Agricultural Prejudice

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Start 'em young; grooming the stallion.

Start ’em young; grooming the stallion.


My right hand ranch hand (also known as TBO — The Big One — and OGD — Oldest Granddaughter) graduated from high school a few nights back. It was a typical graduation ceremony, and I was sort of lulled into complacency by the program. Then the last student speaker of the evening stood up.
This 18-year-old girl is a ranch kid. She’s a member of Future Farmers of America and the county cattlemen’s association. She is also active in drama and choir, a math whiz, and won no less than 13 scholarships in her senior year. What caught my attention was that she was speaking about the prejudice she had encountered during her school years because of her agricultural background, like the comment from the advanced math teacher: “I’ve never had an ag major in my class before.” The implication, of course, being that the teacher was surprised anyone with that background would have an interest in and aptitude for advanced math. She also mentioned a few derogatory comments she’d heard from others about her agricultural upbringing and plans to further her education in that field. (By the way, this particular school draws its students from the more rural areas of the county; I’d bet at least a third of them come from families involved in agriculture). Among other things, it reminded me of the comments “guidance” counselors often make to bright young students who want to go into nursing: “Oh, you’re too smart to be a nurse, you should go into medicine!”
Feeding the cows.

Feeding the cows.


It irritates me no end that far too many people haven’t the slightest idea of the complexity involved in agriculture, the knowledge and skill it takes to raise food and manage livestock, or the dedication that keeps farmers and ranchers out there no matter what the weather or how late it is. I want to plunk the ignoramuses in front of a tomato plant and ask them, “OK, so is this leaf problem due to inadequate water, a nutrient deficiency, herbicide residue or a virus?” A farmer would know the answer.
Giving the rooster a bath before the fair.

Giving the rooster a bath before the fair.


I want to hand them fencing tools and tell them to go build fence on a hill with a 30-degree upslope, and wind up with a fence that’s straight, tight and won’t pull out because the builder understood how to compensate for that upslope. Or ask them to drive a tractor, or midwife a ewe, or vaccinate a cow, or build an irrigation dam that won’t wash out, or recognize different weeds and know what each tells you about the soil conditions. or weld up the bucket on the backhoe. I want them to explain clan mating, line breeding, out-crossing and inbreeding, and color genetics in horses. Do they know that baby chicks get curled up toes because of vitamin B deficiency and you can solve the problem by feeding them liver? Do they know that soaking seeds in a 10% solution of bleach can improve germination rates? Do they know how to prune a fruit tree?
Getting the new calf accustomed to people.

Getting the new calf accustomed to people.


Agriculture is not a place for the stupid, the lazy or the faint of heart. And those of us in the field are just as likely to be math and music and drama and art whizzes as anyone who never even saw a farm. My hat is off to this young lady, who told it like it is at that night’s graduation. She’s exactly the sort we need engaged in agricultural pursuits.

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2 Responses to Agricultural Prejudice

  1. Karen says:

    Loved this! Personally, I can’t think of anything more important than the study of agriculture. Just goes to show how much of an upside down world we live in.

    p.s. Our broody hen successfully hatched three of the six eggs. Unfortunately there were two casualties and one dud. But I’m enjoying all the cuteness and experiencing how mother nature intended things to be. Thanks again for your help. 🙂

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