June 5 2020 01:00 PM

As fairs and shows are canceled across the nation, it is important to step back and remember the values that lie beyond the showring.

Summer is the time for cow shows. It’s time for training and spending a lot of time at the wash rack. This year looks different, and I know for many people every fair that’s canceled is a blow to the heart. I’ve heard from my family and many others that they are already missing the kids and commotion that normally accompanies the first 4-H gatherings of the show season.

But it is not about the shows.

It’s about the kids and the many lessons that they learn from working with an animal. There are things that aren’t solely learned in the showring.

I always hear people talking about the values and life skills associated with showing. Well, now is the time to showcase that those values don’t fall away between seasons. Show the world that hard work, perseverance, responsibility, dedication, self-drive, honesty, and integrity aren’t just for the showring. Sure, it’s great to be rewarded with a ribbon, and it’s important to learn how to cope if you don’t do as well as you hoped, but sometimes the most important lessons are those that you learn leading up to show day.

The in-person competition may be canceled, but you don’t have to end your show season by parading around a tent filled with wood shavings and potted flowers. You can learn or teach those lessons through other valuable experiences in your backyard, your kitchen, or almost anywhere you can think of.

If you are lucky enough to have a connection to livestock during these times, make showing your “quarantine skill.” Practice with your cattle wherever you can; wash them, lead them, and spend time not staring at your computer screen. Then, use your computer to connect with your friends! Put on a virtual cow show or show off your hard-earned showmanship skills on your platform of choice.

If you don’t have access to livestock this summer, find other ways to stay engaged in agriculture! Now is a great time to get involved in your local community. Keep an eye out for volunteer opportunities. You could help hand out products at milk drives or work with your local food pantry.

Bring agriculture to your home; plant a garden, build a chicken coop, learn about different types of livestock showing, read up on quiz bowl and judging materials, and teach your family about where their food comes from. Take this extra time to prepare for a day when it’s safe to hold fairs again and we can all be together in the showring.

So many things are changing this year, but the lessons we learn from these challenges will shape our lives moving forward. Now is not the time to dwell on what we are missing out on, but rather to embrace what we have and look forward to a time when we can celebrate those things together.

Abbie Cox

Abbie Cox grew up in Cato, N.Y. on a first-generation dairy farm and currently attends Cornell University as a member of the class of 2021, majoring in animal science with a minor in education and a focus in dairy. On campus, she is involved with the Cornell University Dairy Science Club, Sigma Alpha, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and is a Peer Adviser with CALS Student Services. Cox has interned with the MILC group, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and is the 2020 Hoard’s Dairyman summer editorial intern.