That’s the value of youth conventions and activities. This past weekend, we had the opportunity to volunteer at the annual Wisconsin Junior Holstein Convention. With nearly 500 in attendance, excitement filled the air. It is events like this that are annual highlights for many dairy farm youth. It is a chance learn and enjoy a weekend among peers that share common bonds.
When farm kids are in school, they are outnumbered 50 to 1. Their thoughts on agriculture, animals, land, and food production have a different perspective than their urban classmates. At agricultural activities such as breed conventions, fairs, and so forth, the typical ag minority to becomes the accepted dominant majority. Talking about farm chores without intimidation or chuckles from others energizes youth to be proud of their heritage. This is known as networking to adults, but it can be even more valuable to young people as they build friendships.
Competitions at these events allow young people to show-off their knowledge about agriculture in an environment where knowing about cows, tractors, and crops is the “cool thing to do.” Nonfarm classmates may excel on the sports field or play musical instruments, but here, young people can participate in knowledge bowls, display their crafts and photography, and hone their speaking skills in speech contests — all while promoting and supporting agriculture among other like-minded youth. The camaraderie among these farm kids (even during competitions) is evident. Their personal and social development is significantly enhanced.
And while every contest has its winners, there are countless other wins for those without the blue ribbon: the exposure to public speaking, self-confidence, teamwork, sportsmanship, the value of working towards a goal, and the personal satisfaction of presenting your best effort. Aren’t those victories the best wins of all?