“As Iron Sharpens Iron…..”

I typically try to be as transparent as possible… Today, I’m bumping that up a level. When I first began this wild journey, I was a Sophomore in High School, I had played with a friends full-frame camera (which was a Nikon), just taking photos of football games, our friend group, and just a whole bunch of random objects. My parents saw a passion igniting for Photography within myself, so what was next on board? Purchasing a camera that was better in quality than my little Samsung point and shoot. I ended up purchasing a Canon Rebel T3i, which proved to be my number one side kick for many years.. I was on top of the world, or well, in my mind I was. I was determined to make a name for myself, but had little patience to sit and learn from others. While the years passed, I started to open my eyes a bit to who and what was around me. I had always been afraid to ask questions because I felt like that would make me look incompetent, to those who were being asked. As I started to realize how much I was missing out on by not asking those questions, doors started to open, and my photos were constantly improving.

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The first photo is from the beginning, we all begin somewhere, and there’s no doubt I had very little that I knew about photographing sale cattle…. The second photo is from this spring, and there’s no doubt I don’t know it all, but the photos speak for themselves….

Growing up my siblings and I were encouraged to dream, and dream big, and dream we did. When I graduated High School I remember standing in front of a Senior Banquet and professing my hopes and dreams of wanting to become a Professional Livestock Photographer. At the time, I truly thought it was such a distant dream, but yet kept pursuing it relentlessly. Looking back now, I am thankful for the passion I had in pursuing my dreams, otherwise, I would not be where I am today. Right into college, I received my first major break, I was hired on as an intern for an International Livestock Photography Company, who I, at the time thought so very much of. I went on to work for that Company as a Photographer, and Media Coordinator for 4 years, and truly developed myself as a professional in those years. I remember in the beginning I was completely blown away by the talent that surrounded me, and being able to spend quality time with photographers who I admired so very much. Looking back, I truly wish I would have had the courage to ask more questions, and not be afraid of how I would be perceived.

A few weeks ago, I sat in a room full of uber talented photographers, graphic designers, social media experts, videographers, and just flat phenomenal people. While we discussed our strengths, weakness’, goals, and a business opportunity that was on the table at the time, I glanced around the room realizing that my hopes and dreams, were what placed me in that room, that day. Each of us in that room were different ages and came from different states, and backgrounds, but we all had a passion for Livestock tying us together. Through those few days we learned from each other, and helped build each other up, in a way I have never witnessed. There wasn’t any stone left unturned or any question left unasked. For the first time in my professional career I truly realized what the meaning of a TEAM is. A team, that has become a family, not many can say that their counterparts celebrate each others accomplishments as though they were their own.

One of the most recognized bible verses is Proverbs 27:17, it says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

I believe that to be true, especially with this group.

You may wonder where I am going with this, so here is the punch line….. Why are we afraid to ask questions, or to “be a bother”? Whether it be in a professional or personal setting asking questions should be encouraged. I know that personally as you read above, if I would have learned to ask questions earlier on, I probably would have been further developed in my profession than what I am now. I also realize if I wouldn’t have been afraid to ask those questions I would have saved so much time, and stress, and overall wouldn’t have spent so much time googling or searching youtube for how to’s. I wouldn’t have had to take the long way around.. I am writing this to encourage all of you to be fearless in asking questions, because in the end that is going to be the only way to reach your full potential in whatever it is that you are doing, because you never stop learning.

“The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you go to school.” – T.D. Jakes

Having a passion for something greater is part of the challenge, the rest is continuing to learn, and pushing yourself to accomplish more. Each and every one of us has goals, dreams, passions, and a vision for what we want our future to hold, it’s time that each of us break the mold of what we believe we are “Supposed to Be”, and truly be how we are meant to be. Take the leap of Faith, and relentlessly pursue what sets our soul on fire.

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-Sierra

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How a National Blue Jacket Changed My Life..

I always claim to have some sort of memory loss, I’m scatter brained, and if I didn’t have my planner and phone calendar, I’d be lost. There is one day I remember plain as day…. May 16th, 2014, a day that I had been preparing myself for, since I joined the FFA in the Fall of 2009… This morning was similar to many mornings throughout my high school career, I woke at 5:30 to jump in the shower, fix my hair, and makeup, put on a black A-line skirt, and zip up my Area 1 Association jacket for the next to last time. I grabbed a quick breakfast because I knew that day would be fast paced, and wouldn’t allow for much time between happenings to dilly dally around. I walked into a meeting room filled with the five other individuals who had also spent a year serving the Area 1 Association, their Ag teachers, and a few others who were Area Coordinators. These Men and Women were the glue that held together our team, all the members, advisors, districts, and chapters of our area. The morning continued on with each of us reviewing the schedule for the Convention we would be hosting that evening and the next day at Tascosa High in Amarillo, Tx.

