the friendship and that fake label in my head. I had a girlfriend, and that’s what I needed to have to make it through life.

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My Personal Reality

I moved to Champaign, IL, in the summer of 2013 where I had my first internship and was no longer living at home. They say you never truly find yourself until you move away and live alone. That is exactly what happened to me, and it didn’t take me long at all. It was fall 2013 when things finally started to surface with a little help from a close friend. This was only three months into our friendship, and she wasn’t about to let me lie to myself. One evening, I was at her apartment, and she had noticed that I hadn’t been myself for a while because I was such a mental mess. She then proceeded to tell me that I knew what was wrong, and she wanted me to say it. I was sitting on the floor sobbing, my heart was racing, and all I thought was that I wanted to die right there. She asked me that same question again, and I lifted my head from my hands and told her. I admitted to having feelings for someone, and that they weren’t normal friend feelings. These were feelings of a crush, and it was exactly what I had never wanted in my life. It was love, and it was a real feeling but there was no way it would ever work because of his choices and who he was.

After I had made my confession and began the process in showing who I really was I actually came across someone. This person had a roommate, and they both had the same feelings I did about a different person a few months before. This started to take a toll on me, and I had hit my first wall of handing it emotionally. I finally broke down one night and called my mom in the middle of the night to have her come see me. She drove to Champaign where that night I told her and told her how much I hated myself. She didn’t seem to understand whether this was serious or not. She had told me she would love me for whoever I was, and nothing could change that. I had a feeling she didn’t believe me and that she thought this was “just a phase.” I knew it wasn’t, so I took things into my own hands and reached out to a therapist and began to start to feel better. I wasn’t mad at my mom; I just wanted to talk to a neutral resource about my feelings. This all didn’t just happen overnight but months and months of breakdowns and moments of falling to pieces. After a year and a half, I continued therapy and slowly made my way to telling my friends who I really was. All of them accepted me for who I was and that started to spark the Logan I was meant to be over all these years. I avoided my family still and always would until I found that right person to share my life with.

Change finally happened

In June of 2016, I had met someone who turned out to what I thought would be my one in a million. We met for the first time in July, and that was when my world started to feel as if it was falling into place. August had arrived, and I made the choice I had always been scared to do. I admitted to falling head over boots and asked that they be my other half. The answer was yes, and that was the best thing to happen to me in what seemed to be forever. This inspired me to finally start my process of working toward the real me and to never let negative comments or suggestions get to me. Being three hours apart was by not any means easy, but we made the best of it. I chose to drop a ball over Facebook by changing my relationship status from single to in a relationship to see what would happen. This was my way of telling all my friends that I had started another chapter in becoming who I really was. There were so many positive comments, but unfortunately, I had family members who left some negative comments because they had never met the person I was seeing. I hadn’t told them for a reason because that was for another day. For the first week of releasing that news, it was rather hard. I had to face the facts and tell some family members. They didn’t care for it and hated it because they worried about how it would affect them. I didn’t want to tell them all that I had found someone who made me happy just yet. This relationship opened so many doors and has continued to do so. As the first year went by, I became more and more comfortable with myself. I began to drop small hints of him and me on Facebook and Instagram. After receiving several messages and comments, I have learned that this is who I am. This is who I have always been, and now is the time to fall in love with myself again and to never let myself fall back to the old and fake Logan. I, Logan, am indeed gay, and this is who I am meant to be no matter what anyone says. This is the life I am choosing to live, and I can’t possibly thank everyone enough for their continued support, even the ones who tore me down, the ones who showed me things I had never seen before, and to my amazing little sister who considers me her role model. I will always do my best to make sure she has one hell of an awesome big brother. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life has in store for me as well as whoever I choose to spend the rest of my life with. Lastly, thank you to my best friends, friends, and my family. Cheers to the future, and I hope you will help share my story so that I too can inspire someone else to be themselves.

