When I was a kid, I didn’t realize that not everyone lives on a ranch. This was apparent when I’d go into elementary school and vividly describe to the others what happened when dad AI’d a cow or pulled a calf the day before. I kept my teachers on their toes during story time. My special stories may have contributed to my Kindergarten teacher retiring not long after my time in her room.
As kids, we don’t know much of the world beyond our own. We don’t understand that everyone doesn’t live like us, or have what we’ve been blessed with. We’re also extremely impressionable; when we are taught something, it sticks with us and affects how we form our opinions and views of the world.
Teaching kids about agriculture starting at a young age is extremely important if you get the opportunity to do so. Organizations like Ag In The Classroom are crucial to our success in advocating. We need kids to learn from the people that actually raise livestock and harvest crops; rather than forming their views based on the opinion of someone that’s never left the city.
When my sister and I were little, we used to drag around an Angus bull we lovingly called “Baby.” Baby was quite large for an Angus bull, but he was the most docile animal we’ve ever raised. We crawled all over him, pulled him around, napped with him, and treated him about the same as if he were a big puppy.
I was the star of show-and-tell because my parents would haul Baby to the school for me to show off. I thought that everyone had a 2700 pound bull they tugged around so I was highly disappointed when my classmates seemed nervous about the whole ordeal. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it might’ve been the first, and only time, some of my classmates came in contact with cattle. I taught them about what Baby ate, what we did to take care of him, and what his purpose on the ranch was.
We’d haul Baby to the county fairs for kids to come pet and take pictures on. Most kids knew he was a bull because we’re a mostly rural community. However, it wasn’t always that way. The biggest shock of my time with Baby at the fair was when a young boy came up to see him. He stared in awe for a long time before finally exclaiming “Wow! I love your antelope!”
“This is an Angus bull!” I told him. He was genuinely confused about my answer to his compliment of the finest Antelope he’d ever seen.
It turned out that he was from New York City and had never been beyond the city limits. He hadn’t grown up seeing animals in fields as they passed in a car, and never read stories about farm animals in elementary school.
This interaction with me and a bull at a county fair in Washington state was the first time he learned anything about agriculture. I took him down our line of show cattle and told him everything I knew about each one. I then led him to our display table and loaded his bag with pamphlets from the American Angus Association on things like How To Start an Angus Herd, Cuts of Beef, coloring pages, Angus cattle pictures, and whatever else I thought he might need to tell his friends about when he returned to NYC.
His parents took a picture of him with Baby so he could tell his friends at show-and-tell that he sat on a bull. The picture would also come in handy for explaining what a bull was, as most of them hadn’t even heard the word.
We drug Baby the bull to fairs, events, and schools all around our area for quite a few years. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those interactions with Baby may have helped some kids shape their opinions of the cattle industry. Or at least now when they see something labeled Certified Angus Beef, they have a general idea of what it means.
So if your school will allow it, and you have an animal that you trust completely, think about letting your kid take it to show-and-tell. Or let your kids know that just telling about their livestock can be show-and-tell as many of the kids in their class won’t have any similar experiences or stories.
Kids are the best story tellers anyways and most people will trust a kid over an adult because they’re notorious for simply telling it like they see it. So let your kids be advocates for your lifestyle. You never know when someone will compliment their antelope and they’ll end up giving the kid directions on how to start their own Angus herd.