The Ag Expo

Agriculture is…”the backbone, the building block. The homesteaders scattered across the West and developed it for agriculture uses,” she said. “Some of them came here [Colorado]. The spirit of agriculture has been with us ever since. If agriculture stays strong, the overall economy of the city and county is strong.” Taken from the Cortez Journal,’s-a-wrap-for-2013–Ag-Expo

Every March for the past thirty-one years the Four States’ Agricultural Emporium (Ag Expo) has been held in Cortez, Colorado, not too far from where I live. Since I was old enough to be carried or walk on my own, I have not missed an Ag Expo. for farmers and ranchers who don’t get out very often, as is the case with my family, the Ag Expo is marked down on the calenders and waited for with much anticipation. There are vendors and booths from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, as well as some other neighboring states. Kids who are in 4-H or FFA show their steers, heifers, pigs, and lambs. There is food, fun, and educational experiences. Once, when I was five or six, a kindly old cowboy gave me a few roping pointers. And this year, my siblings and I learned a lot about goats. For years my brother has wanted goats and once we sampled some of the milk and were pleasantly surprised with how close to cow’s milk the taste was, I made up my mind: sooner or later I will be investing in a milk goat. We made a few rounds through the bull pens, admiring the velvet-furred black beasts. Then we looked at the sheep (I’ve wanted sheep for as long as I can remember) and the little black lamb stole my heart.

Unfortunately though, people are losing interest in agriculture. I remember not that many years ago when the main exhibit building was literally packed to the bursting point. This year there were too many unused booths and empty rooms. Even the animal exhibits were fewer than in years past. The only children in sight were the ones who’d come with their teachers on a Field Trip, and there couldn’t have been more than two dozen of them.

There were only three chickens, two pigs, a couple of turkeys, and a few alpacas. No rabbits, heifer calves, chicks, or colts. It is a sad thought about how so many people have given up the farm. As far as people in large cities are concerned, their meat, milk, eggs, and flour comes from who-knows-where (no offence to all you city folks). Too many teens these days don’t know/care about what it takes to raise a bottle calf, grow an apple tree, or even ride a horse. I have to face it: I live in a world of technology. Even I use technology: I’m on Facebook, I own a laptop, run this website, and send emails. The one thing I don’t have that over 3/4 of people my age have is a cell phone.

In the summer, I quit my ‘office job’ and live outside for most of the day. Most people don’t know what a sideroll or a pivot is (don’t worry, someday I’ll write a post explaining what they do, how they work, and what an enormous pain in the neck they are) but that is how my family and many of our neighbors make their living . And some people still dryland farm. Other than farming, people own cows. Cows make money for us nearly year-round: we sell old/open cows in spring and most of the calves in the fall.

I’ll admit that I have no experienced with tractors: the most I’ve done on heavy equipment is cut a few swaths of hay. But I’ve helped with the branding of the calves for years; even before I was big enough to push the calves, it was my job to chase them out of the pen after they were released from the squeeze chute. I currently own three cows, four first-calf heifers, four yearlings, four calves, a bull, and a horse. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that it IS possible for youngsters to succeed in the agriculture business. My little sister is an expert (in my opinion) rider and has a few cows and a horse and wants to make her living as a cowgirl. My brother wants to be a veterinarian and own cows and goats. That’s why I commend banks who offer the Young Farmer loans, although you nearly have to jump through hoops to qualify for them. This year, I had every intention of buying 71 acres of farmland, but since we’ve been hit so heavily with the drought and will only have half the normal water supply, I’m going to have to wait until next year or the year after, if it is still for sale by then.

Farming is hard: you have to work very hard, and sometimes your work doens’t pay off and you barely make it by. My parents are the hardest working people I’ve ever met. And they’ve gone through more hardships than any person has a right to go through. And they’re still young, with many more hardships yet to endure. And within a few years, I know I’ll be in the same boat. You may ask, “Then why? If farming is so hard, why would anyone want to be in that occupation?” Because: if no one farmed we would all go hungry. And, in my personal opinion, earning your living by farming is the most honest way to live.  

To all you farmers, ranchers, dairy cow owners, backyard gardeners, and young aspiring agriculturists out there: Keep up the good work and God bless you all.



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