My experiences

After being in college for seven years, I have had so many experiences with people and the way gay men have been treated. I have only been openly gay in three of my jobs throughout my college career. One of them I worked for five years where I first began as an intern. I eventually left after transferring to another college to finish my degree. The company I worked for participated in PRIDE community events and even advertised that they were accepting of the LGBTQ group as well. When I first started there in 2013, they had still been a very conservative management, and I was still so far in the closet that there was no way I would say a word. I have since then gone back to visit my supervisors and my head boss. I recently came out to him, and it was one of the best feelings to know that I had the support from him. I have a very close friend who works there who is a lesbian. She and I have worked through a lot about being open in the workforce. I am not the fake straight Logan everyone seems to know but the fun and loving gay man who enjoys who he really is. The two of us have helped one another immensely about what it takes to stay strong in a rather one-sided industry. While attending Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL, I felt so welcomed and was never judged for who I was and or how I appeared. My first semester as a student I was welcomed with open arms from people who never batted an eye at my sexuality. People who I had never met before until the first Ag family gatherings loved me instantly. My new friends went way out of their way for me as if they had known how much I needed the shoulder to lean on.

Why is this an issue in agriculture?

The agriculture industry has a lot of people who are referred to as close minded or old fashioned. Those two labels are very common to what I had to deal with and still do to this day. Not all of them are that way, and it has been getting better as the LGBTQ community has opened. When you have a company in a small rural area, you usually get a lot of older generation companies that aren’t open about homosexuals. There are often people that get discriminated because of their lifestyles. Companies will often find ways to fire an individual because of their beliefs. They won’t fire them for being gay but find other ways such as being late to work or taking a day off without any notice. Things that you usually only get written up for are what cost you your job. People are often turned down because of their sexual preference. Some companies firmly believe that a person’s sexuality can influence their performance. In most cases this is never the scenario but is similar to judging a book by its cover.

Do I belong?

When choosing a career based upon agriculture I was often told that I wouldn’t survive because I was gay. I have dealt with several battles in my head about if this industry is really where I am meant to be. People would often toss around the idea of me not ever being manly enough or calling me any name you could think of. I have felt as if I am never taken seriously because I don’t like the same sex as the rest of the ag industry. While going through school I learned that I was not the only one who was in this boat. Like most gay men in the industry I get grief and jokes about liking guys which makes me feel better. Humor is one of the best solutions to any problem. You don’t have to be straight to be a farmer, but you do have to be a hard worker with the attitude to never give up. In this industry it was hard to feel like I belonged, but I managed to make it.

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Support

I have become part of a gay men in agriculture support group that has helped me in so many ways. Its people from all over the world but more in the U.S. Meeting people who have gone through the same struggles as I have has provided me with so much inspiration. When we have support groups, it provides help and links to resources that can help you better yourself. Everyone comes out at their own pace, but some never do come out and that is their choice. Learning from my experience with FFA back in 2007, we have come a long way. We need teachers who can help pull students in and inspire them to be who they are and to make them feel welcome. Nobody should ever be afraid to be their true selves because of what others think. A lot of things can apply to anyone in the workforce and not only the young adults. I graduated high school in the spring of 2011 which seems like ages ago but really isn’t. I had always debated coming out to my FFA advisor but wasn’t sure. In of March 2017, I attended and helped my advisor with a competition. I sat there on the bus and looked at my phone where I saw the photo of my significant other. It hit me, and I instantly started a conversation with my advisor and told her about someone I had been seeing. I showed her, and she told me how happy she was for me and that I deserve the happiness. The support that I received from her is what needs to happen now more than ever. This semester I came out to two of my professors and one who has been here only a few short months. As easily as they could’ve pushed me away they treated me no different. Both have been the most supportive and encouraging role models through the end of my college career. The future is ours, and we need to make a welcoming world for the children who have yet to arrive. We need to be the supporters to those who don’t have that shoulder to lean on or the ear to listen. You would be amazed to know how many people who are still out there trying their very best to talk about who they really are.

