Sunday, August 12, 2018

Make It A Habit

This summer has been a wild and crazy ride. Beginning in June with SGLC and SLCCL, going into July with inTENse and the State Officer Summit, and now in August with FarmFest and my first ever officer retreat, I have been on the road a lot! One thing hasn’t changed, no matter where I may be sleeping; my habits. No matter what, when I wake up, the first thing I do is think of the day ahead and make a plan of the items I need to accomplish. Then I brush my teeth, take a shower, and get dressed. Again, at night, I sit down and go through my mind, asking myself if I accomplished the things I set out when I woke up. These are things I do every day, no matter how early I get up or how tired I am, they are habits.

While I was on the inTENse conference in July, traveling the state and exploring colleges and careers with some of my favorite 10th and 11th graders, I ran into a bit of trouble. On the first and second day of the trip, Sunday and Monday, I had hyped up the fact that I had taco tuesday socks, and I would wear them on Tuesday. Almost all of the students on the bus were excited for me to walk out of my room in the morning and be showing off my socks. Well… when I got to my room Monday night and looked to take my taco socks out of my luggage, I was met with a realization that I had forgotten them at home. As Tuesday morning rolled around and I came out of my room, I was asked to show off my socks. I tried to come up with an excuse, but couldn’t. We ate tacos for three of our next four meals, and it became common knowledge that I had cursed the bus by promising to wearing taco socks and then not following through with that promise.

Habits are like promises we make to ourselves, good or bad. When we follow through, everything works as it should. When we don’t, however, we get cursed (or so I’ve been told). I began the summer with a couple projects that I wanted to become daily habits. Every night, I would sit down with my journal and some pens and write a journal page, and I would post it on Instagram the next day. As the summer went on, however, it became easier and easier to forget to do it or make an excuse for the day. “I’ll do it tomorrow for sure” became an almost daily saying. Each time I broke the promise to myself, when I didn’t follow through on the habit I wanted to create, I felt like I was hurting myself.

I’ve continued to struggle with maintaining some of these newly formed habits, but I always feel better while I am doing it and after. I know that I’ve upheld the promise I made myself and it will be easier to do again the next day. Habits are a way for us to get better at something every day. Even for those of us who seem to not have much time, a five minute habit every day can make a world of difference. I will challenge you with the same challenge I am trying to hold myself to: Promise to do something to improve yourself every night for 5 minutes before you go to sleep. Make it a habit.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Scraped Knees and Gut Feelings...

I am not a track star by any means. Was I good at it? No. Did I do it? Yes. I love everything track and field has to offer; running as part of a team is spectacular. I was in track from 7th to 12th grade except, for my year off for golf. For those five years, I was always in one event -the 100 meter hurdles. This is everyone’s favorite event to watch because people usually fall.

 During my first outdoor track meet of my senior season, I was determined to run the fastest I had ever run. I spent my time warming up my legs with an endless amount of hurdle drills. As I checked in, a part of me was so scared I was not going to get the time I wanted. The other part of me worried  I was going to fall. This second part of me grew into the only thing I was thinking about!

It was my time to warm up on the blocks. I got down, counted in my head, and took off! One hurdle, two hurd-- Woah! My foot got snagged on the back of the hurdle and I scraped my knees on the track. Now embarrassed I quickly went back to the start hoping no one noticed me warming up. I would have been fine falling, but now I have to run them for real. By this time, all I could think about is falling again and not beating my person record.

I set myself up in my block and got ready for the real race. On your marks! Set! Bang! We were off, and it was painful to say the least, but I did not fall. When I got back to my bag and cleaned up my knees, I started thinking about what went wrong. Deep down I had this feeling - I did not trust my gut. I let the fear of falling cloud my judgments. I have run the race hundreds of times, but I did not trust myself to trust I could do it once more.

The next race was very important, but even with my knees still scraped ,I began to warm up. I knew I could run this race the way I wanted. I checked in and warmed up on the blocks without falling, so I was already going better than before. I focused on the my gut saying, “I have and I will” instead of the one saying I couldn’t. On your marks! Get Set! Bang! One hurdle, two hurdles, and so on I eventually finished. Upon checking my time, I was astonished I beat my personal record by a full second. Because I trusted my gut, I was able to accomplish my goal. This way of thinking transformed my way of running, so I started being confident in myself on tests and in my actions since it had worked with running.
My coach Mr. Hawkins and I

My poultry coach, Mr Hawkins, once said, “nine out of ten times your gut answer is the right answer.” He told us this three weeks before the regional poultry evaluation event. On the day of the event, I crammed through notes and tests as we drove to Austin to compete. I was reminded of the statement through each part of the event. My first section of the event was the exam that was worth a hundred points. My knees were shaking as I flipped through each question. I remembered to trust my gut response and not second guess myself as I selected each answer. I ended up with few errors on my test and scored highest individual that day. I trusted myself and had confidence in what I was doing.

