The hot summer fair is in full swing. You are surrounded by the flashing lights of color swinging wildly in the air to the sound of flamboyant music. Screams echo out from these steel compartments controlled by the ticket holding ride operator. Yet, on the other end of the grounds it feels like a private party.
The red coliseum is filled; the highest capacity it will be all year. The July heat can be felt inside as hundreds of onlookers stare into the empty caged space before them. It is like the audience is in their own version of a roman coliseum awaiting gladiators to enter center stage. Instead of Romans, it’s cowboys in their truest form; the cattle auction. The final test for a group of young adults and children; the end of the road for the cattle they lead into the empty center.
SOLD! Is yelled from the loudspeakers and the audience claps. The girl leads her steer out of the coliseum towards the darkness.
One at a time they are led in by a leather halter. The auctioneer drives the price high as he calls his chant into the loudspeaker. Two men watch into the dark void of onlookers looking for bids. As hands rise they sharply yelp to the auctioneer. The numbers continue to climb. The child leading her steer around and around feels a sense of accomplishment as she knows this is her final test.
SOLD! Is yelled from the loudspeakers and the audience claps. The girl leads her steer out of the coliseum towards the darkness. The back gate is open on the cattle trailer. She leads her award-winning steer down the long aisle way, once filled with fair goers, to the awaiting men ready to help load him into the trailer. The excitement of the auction quickly dissolves into sadness. Hanging onto the side of the trailer, the last touch is laid on his head. The leather halter is slipped off and dropped by the girl’s side tightly in her hand. She walks off out of sight.
Quality Meat Animal Project
It is real, many don’t understand. Most of our food comes from farms and a staggering amount of children do not know that. The Quality Meat Animal Project is an activity offered to Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H. It’s a program to provide an educational experience for all participants that will enhance personal growth, and expand their knowledge of the livestock industry. This project also provides the participant with an economic return; however, the participant is to be kept informed that this may not present a realistic financial picture of the livestock industry and provide an educational learning-by-doing activity that allows the participant to take a livestock project from an infant animal to the final marketable product.
“Everything lives and everything dies. Death with a purpose gives full meaning to life.” ~Trent Loos
Life and death on the farm is a certainty that is dependent on for the survival of the farming community. This leads to heart wrenching experiences for children who raise animals from birth to then sell them at the county fair for a profit as they go for slaughter. This brutal part of responsibility is a necessary evil in the industry of agriculture. The skills learned in raising livestock instill values and an empowered work ethic that is unparalleled to those of their peers who do not share in the same farming experiences. These kids take great pride and care in raising the animal, feeding, grooming, bathing, preparing it for market; in essence giving the animal a home. There is often a connection and bond between the animal and its caretaker that is unmatched by how we raise pets today; these kids know when the end is. It is an impressive feat to watch the maturity of these young learners who lead their prized animals to the trailer of the purchaser; knowing their fate will end in the circle of life.
Barns to Carnival
Only a wooden opening separates two worlds. It’s the Northern Wisconsin State Fair in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. I stand in a narrow crowded walkway as an endless parade of people in flip-flops and strollers wheel through the thick stale air that surrounds me. A tangy smell of farm is strong, but manageable. The line of bodies point into wooden pens at whatever animal occupies them. Patiently making his way through the pointing flip-flop wearing bodies and strollers, a young boy lugs a full five gallon bucket to a pen he calls his own. The heavy pail of feed is hoisted up and emptied in front of his pig. All week-long I watch the children in this wooden barn working hard without any instruction. Cleaning, feeding, watering. On the other side of that wooden opening there in lies another world; children running, yelling, texting, and cohorting with friends, without the deep knowledge of the true circle of life. – text by Erika Johnson
4-H & FFA History
4-H History►In the late 1800’s, researchers discovered adults in the farming community did not readily accept new agricultural developments on university campuses, but found that young people were open to new thinking and would experiment with new ideas and share their experiences with adults. In this way, rural youth programs introduced new agriculture technology to communities.
The idea of practical and “hands-on” learning came from the desire to connect public school education to country life. Building community clubs to help solve agricultural challenges was a first step toward youth learning more about the industries in their community.
Today, 4-H serves youth in rural, urban, and suburban communities in every state across the nation. 4-H’ers are tackling the nation’s top issues, from global food security, climate change and sustainable energy to childhood obesity and food safety. 4-H out-of-school programming, in-school enrichment programs, clubs and camps also offer a wide variety of STEM opportunities – from agricultural and animal sciences to rocketry, robotics, environmental protection and computer science – to improve the nation’s ability to compete in key scientific fields and take on the leading challenges of the 21st century. ~ 4-H
FFA History►FFA was for young men who were studying vocational agriculture in public secondary schools, and the new organization was designed to develop agricultural leadership, character, thrift, scholarship, cooperation, citizenship and patriotism. The organization was structured on three levels – local, state and national – with students starting their FFA experience by joining a local chapter at their school, where the agriculture teacher serves as the chapter advisor. As part of the larger program that is now called agricultural education, FFA members are encouraged to participate in all three components of the program: classroom/laboratory work (through enrollment in agriculture classes); membership in FFA; and hands‐on work experience through the supervised agricultural experience program.
By the 1980s, the Future Farmers of America had become more than an organization for rural farm students. In 1988, the delegates at the 61st National FFA Convention voted to change the organization’s official name from Future Farmers of America to the National FFA Organization. This change was made to recognize that FFA is not only for those interested in farming, but it is also for those with more diverse interests in the industry of agriculture, encompassing science, business and technology in addition to production farming.
Today, the National FFA Organization is a premier youth leadership organization with more than 610,000 members in 7,600+ chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. ~ National FFA Organization
Travis Dewitz is a remarkable photographer in the Chippewa Valley. He is well known for photographing local sceneries, landmarks, venues, buildings and people in various and ingenious ways. Though you may not know him personally, his work provides a unique foundation of our local community and his photographs are unmistakable. Dewitz’s pictures are an impressive feat and preserve a moment; long after our travels are over, and our memories faded, photos are what remind us of the adventures we had and the connections to the people we met. Learn More About Him Here | Buy His Book Here
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