As a young teenager the questioning begins, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” This question always made me nervous and excited all at the same time. It’s exciting to know you can be anything and do anything you want because you have your whole life ahead of you, but each time the question was asked I would have multiple answers, such as pediatrician, marine biologist, 4-H Extension Agent or veterinarian. Today, I am more excited than ever and the nervousness is gone. Having the opportunity to be a Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador has helped to give me better direction and a clear vision of what I want my future to look like and how I will be a part of the agricultural industries.
As far back as I can remember, I recall the stories of my mom showing swine or my dad planting crops, some stories are far more entertaining than others, but the point is the agricultural industry has been a part of my life since day one. I have spent most of my time in or around the livestock barn. There is always someone providing leadership and to help me or give me advice. My knowledge and growth in the barn has come from the support I have received from others. These are examples of how leadership has directed my life and left a lasting impact. During the Short Courses of the Ambassador Program I recall the moment when I was setting in the classroom at Texas A&M campus when I realized that I was now recognized as a leader within the livestock industry. I was accepted to the Livestock Ambassador program based on my past accomplishments and I was now receiving training to support what I will become.
As a 15-year-old setting in a college classroom taking short courses with a group of individuals that I did not know was just the start of it. Over the next few days of the Ambassador Training Program, I developed some lifelong relationships, received valuable training and insight, and advanced leadership development. The relationships made are now part of my contact list. Dr. Zanolini discussed the importance of connections. In a way, all of these connections and people we meet are going to help our futures and I believe they are already helping me. As people look to me for support, guidance, or leadership I will be there to provide the same for them as others have done for me. The training and presentations from the speakers during the short courses also made me realize there is so much more to the industry than me raising and showing swine, or the small crops we grow to put fresh vegetables on the dinner table. People around the world depend on food and everyone has an opinion as to how that food should or should not be prepared, and I am not referring too raw, steamed, medium or rare. How food is prepared starts with how it is produced, grown, and harvested. We are fortunate to have one of the safest, cleanest, most efficient and economical, and humane agricultural industries in the world. I have now been exposed to all of the great things we have to offer people though our dedication and commitment to the industry.
Through the ambassador program I was invited to take a trip to the state capital. The trip was intriguing to me. The discussions we had were about how political issues can impact how our industry is promoted, the feral hog issue, cattle fever tick problem, NAFTA, the American Rifle Association, and so much more. This trip made me start to think about how my family has voted in the past and are those elected officials supporting the agriculture industry that I am a part of. When I am questioned now about what I want to do when I grow up, this is it. I want to be involved in the political side of the industry, I want to have an impact on how the industry evolves and performs, I want to have a voice that helps to support and defend the future of the agriculture industry.
I will continue to be able to show swine for a couple more years. During this time, I will get to not only show my animals, but also have the opportunity to support others with theirs. I am now a Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador with a broader understanding. I have a new understanding of leadership and what I can do to help others grow, but more importantly the why and how. When I was much younger if you asked me why do I show animals, I might have said because I wanted a pet pig or to win ribbons, banners, and buckles. Today, the answer is almost the same but now it is much more. I get to show off the relationship I have with my animals, the quality that I have raised, and the appearance of a healthy and sound animal. I also value the relationships and the connections that are formed when showing my animals at shows; the ribbons, buckles, and banners are now icing on the cake. This is not all that different than an operation that produces the food the world eats. Operations that produce market animals are concerned with how the animals are cared for, do the animals meet market expectations, are the facilities clean and supportive of a healthy animal, and are those relationships or connections there to support a valued production. The way I see it is the 4-H programs were developed to get kids interested in livestock and agriculture so that they can be taught the lifelong lessons and values that the agriculture industry needs for our sustained future.
The Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador Program has given me the opportunity to have the experiences that have opened my eyes to not only how important agriculture is, but also to the many factors that can impact or harm our industry. Politics are key, the perception of the people is important, and the continued support to grow our youth and future leaders in the livestock industry is critical. I am very thankful and honored to have been a part of a program that has given me such insight and training.
Apply to be a Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador by June 2, 2017 at: Livestock Ambassador Application