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From Left to Right: My older Brother Sheldon(Texas FFA Vice President), myself, Taylor Shackelford(Texas FFA 1st Vice President), and Peyton Gilbert(Texas FFA State President). The three starting their morning in Follett for School visits!

While everyone hustled around, prepping and planning, ironing out fine details, three of us were a bit more slow paced, trying to calm our nerves, and get ready for the State Officer Election Process. When they made the first call for our interviews you could sense a sudden nervousness that came over all three of us. We were close, a lot like family in that year, we travelled together, were constantly in a group text, and spent our time away from each other wishing we were back on the road being advocates of the wonderful Association in which we represented. We laughed, and cried, cheered each other on, and now we were competing against each other, yet again. When it came my turn to face the panel of interviewers, I said a quick prayer, and walked into that room with hope, and faith in my heart. The questions varied in topics, but one questions towards the end hit me, and hit me hard. “What are your future plans, and goals.” I had been tossing around ideas for months, did I want to go to Clarendon and Meat Judge, then go to Tech and Major in Ag Communications? Did I want to pursue this wild crazy dream I had since a Sophomore, to become a Livestock Photographer and have my own business.. What did I want to do? I thought for a second more, and when I opened my mouth, the words fell right out. “I want to be a Livestock Photographer, have my own business, and give back to the Association, Parents, Teachers, and Students who have made me who I am, and supported me all of these years..” Little did I know, those words would stick. After our interviews we had to deliver our speech we would be giving to the entire convention hall to another Ag Teacher for him to approve.

IMG_6174     We talked with the Incoming Area Officers, and prepared them for how quick the year would fly by. That evening when the Auditorium was filled, the sound of Fall Out Boy came over the crowd, and we were off to a start, running through all the members, up to the stage, where we would say Opening Ceremonies, salute the flag, and begin the talent contest, New Area Officer Elections, and then the State Officer Speeches. When it came time to deliver my speech I again, said a prayer, and walked across the stage, delivering my speech about overcoming adversity. While that day flew by, there still are so many vivid details of conversations and words of encouragement that will forever be in my heart.

I did not accomplish my dream of becoming a Texas FFA State Officer, but instead today, I am living out exactly what I told that room of Ag Teachers, a Livestock Photographer is what my title is. I came across three of my FFA Jackets this last week, and just skipped down memory lane, many hours spent in those blue corduroy jackets.  Many moments of happiness, laughter, and a few tears are held in the pockets of each, but the thing that stuck out, was the back of the jacket, and how it varied. As an eighth grader it just had my chapter, Follett, on the bottom. My next jacket was my District Officer jacket, it had Top-O-Texas written along the bottom edge of the FFA Emblem. The third was my Area Officer Jacket, it had Area 1 on the back, I couldn’t help but smile as I looked through each of them. They all had items in their pockets ranging from notes, to a few happy grams, a couple gum wrappers, and a pen or two.

IMG_6177Remembering the memories in each of those jackets is only half of why I wrote this, the second half is because of the lessons I learned while in those jackets, and how they helped mold me into the person I am, today. While in my National Blue, and Corn Gold jackets I learned how to relay my thoughts, and make them into actual happenings. I learned the importance of eye contact, and a firm handshake. I learned how to deliver a speech, and how to work well with others, no matter our political, social, or economic position. FFA taught me what responsibility, and true hard work meant to others, and how to be a responsible hard working young adult. I learned the meaning of determination, and pride. The years have flown by since wearing my jackets, just as I was told they do. Being a livestock photographer, I spend much of my time traveling to and from events, spending an abundance of time with FFA Members, their parents, Ag Teachers, and their families. One thing stands true to this day, FFA molds and opens doors for each individual in an Agriculture Education Course to reach their full potential, and even more. If it were not for the FFA Association, I would not be where I am today. Living out my dreams of giving back to the members, teachers, and families of an Association that made me who I am.

Happy National FFA Week!

 

 

Here’s to the best one, yet.

 

 

2017 proved to be one roller coaster of a year. The year was filled with lots of travel, a wild fire that ravaged the Panhandle, a new business venture, many new adventures, and a sickness that helped me realize what was important. Through all of these happenings I did have 10 life lessons I’d like to share with you…

10.) No matter what people say, or promise, their actions will prove how they truly feel… A very big lesson for me in 2017. I’ve always been one to believe in the greater good of others, without taking into consideration their own agendas. I guess I just  assumed a mutual respect among each person, however, I’ve now realized there is no such thing. We now live in a world full of selfishness, and I, for one, am disappointed by that fact. My goal in 2018 is to show others how easy it is to treat each other with respect, to love with no exceptions, and to smile without end, because that’s what truly matters.

