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03 Jan 2016 - Kudos to the Youth and Pioneers in Agriculture

Not many people spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s at a livestock show. But if you live in Arizona, and especially if you are in the ranching business, you do go to a livestock show at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the heart of Phoenix. For the 68th year, the Arizona National Livestock Show (along with some little football games) again took center stage in the Valley of the Sun between Christmas and New Year’s.

I have attended the show a couple times during the past 15 years and I decided to spend a day there the last week of 2015 to see if it is still doing well. I am happy to report that it continues to attract livestock exhibitors from 30 states, as well as thousands of people…not only from the livestock community in Arizona, but consumers from Phoenix and vacationers from the Midwest. There are so many people who come to the Valley to enjoy the better weather over the Christmas holiday and to attend the show that Show Director Michael Bradley told me it is now known as the ’vacation show’.

There is another reason for the show timing…schools are on holiday vacation and that gives 4-H and FFA members the opportunity to exhibit their animals. It is truly a big event for them because they not only compete, but they learn valuable lessons of life. They brought their best hogs, lambs, steers and heifers, and for the first time at the show this year, their best poultry in hopes of bringing home a blue ribbon.

The show does a great job of recognizing and honoring the young as well as the more ‘mature’ livestock people. And watching these 4-H and FFA members interact with city people, explaining what they do and how they care for their animals and how they are looking to their future in the food industry was a real joy. Because of what I saw, I’m reminded again to repeat this message to the extreme animal rights groups. If you are going to a state or county fair or a livestock show this year, don’t harass, picket or tell these young people they are bad people because they are working with animals. Instead, commend them because these are young people working for their future and the future of the world, doing their best to provide all of us with quality food and doing it in a respectful way. Because of leadership lessons learned in 4-H and FFA, you are looking at future community, state and national leaders who deserve our respect.

The other thing I like about the Arizona National Livestock Show is the fact they don’t forget the other side of the age scale, the side I call ‘mature’. They pay tribute to history, to some of the pioneers of the industry. I attended the Pioneer Stockman’s Luncheon where they honored John Hays, now in his 80’s, whose family in 1912, established a ranch in Peeples Valley, Arizona about 100 miles north of Phoenix. The ranch is still operated by the Hays family. John Hays served in the State Legislature, and was best known for his work on water conservation, but his first love is still the cattle industry and agriculture. Incidentally, the 2014 Pioneer Stockman was cattle rancher and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

So, to the young and to the mature, we start the year 2016 by paying tribute to you, recognizing your accomplishments and contributions to your state and our nation. We are all better off for your efforts.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.