Dear local business owner, I want to take a minute to express to you just what you're teaching my children by supporting their livestock projects.
The times I've tried to explain the workings of livestock showing to someone who isn't "in it!" I give a long explanation, then they usually kind of nod and smile and I know they still don't really understand. I think some of the biggest confusion stems around what we call our "premium sale" or "sale of champions" at our County and Regional shows. It's always our big goal to "make sale" at these shows. What happens, beyond just celebrating and showcasing their animal, is each exhibitor goes in the arena and their animal is "auctioned" to the highest bidder. However, these bidders aren't bidding to actually buy the animal, they're competing to donate money towards the exhibitor.
Are you asking why on earth anyone would do that? Well, that's what I want to explain. Of course, it's good P.R. Beyond that, though, it is really an investment in the future of our communities. You know, sports are an awesome tool to teach kids about teamwork, hard work, discipline, etc. I grew up playing ball and was in a sports family. Two of my children play sports and I fully support that environment and all it teaches kids. However, I'm here to tell you I've yet to find anything that even remotely compares to the way livestock showing is preparing kids to enter real life and the business world! Here is what you're teaching my child with the money you donate to them:
You are teaching them about investing. The money you donate goes in a savings account and my children use it to reinvest in their project for next year. It goes towards buying another animal, feed, supplies, etc. This money is not spent on video games, designer jeans, or accessories. My children are learning to designate certain money for certain things and so far they've learned as they work hard and are diligent, their endeavors pay off more each year. But, they also are learning investing has risks. You may buy 3 pigs, but only one turns out. So, you make the tough decision to focus your energy and time on the one endeavor that is going to be most lucrative even if it wasn't what you thought in the beginning. Tough choices and dealing with disappointments - just like the real business world.
You are teaching my child to keep business records. My kids have to keep track of their income and expenses with their projects. We collect receipts and they keep record books. Sound like real life? They see the real income versus expenditures of this project and know the money you donate to them is precious and has to be dealt with wisely!
You are teaching my children to network. When you "buy" their animal we are instructing our children to go to you with their thank you basket and express their gratitude. They have to find buyers before the sale and are learning to use connections in the community. We pay attention to who supports our kids and that is where we do business. They already understand the importance of being connected to their communities.
You are teaching my children about the importance of how they conduct and present themselves. You'll find these kids in the ring with official dress on - jeans pressed, button up shirts (tucked in!), Official jackets, etc. They are learning that, while it's not everything, appearances matter in the business world.
You are teaching my children to give back. They are being raised in an environment where so many people have helped them and supported them. They know the importance of giving back and they know first hand the profound difference it can make. It is my sincere hope they follow in your example someday when they're in the position to do so!
The biggest thing you are teaching my children, in particular, is hard work pays off. My children are not perfect, but their work ethic makes me proud. They spend every single day on these projects. They get up earlier than most kids do to feed an animal that is totally dependent on them. My son chooses to go to a camp every summer consisting of 4 days of grueling hard work with cattle so he can get better at what he does. My daughter who is barely 8 and not even able to show at our big shows this year wanted a hog and got up early every single morning to feed it. She cleaned pens, walked, and washed. My 16 year old voluntarily spends so many weekends a year at livestock shows versus out with friends like most kids her age.
The day of the sale, they are worn out!! It's right after a long week of showing but they get up and arrive at the barn by 8:30 am to help set up because they understand responsibility and that they need to be involved in the work that goes in to this event they are directly benefiting from. The arena needs to look a certain way and they know you have to get up and take care of business sometimes even when you're exhausted!
The bottom line here is my kids are not unique in these ag barns. This is the norm. And by investing in these children, you're really investing in the future. These are the kids you are going to want sitting across from you one day in a job interview. They leave high school with such an unrivaled sense of what it means to be able to succeed in the business world. If you think about it, many of them have basically been running their own versions of small businesses since they were in middle school!
Thank you for supporting these amazing kids and thank you for helping us teach them these life skills that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Thank you for investing in the future of our community and our state!