Friday, September 9, 2011

Elected officials learn about animal agriculture by showing cattle

You've probably heard the saying:  "If we build it, they will come."  Same is true for teaching non-ag folks about animal agriculture.  If you can provide a unique opportunity for them to learn, they will come listen -- and have some fun, too!

This weekend is our second annual county 4-H livestock show where kids from 15 counties in North Carolina will show meat goats and beef heifers.  Last year we invited our local elected officials, including the N.C. Speaker of the House and a state senator, to show beef heifers.  It isn't everyday that you can find a state Speaker of the House -- and a county manager -- who actually knows how to show beef cattle!

N.C. Representative Joe Hackney leads his borrowed beef heifer in a special elected official showmanship class at the 2010 Chatham/Randolph County 4-H Livestock Show. 

Since this special event was so successful last year, we've brought it back this year.  All five of our county commissioners, the county sheriff and our area's state senator plan to be paired up with 4-H members tomorrow to receive a crash course on how to show a beef heifer.  Elected officials will lead a beef heifer in a special showmanship class created just for them.   

Chatham County Manager Charlie Horne looks for the judge as his 4-H partner, Matthew White, watches closely to provide showmanship tips.  In addition to his job as county manager, Mr. Horne is a registered Angus cattle producer.

This opportunity provides 4-H members and parents a chance to share their experiences raising and showing cattle, as well as talk about their farming operations. While we are fortunate to have several elected officials who have ties to agriculture in our area, those who are not as tuned into the industry should come away from the event having a new appreciation for what agriculture provides for our community and young people.  In fact, in our county, agriculture continues to be the number one economic driver.  Unfortunately, sometimes local residents tend to forget this fact.

N.C. Senator Bob Atwater visits with his show partner, Harnett County (N.C.) 4-H member, Mason Blinson, to learn more about her beef cattle projects.

I encourage those of you in other states that work with 4-H and FFA youth to find ways for them to interact with your local elected officials.  Even if we don't always agree with the opinions of our elected officials, building relationships at the grassroots level is still very important.  Plus, it is a great way for our young people to hone their communications skills by getting them out of their comfort zone.

Rep. Hackney (left) and Sen. Atwater proudly display the honorary 4-H medals they earned by taking part in the show.

When you consider that the U.S. has only around 219,000 full-time farms, it never hurts for our young people to remind big decision makers where their food comes from!   Sometimes information that comes from "the mouths of babes" can make a big impact.