It has finally reached my favorite time of the entire year. Most people would assume that by this I am meaning the season of spring, but I am thinking of a season near and dear to my agricultural heart- show season. Growing up my life revolved around show season. As my age changed so did my interest so my farm grew to obtain a large variety of show animals: horses, goats, sheep, and the occasional hog. My Saturdays and Sundays were consumed by livestock shows while during the weekdays I would rush home from school (after my FFA obligations of course) to work the animals and give them their baths.
This routine worked for me. I found a comfort in my animals that I rarely ever felt in people and it gave me something to work towards. The achievement I felt walking my animals into the show ring was incomparable with anything else in my life. With confidence I am not ashamed to admit that I have grown to be a very talented showman. Showing was good for me. It made me happy and gave me my place in the world that I was able to find peace. Sowing was what steered me toward the major of feed science with the hopes of becoming a nutritionist.
As I have gotten older my love of showing has only grown. Approaching the age of 20 I am starting to age out of the youth divisions for jackpot showing and my associations. I have found a new aspect of showing that I find just as intriguing if not even more. I have started teaching youth how to show and have spread the wealth of knowledge that I have gained over the past ten or so years. The desire for the kids to learn and the dedication and heart that they pour into their project animals is more satisfaction than any blue ribbon could ever give me.
However, the past year has proven to me to be quite disheartening in the show world. Possibly it is me getting older and opening my eyes or maybe it is the competitive and malicious need to win of some contestants. The show ring is changing. Politics are now running the shows, parents are buying their children the most expensive stock and fitters, and showing has become the game of the industry. Showing is becoming less about the hard work and commitment to the animals. Kids aren’t getting the satisfaction of seeing the livestock evolve over time. What is happening to the place that I felt most secure and successful?
Unfortunately some kids don’t get the chance to raise their own animals or work them every day like I did. One of the worst feelings that I have ever gotten was seeing a fitter hand a child over a goat as she walked in the ring knowing that was probably the first and last time that girl would actually have procession of that animal. This practice is becoming something that isn’t all that rare in occurrence, sadly. Youth are being used to market animals and businesses rather than being taught the true power of commitment, dedication, responsibility, love, and achievement.
Now when helping youth I make it a point to make sure that they can still gain the same satisfaction I did showing. I help them fit their animals, but I do so in a way where the child is helping the entire time. I watch over them as they work their animals and spend hours working to get their goat and lambs to brace against their legs. Most importantly I go to the shows and cheer them on. Even when I know that that hardworking child doesn’t stand a chance in a market class with goats that cost thousands of dollars with hundreds spent on the fitter.
Why, you might ask? Because showing isn’t a game. Showing is about those kids that spent countless hours in the barn. Showing is about learning those lessons of patience when working with a challenging animal. Showing is when kids feel successful not because the color of the ribbon in their hand. Showing is that little girl in the ring that kisses her goat on the head when he has been standing in the show ring bracing against her for hours.
That’s why I love show season.