What Mr. Hawkins said to me applies not only to test taking and running hurdles but to life. I follow my gut when hanging out with my friends and planning my schedule. I know it’s hard to hear it, but school is just around the corner and trusting our guts will come in handy. Whether it’s the choice to study for a test or take a nap, sitting at lunch with the “cool kids” or being there for someone who needs us, we can trust ourselves to make the right decision.  Deep down in our gut, we know what we should do. So many times I see people who are not confident in who they are, and then it gets in the way of what they can accomplish. Just like those poultry test questions, we can trust our gut one question at a time. My challenge to you is to trust your gut; we will never know where it will take us.

Stationed by the flag,
Lauralee Eaton

Monday, July 30, 2018

Track The Facts

Track The Facts

Image result for new york subwayIn the summer of 2016, my family took a vacation to New York. A few of the stops along the way included spending a night in Indiana with our cousins, viewing the cascading Niagara Falls from Canada, and a day in Cooperstown, where the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is. All of these smaller stops led up to the main event: New York City. We did everything from going to see Lady Liberty in all her glory to seeing the Blue Man Group in an off-Broadway theater (that was so cool, we even got a painting that they made on stage!). One of the biggest obstacles we faced during our time in the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” (yes, I love that song and listened to it basically the whole way there) was transportation. We drove, but it was suggested to us by a friend, that we park it in a garage for the five days and use public transportation, so that's exactly what we did. The first morning, we got up and prepared to ride a New York subway train for the first time, and on that subway ride, we stuck out like a stain on a white shirt. We had no clue how the subway worked. Yes, we were that midwestern tourist family. Well, eventually we figured it out, but not until we were helped out and had the process explained to us.
Image result for miracle of birth centerLooking back, I can clearly see how this story relates to all of us as we advocate for agriculture, food and natural resources. What do you think the people who rode the subway on a daily basis thought about us? I am pretty sure they were thinking “ugh, tourists.” We weren’t dumb, arrogant, or ignorant, we just had not been introduced to a subway system as complicated as the one in New York. How does this apply to advocates? Each person has their own sets of experiences that defines their personality and shapes their beliefs and actions. However, we also need to know the facts. I also know that for some of us, the only knowledge of agriculture we have has come from advertisements, movies and our agriculture education classes. For example, many people have opinions about agricultural topics like genetically modified organisms (GMO) but worry about a lot of crops that aren’t modified. In fact, only 10 crops have GMO varieties: alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets.
To have a conversation with people who may be unsure about what we eat, or the practices used to get food to our table, we must first acknowledge that we all have a different set of experiences and knowledge. Once we acknowledge that, we can affirm that everyone wants safe, affordable, and nutritious food, and build off of that connection to have a meaningful conversation. Finding what we have in common opens the door to share our stories and facts about agriculture production. So the next time we come across a situation in which we can advocate by sharing our story, whether it be at our local grocery stores or at the CHS Miracle of Birth Center at the Minnesota State Fair, let’s try to build a connection, so that we can positively shed a light on the wonderful world of agriculture and learn from each other.

