July 25, 2012 § 1 Comment
This past Sunday, Kevin and I were driving home from a 4-H event when our discussion turned to a local county fair and the actions that some students (and parents!) had taken against a youth exhibitor and his family. With behavior that could only be described as bullying, 4-Hers and their families made the boy feel like an outsider in the livestock barns; making statements about how he “felt entitled” and “thought he was better than everyone else” simply because he had decided to step outside his comfort zone and show at jackpots and state shows outside of his county this year.
As someone that knows the boy very well, I can confidently say that the sense of entitlement he has been accused of is simply not there. He belongs to one of the most honest, hardworking families that I have had the pleasure to work with. Furthermore, he has worked his heart out this summer only to have his butt kicked at all but one of those shows that he attended. There’s a growth curve involved with showing livestock, and he understands that. The concept that is harder to grasp is why some families feel the need to ridicule those that go the extra mile.
After posting a status about the issue, and how I am appalled that 4-H, an organization whose slogan is “Making the Best Better” is failing to teach students to take accountability for their own choices, I received an outpouring of support and agreement from my Facebook community. More accurately, 30 “likes” and 18 comments of other livestock families sharing their own horror stories of the times when other people made them question their own hard work… at the county fair.
I am continually amazed that rude, petty, and degrading behavior is more commonly witnessed at county fairs that it is at state and national shows. After all, shouldn’t competitive nature be boosted when hundreds of thousands of dollars and trailers are on the line, rather than just a twenty dollar trophy and the first sale spot at the local auction? In my experience, that hasn’t been the case. The folks we’ve encountered at larger state and national shows have never been anything but polite and supportive – a community worthy of the 4-H name.
I’m proud of the time that I spent in 4-H. I’m proud to be one of the kids that has always tried a little bit harder to reach a little bit farther. I’m also proud to now have the opportunity to mentor and teach the outstanding youth of the livestock industry.
What I’m not proud of is the behavior that I’ve witnessed in recent years that has become associated with the “Freddy 4-Her”.
If the county fair is a fun activity that your family partakes in each year to teach your kids the responsibility of caring for livestock and make a few dollars for college, then I applaud you.
If your children’s livestock project has been taken to the next step in order to teach them the amount of work that it takes to run a larger scale business, then I also applaud you. A lot of time and effort goes into banner chasing.
Each family sets out reaching for different goals in the show ring, whether it’s to win the show or simply not get last in the class. However, as representatives of an organization like 4-H, there are some goals that we should ALWAYS shoot for:
Hard work. Sportsmanship. Integrity.
Making the best better.
July 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Lately I’ve failed at blogging. In this case, lately means since March. Sorry to those that read my ramblings!
This summer (like the last few) has been a whirlwind of work, class, showing pigs, and more work. Good thing I like my job! This week is Ag Expo week, meaning that my days are devoted to making Michigan’s largest outdoor farm show a positive experience for the 250+ vendors and over 15,000 visitors that visit the show. Tomorrow is the last day of the show, and so far we’ve had some great feedback from visitors and exhibitors alike.
Tonight I agreed to judge a second county fair sweepstakes this summer (I judged one last saturday), and I am planning a hog showmanship and judging clinic with a 4-H club in Lapeer County. A few weeks ago I spent a Sunday morning working on the same subjects with a beef group in Livingston County, and learned just as much from the kids as they learned from me! It reminded me how much I’ve missed working closely with youth to help them ignite their passion for agriculture.
Stay tuned, I just promised myself I’ll hop back on the blog train and write more often!