In response to family

Most of you may not agree with how I chose to publicize my news, but I hope you find it in your heart that I had to do it this way. This was the most comfortable way for myself and easiest way to reach everyone without calling a massive family gathering. To those who ask questions, please respect my family and to never show them any judgement. This was not their choice but mine, and if you have any further questions, please feel free to ask me.

Thank You

I would like to personally thank my best friends, family, my professors at WIU, and everyone who helped shape me into the person I am today. Huge thank you to former teachers and professors for helping me polish my story to help those who may need to hear this.

Need more help?

There is a resource that has had a major impact on many lives called “Cultivating Change Summit.” This is a three-day global agriculture conference that changes its location from year after year. This will feature educational opportunities including workshops, expert panels, networking mixers, and keynotes from prominent agriculture LGBT as well as the ally industry leaders. The purpose of the Cultivating Change Summit is to bring together agriculture LGBT employees, human resources and diversity and inclusion professionals, employee resources group leaders, executives and organizational leaders, allies, and others who are working toward an equitable industry environment for LGBT agriculturist everywhere. Over 200 global agriculture leaders and partners will join to share strategies and best practices to create a community inclusive of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions within the food, fiber, and natural resources industry. More information is available here: http://www.cultivatingchangefoundation.org/about/

NOTE: This post was not created to throw LGBTQ in anyone’s face regarding religion or personal beliefs. This post was created for many reasons to help others find the courage to be who they really are and to remind them that aren’t alone. It was also created to educate people who may not know what anyone in the LGBTQ world goes through in the agriculture industry.

About the Author

My name is Logan Runyen and I am currently a super senior at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL. If anyone who wants to contact me personally please feel free to comment or shoot me a personal email. I will keep you discreet and do my best to help path your road to success and happiness. My personal email is: runyen_logan@yahoo.com

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Rotational Grazing

 

More than a quarter of agricultural ground in the midwest is some kind of pasture. About 80% of these pastures are not properly taken care of. Because of that they have issues with uneven fertility, erosion, and weeds. One of the most common reasons for poor pasture health is being continuously grazed throughout the season. Continuous grazing results in very low pasture yields and makes it impossible for it to fully recover. Pasture ground needs to be managed in a way that improves efficiency and productivity. Rotational grazing will dramatically improve pasture quality.Summer_grazing_landscape_LG

What exactly is rotational grazing? Rotational grazing is when pasture is split into sections. This way livestock can graze a section at a time, so the other sections can regrow and recover. Then when that section is grazed down, livestock is moved to the next section, which is fully grown up. For this cycle to work well, rotations must be timed with the forage growth. A common problem with this is that some livestock producers rotate based on a schedule instead of the growth stage of the pasture. When done correctly, rotational grazing can improve an operation’s efficiency in a number of ways. When my grandpa had cattle he would always rotate them, and so does the farm I work for now.

Some of the positive impacts of rotational grazing include increased production and yields, time saving, environmental benefits, animal health and welfare, and obviously increased pasture productivity. The midwest has a lot of farmers using rotational grazing right now. A Wisconsin survey found that in the 1990s there were almost no farmers using this. Now over half of beef and dairy operations are using this management system. However rotational grazing is not just for cattle, it can be used with sheep, horses, goats, and chickens. This management practice benefits the farmer, animals, and the land. It also allows the farmer to profit from the land. Grazing systems have become much more common as people begin to see the improvements it brings.

 

Kevin McCutchan. Aledo, Illinois. Senior at Western Illinois University.

Sigma Alpha: Not your typical sorority

 

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Prior to coming to Western Illinois University to further my education, I always had told myself, “I would never join a sorority.” I had thought that sorority girls were nothing but a bunch of rich girls who always had to wear a new outfit to go out or that they bought their friendships. However, I am now a sorority girl and the thoughts I had about Greek life were wrong.

