Radke Report: The best lessons are learned in a barn
Last week was a busy one for our family. While I traveled to Arizona to speak at the Maricopa County 4-H Fair, my husband and kids were back at home weighing in 4-H steers for the summer shows we are planning to attend.
It’s our daughter’s first year as a 4-H member, and she is already loving time spent in the barn with her market steer projects. Soon, she’ll begin writing and practicing for the public speaking contest, and her list of indoor projects — from photography to sewing to woodworking — is a mile long!
As she prepares for a fun summer ahead, it got me thinking about my own years in 4-H and how the opportunity to be in this youth organization taught me so much.
As I walked on the stage to share my message to the hundreds of 4-H kids in Phoenix,
I realized that so many of the skills and lessons I learned as a kid began with much time spent in the barn with my parents and sisters.
Winning and losing with grace. Putting in the long hours in the barn.
Feeding. Washing. Brushing. Blowing. Clipping.
Mixing rations and improving genetics through breeding selections.
Tracking the costs. Making the grace. Marketing the beef.
Meeting lifelong friends. Trying new things together and enjoying the adventure along the way.
Making mistakes. Falling flat on your face. Getting back up. Refusing to quit.
Grit and grace. The art of a firm handshake.
Communication skills. Presentation skills.
Seeing a project through — from start to finish.
Showing up to do the daily work, the grind that nobody sees.
Building a network, a family, a community. In agriculture.
It can all be taught in a barn…
As I shared these stories on stage and visited with the kids and their families following my speech, I was overcome with joy and hope for the future. Agriculture certainly looks bright with these up and coming leaders paving the way.
Through it all — these 4-H kids have a chance to find a passion, and to pursue it relentlessly with disciplined practice.
To pinpoint skills and strengths and to explore career opportunities where they can get paid to do what they love.
They learn how to pivot when life throws them curveballs.
And most importantly, to find purpose through discernment and prayer. Because it’s best to spend life serving others and providing solutions to make the world a better place.
That was the topic of my speech at the Maricopa County Fair, and meeting these 4-H kids, it was quite clear to me they are well on their way to discovering their own unique pathways to success following the “Ps every motivated kid should know.”
Yes, every kid should have the opportunity to learn in the barn. The world would be a much better place if we could make it so. But how very blessed we are to live in agriculture, where the barn is the center stage for life’s biggest lessons!
Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily blog.