A Foundation for the Future by Aubree Beenken

If you were fortunate to be raised in a small town you know how easy it is to become involved in a multitude of organizations. Growing up you can be a part of 4-H, FFA, FCCLA, National Honor Society, Student Council, breed organizations such as the American Gelbvieh Junior Association (AGJA), and countless other organizations. Youth programs are the backbone of American agriculture and they lay a foundation for the future by equipping youth with lifelong skills and connections that cannot be built within the walls of a classroom.

Through my involvement with multiple organizations I learned one of the most critical skills of all: communication. Standing up to deliver the FFA Creed, leading an advocacy workshop, or even giving a presentation at a 4-H meeting taught me the importance of being able to speak clearly, loudly, and in terms that my audience will understand. The ability to communicate becomes ever more important each day; whether it is talking to another producer, a veterinarian, a teacher, or a consumer. With each audience we address, our vocabulary changes and our body language shifts because the terms we use on the farm are foreign to some of the people living in our own communities. Youth organizations taught me that being able to communicate with others in understandable terms is crucial to preventing misconceptions and ensuring a positive image of the agriculture industry. Learning how to properly communicate has allowed me to share my beef story in an effective manner.

A skill often overlooked, but a vital skill I gained from my years in different youth organizations is time management. Growing up, I held leadership roles in many clubs that I was a part of and with all those leadership roles came a multitude of responsibilities that had to be fulfilled. The only way for me to be a successful leader was proper time management. Time management goes beyond just being a good leader. It teaches you to balance time and work in a manner that is effective and efficient, which showcases many benefits when it comes to school, work, or even responsibilities on the farm. A future employer will notice when you can balance multiple tasks at once and still produce high-quality work. Learning how to properly manage time is important for being successful in life at work, school, and at home.

Youth organizations instilled in me the importance of hard work and dedication. I remember spending hours practicing the FFA Creed or coming into school early for mock-job interviews, all to ensure I was fully prepared for my upcoming contest. These hours were not required or mandatory, but rather it was the extra effort I was willing to put in so I could be successful at whatever endeavor I was embarking on. Youth programs showed me how hard work and dedication pays off in the long run. Each day we have the choice to spend extra time studying EPDs to find the perfect match for the upcoming breeding, to take an extra fifteen minutes to practice showmanship, or even taking time to meet with a nutritionist to formulate the right diet for your animal in all stages of life. Our dedication to the beef industry, and our own cattle, make us willing to go the extra mile and put in extra hours because we know the time spent now will produce large rewards in the end.

My involvement with youth programs shaped me into the person I am today. I can stand up and speak in front of a group and be confident; I can share the events occurring on my farm to anyone no matter what background they may come from; I know how to balance my time to ensure all my obligations are met, and I have learned that hard work and dedication can go a long way. While youth organizations may seem like another responsibility to squeeze into an already busy schedule, I ask that you take a moment to reflect on how you have been impacted by youth programs. For me, my years spent in different youth programs laid a foundation for my future that allowed me to have a successful college career, an understanding of what lies outside my community, and even to my role at the Iowa Beef Industry Council this past summer. Youth programs have been, and will continue to be, the backbone of American agriculture by equipping youth with knowledge and skills to be successful.