Sigma Alpha, the Professional Agriculture Sorority, is the sorority I chose to get involved in at Western. Sigma Alpha is a sorority of girls who share the same interest and love for agriculture. The best way to describe Sigma Alpha is to look at it’s objective:

“The objective of Sigma Alpha shall be to promote its members in all facets of agriculture and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. It is the purpose of the members to strive for achievement in scholarship, leadership, and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture.”

But why choose Sigma Alpha? Through my experience, automatically meeting over 20 girls who would all end up so close in your MC (membership candidate) class made you feel like you were back in kindergarten where everyone wanted to be friends with everyone. Getting your Sigma Alpha “mom” and finding out that that one person would soon be a friend and just a call away when needed. Getting to meet the active girls and only hoping the MC process would speed up to be able to get your first stitched letters. Within those 6 weeks of the process you learn about Sigma Alpha and learn to appreciate the organization as a whole.

A few words from our current President, Elizabeth Miller, “My experience within Sigma Alpha has truly been such an eye opening and rewarding experience that I think every girl should have at least once in their lives. I’ve watched the sorority as a whole change and adapt to the times as well as the girls within our local chapter change. Just because it’s a professional agriculture sorority doesn’t mean you grew up on a farm or both of your parents are in agriculture, or it doesn’t even have to mean to have declared agriculture as a major. You just simply need to want to grow within a sisterhood that supports and has similar morals to those agriculturalists in society. And because of those beliefs within the sorority, I was able to find my “home.”  A piece of advice I’ve been giving to all our new members is this; whether it’s within Sigma Alpha or in another organization, be sure to get involved within the leadership roles of the organization you choose.”

 

     Sigma Alpha gave me sisters I don’t ever want to lose contact with, and with the bond we have through sisterhood I don’t think I ever will. So when looking into sororities, think about Sigma Alpha. It will be the best decision you will never regret. I know it was for me.

    Hello, my name is Breann Knapp and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University studying agriculture business, with a minor in marketing. I am from Ashland Illinois, a town of about 1,200 people with farming being a huge part of the community. At Western I am involved in many clubs through the school of Ag; Sigma Alpha (sisterhood chair), Ag Vocator Team, Collegiate Farm Bureau (treasurer),and Hoof n Horn Club.

Agriculture: past vs present

Farming has changed in a major way over the last 50 years. From recent interviews and what I have personally heard over the years of being around a family farm I have put together some interesting opinions and ideas how farming has changed over the years. The biggest change has been with the size of the farms and the other biggest change has been with the way farms are operated. I based this off of local Illinois farms.

Farming from the past:

Most farms began as a entire family effort. The size of the farm was usually between 40 and 160 acres, with many different types of livestock the majority being cattle, hogs, and chickens because you can get eggs from chickens, milk from the cattle as well as meat, and you can get meat from the hogs as well. The crops that were planted were usually corn and soybeans like we have now and they were split up over the tillable acreage that was available.

The equipment that was used was usually the farms had one tractor and that was used for doing chores and working the ground after harvest. They farm also had to have a planter and a harvester on the farm. The planters were usually four row with the biggest being six and the harvesters were sometimes a combine or sometimes a pull behind harvester depending on how big the farm was.

I interviewed a couple of farmers that have been around to see the big changes over the years so I asked one of them what he remembers most about when he first started farming 60 years ago. The biggest thing he remembered was how much hard work it took. He says there weren’t  cabs on tractors, no heaters on the water (so the water wouldn’t freeze for the livestock), and there wasn’t someone else to do the work for you. I’m sure this is how most of the older farmers would say farming used to be because it was more of a way of life than a business, farming was how the family survived and how the money was earned.

