Sept. 12 2022 08:00 AM

The fall back-to-school season means much more than school buildings for youth in agriculture.

It seems to creep up earlier every year. Often by mid-July, the back-to-school commercials, ads, and fliers have started inundating our TVs and mailboxes to promise that new notebooks, laptops, and backpacks will make for a productive year of learning.

It’s around this same time that students who love dairy and agriculture are also heading back to different kinds of classrooms — ones that offer the kind of hands-on learning that can’t be found inside of a school building. These classrooms are the barns, showrings, contest rooms, wash racks, and much more that make up the fairs and conferences filling dairy schedules through the late summer and fall.

If you’ve attended one of the many fall competitions, you know exactly how educational they can be. From county and state fairs to World Dairy Expo, each offers the opportunity to try new things, learn from your mistakes, meet new people, and listen to those around you. There is no better place to learn about attention to detail, perseverance, or humility than at a dairy show. Thousands of youth from elementary schoolers to college seniors get that experience each year as they exhibit their animals and help their friends and neighbors.

The showring is far from the only dairy classroom filled with students in the fall. At the shows that will take place over the coming weeks and months, youth will also put their best foot forward to test their skills and knowledge in dairy judging, dairy bowl, management contests, crops judging, and so many other facets of agriculture. Whether at the Big E, All-American Dairy Show, World Dairy Expo, North American International Livestock Exposition, or another area contest, 4-H and FFA members will practice their decision-making abilities, develop their public speaking and self-confidence, identify best farm practices, and study pages of dairy details.

This is not even to mention the largest youth agricultural gathering of the year, the National FFA Convention. When thousands of members from around the country meet in Indianapolis, Ind., in October, students with interests in all areas of agriculture will compete, hear from leaders, and meet like-minded peers. The practical skills developed at all these events form resourceful, informed leaders who can make an impact in agriculture and beyond in their futures.

Here at the Hoard’s Dairyman office, we are preparing to welcome the students attending this year’s National 4-H Dairy Conference. Through three days of touring industry sites, hearing from speakers, and visiting World Dairy Expo with dairy enthusiasts from around the country, these 4-H members will broaden their dairy horizons and get a type of education that’s found nowhere else.

While all these experiences make for a busy fall for many dairy families, the once-a-year and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities they provide are invaluable for students who are passionate about dairy cows, the dairy industry, and their future. If the students in your life are fortunate to be learning in classrooms that don’t have four walls this fall, encourage and support them in these experiences that make education come to life.

Katelyn Allen

Katelyn Allen joined the Hoard’s Dairyman team as the Publications Editor in August 2019 and is now an associate editor. Katelyn is a 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech, where she majored in dairy science and minored in communication. Katelyn grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy, Glen-Toctin Farm, in Jefferson, Md.