What farming means to her

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4-H essay writer wins $1,000 doing what she loves

Cathryn Thompson of the Calahoo area has just completed her 11th and final year of 4-H as a member of the Belle Valley Explorers 4-H Club.

And she ends it with a $1,000 scholarship cheque, courtesy the Chrysler Foundation and 4-H Canada.

Cathryn is one of 100 young 4-H members from across Canada to receive the scholarship, which was “100 scholarships for 100 years of 4-H in Canada.”

To qualify for the scholarship, 4-H members were challenged to write a short essay (maximum 500 words) on “What does being a farmer mean to you?” Hers was one of those chosen. Last week, she went to the St. Albert Dodge dealership, where general manager Keith Guilbault presented her with the $1,000 scholarship cheque on behalf of 4-H Canada and the Chrysler Foundation.

Cathryn says she has been involved with beef projects for all of her 11 years of 4-H, and also been involved with veterinary science, crafts and field crops projects.

“In the past few years, I have taken on many leadership roles in 4-H and have been very involved at the club, district and regional levels. Although I can no longer be a 4-H member, I still plan to be involved with 4-H, and help my club, as I enjoy mentoring and helping younger 4-H members.”

During her 4-H years, Cathryn became very proficient in marketing, public speaking and record keeping, all of which skills she accredits to her 4-H experience.

She is also the Alberta Young Canadian Simmental Association vice-president and working with other board members to plan the annual Alberta Wild Rose Classic Simmental Show. In addition, she is an avid community volunteer, and says she especially enjoys volunteering at agricultural events such as Farmfair and K-Days to help promote agriculture to urbanites.

This fall, Cathryn will begin her third year of her Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Animal Science at University of Alberta.

“Because of my passion for cattle, I hope to work in the cattle industry after obtaining my degree. I also plan to pursue an education degree in the future,” she says.

Cathryn’s winning essay:

What does being a farmer mean to you?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a farmer as ‘a person who runs a farm’. To me, being a farmer is no ordinary occupation of ‘running a farm’, it is much more than that. For example, besides running a farm, a farmer is a salesman, a buyer, a trader, a teacher, a chemist, a mechanic, an accountant and a doctor. Farmers also spread agricultural awareness, and more importantly, they contribute to society globally by feeding the world.

One of the most important things to me about being a farmer is knowing where my food came from. For example, I know how my cattle were raised, and what they ate. I also know how my vegetables were grown and what fertilizers were used on them. I believe consumer confidence in the agriculture industry needs to improve. Farmers have a responsibility to spread agricultural awareness to consumers by busting the myths associated with food production and food safety. Most consumers have no idea where their food comes from and they think it ‘magically’ appears at the grocery store. Because of their ignorance, many consumers are also fast to jump to conclusions about the negative images that the media portrays about agriculture. For example, media including animal rights awareness groups continuously campaign against farming and the portrayed animal abuse to farm animals. The general public sympathizes with the animals shown in animal rights awareness advertisements, and develops a hostile attitude towards farmers. Animal rights awareness groups make the whole livestock farming industry look bad, but in reality most farmers treat their animals with upmost respect and compassion. Their animals’ welfare and health are a top priority.

Even some restaurants promote themselves by offering ‘organic’ and ‘hormone free’ products. Farmers can help spread awareness to consumers about the restaurants advertising schemes. For example, just because a food product is organic, does not make it healthier (many organic foods use synthetic hormones). Also, studies have shown that the estrogen levels in 100 grams of beef from cattle given hormonal growth promotants is much less than the estrogen levels in 100 grams of other commonly consumed food (such as milk or cabbage). Who better than a farmer to set agricultural facts straight and spread agricultural awareness to consumers? Who else will feed the ‘world’?

Farming is not an easy job. Farmers know the value of dedication, commitment, hard work, good character and good business. To me, farming is a selfless career. Yes, most farmers are farming because they enjoy the way of life, but they are also nourishing the world. When you go to the grocery store, look around, everything you see is there because of a farmer whether it be bread, fruit, cheese or meat. Farmers have the passion to produce their product and make it the best it can be.

In conclusion, a farmer to me is more then what the average person defines a farmer as. Farmers have a multitude of job titles, they are agricultural advocates, and most importantly, they feed the world. Farmers are truly the backbone of society.

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