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New combine vs Old combine photo creds: machine finder

 

Farming in the present:

In west central Illinois farms range between 300 acres at the smallest to 10,000 acres at the bigger end. Not all of the acres that are farmed by a farmer are owned by one single farmer. That is one way farming has changed is that most farmers don’t just farm the ground they own most farmers are cash renting or splitting the ground with the person that owns it. Today farms are a lot less diverse meaning that usually farms specialize in either crops mostly being corn and soybeans or specializing in livestock either cattle or hogs.

Farming has become more of a business.  Farms are having to increase in size to spread out expenses. The size of everything in farming has increased and the price has increased with it. The equipment that is used now has doubled in size from 50 years ago and the technology has improved so much that the tractors can basically drive themselves. Going back to the interviews with a local farmer he says “If you were to tell me when I started farming that I would be able to push a button and the tractor would go in a straight line I would have called you crazy” and he’s right nobody would ever imagine the improvements that have been made with the technologies in farming. The livestock industry has changed as well, the livestock is becoming more of an indoors operation using cattle and hog confinements to better the animals so they are not out in the elements and will lesson the risk for injury.

Farms have had to increase in size because the farms are now having to feed three or more families. Another reason farms have had to increase is to make up for the input cost and the cost to purchase a new piece of equipment.

Recap:

I would say farming has changed more than any industry in the world because people have had to adapt to the changes over the years or they would no longer be farming or have a farm for generations to come. The bigger changes have been with the size of the farms, they have basically doubled in size. Another major change is the technology has changed with the seed planted and the equipment that is used for the farm operation.

Bio:

My name is Colton Melliapt farmsnger and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Agriculture Business with a minor in Accounting. I grew up on a corn, soybean, and livestock farm outside of Laharpe Il. Farming has taught me many life lesson throughout my years being around it. I plan on going back and farming and expanding the operation for many years to come.

 

The Benefits of Showing Pigs

I haven’t always grown up raising pigs and showing pigs. I know what it’s like to not have any livestock. I have been raising and showing pigs for the past eight years now. I can tell you that if I could go back and start raising pigs sooner than when I started I would and I can bet that everyone else that raises and shows livestock would tell you the same thing. If I hadn’t got involved in raising livestock I probably wouldn’t be very involved in agriculture as I am now because raising and showing pigs is really what helped me get set on the path that I’m on now. There are many benefits in this industry the ones that really stick out to me, are the work ethic, passion and responsibilities lImage result for show pigsearned all which can be applied to the real world.

Work ethic is the most value trait to have in todays’ society and showing pigs helps to develop a great work ethic. When showing competitively it takes time to work with pigs. There’s countless hours spent working with pigs from washing and getting them out and walking them around to get them use to being lead around with a show stick. You won’t always get to go out and do stuff with your friends because your busy taking care of your pigs getting them ready for shows. This helps prepare young adults for what the real world is like.

You must have passion for what you to do. If you don’t have passion for what you do it becomes irrelevant and talent is taken away from somewhere else. There has to be a drive because a kid won’t want to walk pigs every day or want to go travel to different shows throughout the year. A family can go out and buy a show pig or they can actually raise the pig from birth on their farm they spend countless hours working with it to reach goals that they have with that pig. Sometimes all the hard work is paid off by winning ribbons, banners, or trophies. But that’s not always going to happen there’s maybe a few years you don’t win anything but then you have a year where you win a ribbon, banner, or trophy and then that makes it all worth it. The years you don’t win don’t let that discourage you just take what you learned that year and apply it to the next year. Never given up on your passion.

The responsibilities that showing pigs teaches you is one of my favorite qualities. Any livestock needs to get fed twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. There’s walking and washing the pig every day. Without doing this the pig won’t walk right in the ring and will be dirty and you won’t compete in the show ring. This keeps you close to home because you have to be around to take care of your animal, so this means no weekend getaways or going out of town for the day. Another responsibility is planning ahead by booking hotel rooms, packing all the feed you need, and planning your route before going to a show. There are many other responsibilities that can be learned by the youth.