Stationed by the Door,
H. James Mathiowetz

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Finding Our Place

Potato season is just around the corner for my family. In a few short weeks, our yard will be as busy as Grand Central Station with semis coming and going, field trucks unloading, and my family and me doing our part of the process. I’ve always loved the hustle and bustle that comes with the season, but throughout my growing up years, I seemed to have a hard time finding my place in it. As a four and five-year-old, I spent much of my time in the harvester with my dad watching as he carefully loaded each truck. As I got older though, I wanted to be on the sorting line so that I could separate the good potatoes from the damaged ones and work with our older employees (or maybe it was just because they’d pack extra cookies in their lunches for me). Despite my attempts to get a spot on the line, my dad wouldn’t let me. He said that it wasn’t safe for me yet because I could get my fingers caught. Very disappointed, I found my place riding in the trucks or in the tractor’s buddy seat with my dad for that year.
The next year came, and again I asked if I could have a spot on the sorting line. After all, I was six now. Dad was hesitant until he saw how easily I could climb into the truck boxes and push down any stuck potatoes. Seeing that sold him; he showed me where it was safe and not safe to put my hands and told me how to sort. Finally, I was on the crew! In my new position as junior junk picker, I worked very diligently to make sure no cornstalks, rocks, or bad potatoes would get past me, and anytime a truck didn’t unload very well, I was right there to help clean it out. I had my spot.
As I grew older, I became less content with my job as a junk picker and decided that I wanted to learn how to drive field trucks. So, at 12 years old, my dad put me with one of our farm’s best truck drivers to teach me how to drive a potato truck alongside the harvester. I enjoyed that spot too and stayed there for a long time until I was finally old enough to get my Commercial Driver’s License. Now, I haul semis of sorted potatoes to wash plants all over Minnesota.  
Over the last 12 years, I’ve had a lot of spots within potato harvest. Each position had its own unique challenges and many skills for me to master. What I learned at each step helped prepare me for what was coming next, but it wasn’t always easy to accept where I was. When I was 4 and 5, I wanted to be on the line. Once I was on the line, I wanted a spot in a field truck which led to me wanting a spot in a semi. Every role seemed so significant until I got there. As a result, I quickly worked to master whatever it was I was doing so I could do the next, bigger, and (what I thought to be a) more important job.
Potato harvest doesn’t work like that though. Although certain people supervise certain areas, being on the potato crew is more like being a piece of a puzzle than a rung on ladder. Each piece has a unique and equally important role in creating the full picture. At each phase, our team members can make the product great or make a mistake that could cost us money, time, or result in injury.
Sometimes in FFA, and in other aspects of life, it looks and feels like we’re just the bottom rung on a ladder. Maybe you’re a dishwasher at a restaurant, a gas station attendant, or working for local farms picking rocks. You might be a chapter member who is wondering where your place in FFA is. You might be a chapter or region officer wondering if what you do matters. You might be like me trying to figure out exactly what you’re going to do when you’re done with school. Maybe you’re just trying to find your spot in the world. 
Regardless of where you’re at on the ladder right now, we’re all part of the puzzle of life. Our employer needs us and every employee to do the job well and support each other. Our chapter needs us to share our voice, volunteer for chapter events, and bring others along with us.  Every piece, job, and person was created and is in existence for a reason. Sometimes it just takes time to discover what that reason is and to fully appreciate our role in creating the bigger picture.  As we prepare to start this next school year, let’s take time to think about the piece of the puzzle we complete, our importance in that role, and how we can help others find their place.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Ribbons & Role Models

Fair season is officially upon us. For me, that means it’s show time. July is “crunch time” in the barn as we make our final preparations on the show stock. Washing, exercising, and grooming at 6:00 every morning, and spending countless hours in the barn, is how I get my animals ready for the fair.

Since I began showing livestock in third grade, the skills and techniques I use in the barn and in the show ring have immensely changed. As a first-year 4-Her, I can remember my first livestock show like it was yesterday. It was Friday morning of the Washington County Fair, and I was ready to bring home the champion ribbon with my leased prospect beef calf. With the nervous jitters, my older siblings and I arrived at the fair at 5:00 a.m. My older brother was showing two market steers, and my sister had a fall calf. Chris, the neighbor who I was leasing my calf from, arrived later that morning and gave me a slight boost of confidence with his kind words.

We began by washing the animals, cleaning the stalls, and feeding them their breakfast of champions. Then, it was time for fitting. I had no idea how to fit an animal, and I wondered if I would ever be able to do that myself. I noticed throughout the rest of the morning how all the older, more experienced exhibitors were getting their animals prepared to go in the ring. Little did I know how much of an influence those older exhibitors, my siblings, and Chris would have on my future years as a livestock showman. It was by watching them fit that I was able to take away new techniques each year. The first year I only knew the basics of washing and blow drying my calf. I have since learned each step in between, such as how to clip, pull up legs with adhesive, and give the hair its final “pop.

As I have grown older in the livestock community, I have come to know the power of influence and the importance of being a role model to others. We all start at a point in which we may feel overwhelmed or even helpless, but it’s who we choose to look up to that makes the difference. I chose to look up to my older siblings and family friend, Chris. Each of them provide me with a new piece of advice at every opportunity; advice that can be used both in and out of the show ring.

Each day, we have the opportunity to influence at least one person. People do not need to have a title or position; instead leadership is simply one person influencing another. The people we surround ourselves with are constantly observing our actions and attitudes - whether positive or negative. With this in mind, we must value and demonstrate integrity and good character. We never know the impact we may be creating in a single moment, and for that reason, we must be aware of the influence we create.

As Chris’s boys, Wyatt and Colton, are now getting started with their showing careers, I have been able to serve as a role model to them. Most days, I do not even realize the influence I am creating. Not only do I serve as a role model to Wyatt and Colton, but also a teammate. We show together, learn together, and laugh together. This year, I will be circling my animals in the ring for the final time in 4-H. Although I will not be standing with Wyatt and Colton in the ring next year, I will most definitely be ringside proudly cheering on my teammates. I am excited to see how they eventually pass on that influence to others.

So no, I did not win the champion ribbon at my first fair, but I did gain some pretty incredible role models. What does your “crunch time” look like? Who’s influence will you choose to follow? How will you be an influence for others?

Stationed by the Ear of Corn,
Laura Church