Let’s hear it for the young folks!

January and February are busy months for the FARMING crew because we have several trade shows to attend, starting with the New York Maple Conference and ending with the New York Farm Show. As I write this column, I am just coming home from the Keystone Farm Show in York, Pennsylvania.

I have been covering farm shows since 1992. These shows offer our FARMING staff an opportunity to meet readers and advertisers, and catch up on trends in the agricultural field. I personally enjoy meeting everybody and discussing farming. There’s one group that I really look forward to seeing – the college students. They are wonderful young people.

An angel disguised as a college student saved my day at the Keystone Farm Show. The booth is difficult to put up by myself, and I was pondering how to get the top-heavy display together. There was no way I was climbing on the flimsy chairs provided to exhibitors because I don’t jump very fast when these chairs start to collapse. Then along came Ashley Oeser. She said, “I am an ambassador. Is there anything I can help you with?” Needless to say, she climbed up on the chair and my booth was set up in minutes. I was very impressed with her demeanor. She is a senior at the State Univerity of New York-Cobleskill majoring in agriculture business management who grew up on a dairy farm in Sprakers, New York, and would like to go into law school specializing in agricultural policies.

She reminds me of the college students we also meet at the New York Farm Show. By Saturday afternoon, my coworker Annette and I are fried and exhausted. We have visited numerous exhibitors, going from building to building in the freezing Syracuse cold and we dread the long drive home. It is at that point that our spirit is revived! That seems to be the timeslot when all the agricultural college students stop by the booth. Their attitudes are refreshing. They are happy, smiling and somewhat carefree, but in a good way. Annette remarked to me last year that they are always polite and respectful. I agreed and said of course they are respectful. They were brought up that way. Most have a farming background and they were taught to respect the land, their animals, hard work and their elders.

Girls and boys kind of all dress alike, everybody wears a Carhartt jacket. I think Carhartt is the unofficial outer wear for farmers. The boys’ hats show their favorite tractor or school logo, and they wear work boots. The girls sport a stylish top, and tend to wear their jeans tucked fashionably into their cowgirl boots. (Note: This author has tried this same look, and it’s not nearly as cute on a 55-year-old!)

The boys tell us what they are studying in school and then move on to look at the equipment. The girls however share more of their life stories. We hear about who influenced them to go into agricultural studies, what they are majoring in, and what their plans for the future include. Because of my background, quite often I am privy to a cellphone picture. It is not a photo of their boyfriends. It’s usually a shot of their favorite horse, prized cow, blue ribbon lamb and even a pig sometimes.

It is the young people who remind me why I enjoy this industry. They are enthusiastic and dedicated to the future of agriculture.

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