I find that there are many benefits in showing pigs. Raising any livestock can teach you many important values. When I have kids, I plan to get them involved in showing pigs, to show them the benefits that come from showing pigs. This hobby can turn into a lifestyle.

My Name Collin Swanson and I’m a senior at Western Illinois University for Ag Business. I grew up around my Uncles grain and cattle farm in West Central Illinois.  I have a passion for raising and showing pigs. I plan to go into seed sales after graduating.

Entrepreneurship in Agriculture – A Youth’s Perspective

Entrepreneurship is hard. It comes with an abundance of failures and mistakes, but learning from those mistakes is what makes a good entrepreneur. This is a story of how my siblings and I started our own feeder cattle business, and how we developed our program as we gained more experience. As this story progresses, I will point out key things that I believe makes for a good entrepreneur.

Growing up, I always called myself a hobby farmer. My family owned a five acre spread that was filled with horses that we raised and rode. In my sophomore year of high school, my family exited the horse business, leaving an empty lot at home. My two siblings and I decided to venture into the cattle business.

We started off with beef bottle calves. We would have four to five bottle calves at one time. Every morning, one of us would go outside and bottle feed them. We would grow the calves to about five hundred pounds and resell them.sibs While it was cheap to get into bottle babies at the time, there was more work and expenses to raise bottle babies. Milk replacer for one is not cheap, and bottle babies can get sick much easier than a standard feeder calves that stay on their mother’s milk. Bottle baby prices for beef calves skyrocketed from 350 to 600 dollars at my local sale barn. There was no way to make any money at those prices. This leads to key number 1: Always know your breakeven point. You have to be smart with your money and where you spend it. My siblings and I did not borrow any money to start our business. We started our business with the money we saved up. With prices of bottle babies being high, we had to think of a new way to make money.

Key number 2: Be observant. My sister noticed that 300-pound calves were bringing about the same price as bottle calves. Buying a 300 to 350-pound calf meant that no bottle feeding was required and generally their immune system is better. We started buying 300-pound angus cross male cattle. We would pick up a couple at one sale, then a couple more at another until we had a group of about 20 calves.

At the beginning of buying these calves, we bought feed from our local farm store. Feed is the costliest part of a feeder cattle business, meaning that gaining an edge in that expense category can make a huge difference. One day, we bought hay from our neighbor, who has his own shorthorn cow calf operation. IMG_0086He noticed that we were raising cattle instead of horses. As our conversation progressed, we talked about feed. He asked me where I get my feed from, and I told him that I get it at the farm store. He then went on to say that he mixes his own feed to feed out his cattle, and offered to sell us feed that he grinds. Key number 3: Reach out to experienced people in the industry that you are in. From that point on, I would go to my neighbor with empty mineral tubs in the back of my truck and get feed for our cattle. The feed was a balanced ration for backgrounding cattle, and it was cheaper than going to the farm store.

Key number 4: Keep growing. “If you do what you have always done, then you will get what you always got.” That was a saying my ag teacher in high school had posted in the front of the classroom. I think it is important to be looking for ways to grow your business. After my siblings and I sold a couple of groups of calves, we decided to invest in a head chute. We always did our vet work at the sale barns. Each sale barn had a different vet that would charge a different fee to cut, vaccinate, and deworm a calf. After we bought the head chute, we did our own vet work. We even tagged our cattle. This allowed us to keep records on individual calves. We could tell if a calf was constantly getting sick, rather than my sister shouting: “Which one did you say was sick?”

Me: “The black one!”

Sister: “That narrows it down to about 20 of them.”

As more groups of calves were sold from the Merritt Feeder Cattle Business, people began to recognize what my siblings and I produced. Key number 5: Have a good product. When you bring good cattle to the sale barns, buyers notice. Cattle eatingWhen the auctioneer makes the statement of saying “These guys always bring a good group to sell,” you get a sense of pride. My siblings and I always tried to buy good quality cattle to grow and resell.

