Community Agriculture Alliance: Education key to successful agriculture

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You might think rural youths don’t go to college because they work on the family ranch, but most families involved in Routt County agriculture send their children to obtain a college degree.

Those in agriculture want their children to help them be successful by bringing new ideas and methods to the operation. Agriculture is evolving, and a ranch can’t survive by using the same technology and practices used 20 years ago. In the past decade, agriculture has perfected embryo transfers, ultrasound for quality meat grading, better grazing methods, livestock identification technology and sustainable farming practices.

What I learned in my agriculture classes 15 years ago mostly is outdated. I remember coming back to the ranch during summers while I was in college and talking with my parents about all I had learned and all the new things we could do. My brother and I helped my parents shape our herd by culling the short, fat Herefords and heralding in the moderate framed, heavier muscled Angus and Gelbvieh breeds.

Graduates toady are learning about futures marketing, natural beef, organic processes and sustainable farming. This is where agriculture is heading, and we need our children to help us lead the way.

Not all of our children will be able to be supported by ranching. Only a small percentage of farm/ranch children make it back to their families’ operations. Like any small business, it’s hard to incorporate a new partner. We send our children to college knowing they might have to work at something else before there’s room to accommodate them in the family business. It is more likely that a son or daughter will be involved with the agricultural industry on some other level: an extension agent, a feed specialist, an agricultural banker, a veterinarian or a USDA employee, all of which require a college degree.

Land value is ever increasing as are operating expenses. Financially, a family might not be able to hang on to the property. Last summer, the drought devastated many ranches and hurt their bottom lines. Cattle had to be sold, hay sales were minimal, the wheat didn’t grow and suddenly, the future of the ranch looked dire. So we send our children to college to prepare them for a life off the ranch.

The Routt County CattleWomen support the beef industry through education, outreach and marketing. We recognize the financial burden of a college degree and offer yearly scholarships to anyone in our county pursuing an agricultural degree. We want educated young adults fully engaged in our industry and helping us make it better. We also offer scholarships to those beef-producing families who are sending their children off to college to pursue a nonagricultural degree. If we can’t have our children actively involved in agriculture, we want them to be an Ambassador of Agriculture in whatever career they choose. Last year, the CattleWomen gave $10,000 in scholarships and hopes to do the same this year. Download an application at www.yvcf.org.

Krista Monger is a member of the Routt County CattleWomen.

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