By Mandi Becker
Return on investment. Profits. Two terms that a college student in the Business field learn practically right off the bat. The thing is, both these terms mean things that the farmer or rancher uses every day. When a rancher or breeder buys a new cow, doe, mare, or sow he often asks himself if the female will be able to produce enough to cover the cost of buying her and taking care of her.
Nothing is more rewarding for a 4-Her than to be able to give back to their community, especially in a way that encourages agriculture to thrive and continue in the future generation. Recently, one school district in Leon, Kansas gave me, a soon to be 4-H alumni, a chance to do just that.
In the fall of 2016 I was approached by the Bluestem Elementary School, they were interested in purchasing a few goats from me to build their Ag in The Classroom project. The school had been steadily building an Agriculture project to encourage the fourth graders to continue to pursue careers in agriculture. One of the teachers that was heading up the project was my very own elementary school teacher. They had returned to one of the school district’s recently graduated alumni in hopes of supporting agriculture in our community. The school would then purchase three goats from me; a BoKi doe and two Nigerian Dwarf wethers. After this purchase, the school had asked that I host a school trip to the farm to explain to the kids about how a goat farm works.
It was a dream-come-true to tell the kids about the life of farming goats. As one of the top graduates from my class, I was expected to leave the area and go to the city instead of pursuing a life in agriculture. The rewards of showing the students that agriculture was a viable option, even for those with top marks, were innumerable.
Bluestem Elementary arrived at my farm in the afternoon on April 17. We gathered shortly outside of one of our barns to view the pasture and to talk about grazing and the habits of goats on a pasture. Then, we traveled back to the barn where we house our livestock throughout the nights. Once we were in the barn we met goat ambassadors from each of the breeds that we raise. My Alpine buck Lavi, was happy to meet the kids with his fantastic manners. His beard brought on interest from many of the students. Then, we met a few of my Nigerian Dwarf goats. While we were handling the Nigerians the students were able to ask questions about showing and raising dairy goats. We discussed the economics of dairy goats compared to cattle and showing etiquette.
Afterwards, we traveled out to meet an ambassador for my Kikos. As the class stood outside my barn, they lobbed questions at me. Each student asked any questions they had concerning the care and raising of goats. We discussed the differences between meat goats and dairy goats and breeding practices. The students left the farm with fun memories and new information.
Educating today’s children about a future in agriculture is vitally important. As a goat breeder and 4-H alumni it is my duty and my pleasure to do just this. The school not only gave their students a chance to enjoy a fieldtrip, they gave me an experience that I wouldn’t have traded anything for. 4-H and FFA are both wonderful programs, they encourage kids to become involved in the agricultural life. However, the encouragement for this lifestyle cannot just be limited to what goes on outside the classroom. Agricultural communities like mine owe a lot to schools like Bluestem. These are places where the kids get to be hands on with animals throughout their school career.
They get to experience the joy of raising an animal and watching it grow, and even the rewards that can be reaped from a well-raised farm animal. I owe many thanks to Bluestem and its support of agriculture in the surrounding areas. The way the school consistently points to agriculture as a viable life choice supports the type of lifestyle that this community was built on. The same values that the school teaches the students through Ag in the Classroom also teaches the students a wealth of ethical values and work ethics that will do them well no matter where they go in life.
Having the elementary students come out and tour my farm was a pleasure. Giving young kids the opportunity to explore another agriculture opportunity was priceless. Giving back to the community is just one of the many rewards of raising goats in the area. Despite the push from colleges and schools to pursue a lifestyle in the liberal arts, I think this generation of students coming through our school may be graduating with a new-found respect and love of the life that farmers lead.
Originally published in the July/August 2017 issue of Dairy Goat Journal. Subscribe for more great stories!