Only one thing remains the same in the cattle market, and that is that everything changes. The cattle market went through a huge upswing, then it suddenly came back down. The margins in buying and reselling cattle got pretty slim. Once again, our feeder cattle business had to make a change. Back to the second key of being observant, we realized that growing feeding cattle to 700 pounds could be more profitable. While there was higher risk of having more money tied up in feed, we also knew that doing what we had always done would not be profitable. One day at the sale barn, we had one of the highest selling calves in our weight group. Having well sought after cattle helped bring more money into our business.

I am proud to say that my siblings and I grew our business from 5 bottle babies to about 50 feeder cattle at one time. We invested in new sheds, feed bunks, and fencing to improve our business. While we are not a large scale cattle producer, we can still raise as good of feeder cattle as any. Starting your own business, especially in agriculture, is challenging. If it was easy, everyone would do it. You might fail, but learning from your mistakes will lead to success. If you are determined, you can make it. Take my key points for what they are worth. I wish anyone starting their own business the best of luck.

prof pictureMy name is Luke Merritt, and I am a senior at Western Illinois University. My major is agriculture business with a minor in agronomy. I currently work at the University’s Research Farm as a Data Collection Specialist. I hope to have a career as a loan officer within the agriculture industry.

 

 

The Benefits of Showing Pigs

I haven’t always grown up raising pigs and showing pigs. I know what it’s like to not have any livestock. I have been raising and showing pigs for the past eight years now. I can tell you that if I could go back and start raising pigs sooner than when I started I would and I can bet that everyone else that raises and shows livestock would tell you the same thing. If I hadn’t got involved in raising livestock I probably wouldn’t be very involved in agriculture as I am now because raising and showing pigs is really what helped me get set on the path that I’m on now. There are many benefits in this industry the ones that really stick out to me, are the work ethic, passion and responsibilities lImage result for show pigsearned all which can be applied to the real world.

Work ethic is the most value trait to have in todays’ society and showing pigs helps to develop a great work ethic. When showing competitively it takes time to work with pigs. There’s countless hours spent working with pigs from washing and getting them out and walking them around to get them use to being lead around with a show stick. You won’t always get to go out and do stuff with your friends because your busy taking care of your pigs getting them ready for shows. This helps prepare young adults for what the real world is like.

“There are no secrets to success, it is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”- Colin Powell

You must have passion for what you to do. If you don’t have passion for what you do it becomes irrelevant and talent is taken away from somewhere else. There has to be a drive because a kid won’t want to walk pigs every day or want to go travel to different shows throughout the year. A family can go out and buy a show pig or they can actually raise the pig from birth on their farm they spend countless hours working with it to reach goals that they have with that pig. Sometimes all the hard work is paid off by winning ribbons, banners, or trophies. But that’s not always going to happen there’s maybe a few years you don’t win anything but then you have a year where you win a ribbon, banner, or trophy and then that makes it all worth it. The years you don’t win don’t let that discourage you just take what you learned that year and apply it to the next year. Never given up on your passion.

The responsibilities that showing pigs teaches you is one of my favorite qualities. Any livestock needs to get fed twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. There’s walking and washing the pig every day. Without doing this the pig won’t walk right in the ring and will be dirty and you won’t compete in the show ring. This keeps you close to home because you have to be around to take care of your animal, so this means no weekend getaways or going out of town for the day. Another responsibility is planning ahead by booking hotel rooms, packing all the feed you need, and planning your route before going to a show. There are many other responsibilities that can be learned by the youth.

I find that there are many benefits in showing pigs. Raising any livestock can teach you many important values. When I have kids, I plan to get them involved in showing pigs, to show them the benefits that come from showing pigs. This hobby can turn into a lifestyle.

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My Name Collin Swanson and I’m a senior at Western Illinois University for Ag Business. I grew up around my Uncles grain and cattle farm in West Central Illinois.  I have a passion for raising and showing pigs. I plan to go into seed sales after graduating.