Jackpot summer of 2018

I have really hit the jackpot this summer for working with young leadership programs. I have now had four consecutive weeks of involvement with some sort of youth leadership development.

Last week it was Dairy U, a first-time program in Garden City, Kansas, for teenagers excited about the future of the dairy industry. I, too, benefit so much from the time I spend with the next generation of our nation’s leaders. At a time when young people could be fleeing from the work load and lack of profit in dairying, Dairy U finds a group of kids excited to find their own way into the dairy business.

Then I headed to Springfield, Illinois, for the 2018 Summer Type Conference for Team Purebred. About 800 young pig enthusiasts arrived in the Land of Lincoln with nearly 2,000 pigs in tow. Team Purebred is a national youth livestock association consisting of 4,000 members all excited about the future of the pork industry.

Junior livestock associations like Team Purebred, the American Junior Hereford Association and all the others are tremendous at gathering young people who are excited about owning and showing animals for competition. However, we need to take this one step further and really introduce these excited young people to the real opportunities that exist in the business of food production.

Grand Island, Nebraska, will be swarming with a thousand kids who love showing Hereford cattle next week in the same vein of the kids in Springfield, Illinois. We “adults” must find ways to expose our kids to all the opportunities that exist in beef and pork production.

Team Purebred recently made strides to close that information gap by partnering with The Maschhoffs—a large commercial pork production operation based in Illinois. This year we conducted interviews to all who applied and granted two $1,000 scholarships to young people who will also be given the opportunity to have exposure to career opportunities in pork production in The Maschhoffs’ system.

Longtime friend Dale Richey and I were on the interview committee and share the same enthusiasm for how this could really lead to more of what we need to implement for all of our youth livestock associations. Dale also joined me on Rural Route Radio and we came to the conclusion that we need to be more diligent in getting kids exposed to industry leaders who have “been there and done that.” We share the sentiment that none of us are as well versed on the history of agriculture as we should be and that if you don’t know where you’ve been, it’s going to be really hard to get where you should be.

Dale brought to the radio airwaves a story that I had never heard. The Hereford breed of hogs is the new rage with junior livestock exhibitors. Hereford hogs are hot! It seems every kid wants to show this heritage breed. But how many people that raise pigs know the impact Hereford hogs actually made in World War II?

King Neptune was a Hereford boar born in 1942. He was used by the Navy in what we would call a roll over sale today and the proceeds were actually used to purchase war bonds. King Neptune generated $19 million, which factored for inflation, would be equivalent to roughly $275 million today. In fact, it was enough money to build the USS Illinois warship from 1942-46. It was Chief Petty Officer Donald Lingle who owned the pig and started hauling him around southern Illinois, selling pieces of the boar often dressed up as a Naval Officer. King Neptune was buried in 1950 near Anna, Illinois, with full military honors.

We must do a better job of educating our ag youth, and all youth for that matter, about where we have been and how far we have come in food production. When they more clearly see where we have been, I truly believe their vision and creativity will take us places we never dreamed possible. The animal/human bond has done amazing things to improve life on earth today. Let’s make sure we clear the path so their vision toward the future is wide open. We owe it to them and to all future earth beings.

Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at [email protected].