Organizations introduce important concepts

By RENE’ DAY / Community Columnist

A recent road trip afforded a chance to see life in another part of this beautiful country. And, once again, it proved that we are more alike than different. The area around Green Bay, Wisconsin is dotted with rural, picturesque dairy farms. The red barns, silver silos and white farmhouses are quintessential America. And, in an area where the economy is so rooted in the rich soil, the county fair is not to be missed. The local event started Labor Day Weekend and we were fortunate to attend. Hadn’t been to one in a long time.

Growing up, my family always traveled to the Shelby County High School stadium environs for the annual Fair. We went because, one, it was close to our home in Montevallo and, two, because most of the time we had family members who had invested a lot of time and effort in preparing their cooked, knitted, crocheted and sewn entries. They expected folks to walk by and give their efforts admiration – whether or not the official fair judges agreed. In those days, the bright lights of the midway held far more attraction to me than the exhibit buildings. We would take the mandatory tour before running over to purchase ride tickets.

The Shawano County fair had the same rides I remember, but this time I was more interested in the animals– and the people who owned and cared for them – than in any “tilt-a-twirl.” In the main tent Saturday evening, they conducted the final judging for dairy cows. I noticed that most of the bovines waiting outside were connected to a local high school Future Farmers of America (FFA) or 4-H student.

Shelby County is fortunate to have quality Agriscience programs in several high schools and 4-H programs in many communities. Many people, however, don’t really appreciate the value they provide to youth. I believe it is because they aren’t familiar with the modern versions of these organizations. Today, we hear much about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and its importance in children’s education. STEM is absolutely taught through animal and plant science programs. Ag and 4-H delve into subjects like genetic engineering to increase quality of meat; chemical compositions of ideal soils needed for maximum production; and improvement of biofuels to reduce dependence on petroleum. Students learn how to view beef, pork or crop production from entrepreneurial and marketing standpoints. Many high school agriscience students are businessmen and women before they graduate. FFA also gives students abundant opportunities to learn public speaking and practice leadership skills. Competitions within the organizations provide ongoing incentives for personal and professional improvement.

On Oct. 2, the 68th Shelby County Fair will open at the exhibition grounds in Columbiana. Ride the Ferris wheel, eat some cotton candy and walk through the exhibits. Also, be sure and take the time to look for a young person near the animals wearing the blue FFA jacket or green 4-H four-leaf clover. Ask them about their experiences and what they have learned. You’ll be glad you did.