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9.) Accomplish something you thought was impossible… I believe this was one of the biggerthings that happened this year, and it wasn’t just one goal. I was able to stabilize my life, and go out on my own in the photography world. Booking my own shows, and events. I was able to give back to my community, and assist young individuals with their Livestock Projects. I’d say living life to the max, even though it was a tad stressful at times, was worth every bit.

 

8.) Don’t be stupid… Dad, this one is for you… You are always reminding me of this, telling me to use my head, to think before I act, and to remember what y’all raised me to be. I may still struggle a bit with using my head 24/7, but hey, I’m getting there. I did learn however that by thinking before I act, and taking every piece of every story, for what it is, I will make better choices. So don’t be stupid, use your head, and think for yourself. Following societies “Standard” isn’t worth it.

 

7.) Prepare for rain, for what you do not sow, you will not harvest… Preparation for the coming seasons in your life, is so very important.  I truly believe our faith in God shows when we prepare for the things in which we ask him to help us with. Whether that be planting a field in a drought, or prepping for an upcoming business opportunity, that you aren’t sure you will even have. I learned that preparation is key, in anything you want to accomplish.

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6.) Fight for what you want… There aren’t many things in life that are handed to you on a silver platter. Fighting for what you want, is one of the most important things a person can learn, the second is how to fight for what you want. I’m not saying to throw a punch in a business proposition, but to instead pursue with fierce intention, with a goal, and a purpose to accomplish and achieve goals, steps, dreams, or anything you may want.

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5.) Family is a blessing, enjoy it… I come from a tight knit family, one who is loving and supporting in all of our dreams, but who also holds us to a higher standard. They want to push us to our limits, to accomplish all of the goals we have set before us. Through all of our health issues, life changes, and hard times in the past, and present, one thing has stuck out. We rally together in not only our times of need, but in everyday life. Many people tell me how blessed I am to have such a strong, loving, and supportive family, I never truly realized that until the last few weeks of 2017. I truly enjoy the laughter that fills our homes as we all gather together, the smiles on our faces as we enjoy each others company, and of course the rich atmosphere filled with pure love. Love for each and every one of us, so much so that it radiates.. I only wish I would have realized it much, much sooner.

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4.) All the little things add up… We often think that little things are not important, what we miss is that those little things add up to be large things. I always thought small actions lead to small happenings. I was wrong. Small things grow, they fester, and can quickly become very large problems and issues. I often sweep things under a rug, and move on, what I wasn’t noticing is that by sweeping those “things” under the rug, I was creating a bigger mess in my life, collecting dust, and a great big pile of rubble that didn’t belong. Don’t get caught up letting the little things grow into larger more problematic things, just because you don’t want to cause a ripple in the waters. Cause a wave, figure out what the issue is, and resolve it. It will be more worthwhile in the end.

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3.) Take in the good, rise from the bad…  In the spring a massive wildfire ripped through the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, and Kansas, effecting many friends of ours. I was away, in Houston, for HLSR. After hearing about the extensive damage, and seeing a few photos through the month while I was away, I finally returned home… As I drove through Hemphill and Lipscomb county, I was in awe… It was raining, the ground was barren, just dirt was left from the high heat of the flames. In that moment, I knew how important it was to take in the good, and rise from the bad. So many families had to over come, cattle ranchers had to rebuild, and as communities we had to keep up the positivity. Though the flames ravaged our counties, the rain would fall, and we would rise, out of the ashes. Seeing the sprouting green in a matter of days after the rain, was all the proof we needed..

2.) Life really is like a box of chocolates… “Life is like a box of choco-lates, you never know what you’re gunna get.” Forrest hit the nail on the head with that one. I learned this year that things can change in a matter of moments. One day you can be on top of the world, the next you can be bed ridden because of sickness. Even though I learned the most about myself in that month of basic bed rest, I also constantly questioned why. Why me? Why now? Why? Why? Why? I then learned it’s not our duty to question Gods plan, even though its easy to point fingers, its just as hard to take into account what he put this obstacle in your life for. Maybe its for self development, or for you to realize how important your health is. Whatever it may be, take a bite out of that chocolate and savor it, I promise there is a flavor in there that may just take you by surprise.

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1.) Miracles do happen… The greatest thing I learned just two days before the new year, is that miracles do happen. Jeremiah 32:27 says “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind, is anything too hard for me?” After the happenings late in the night Friday, and Saturday, I’d say God proved his point. After a few frightening phone calls waking up the majority of our church family, the near future was looking grim for a loved one. Many prayed, prayed for healing, for peace, and for understanding. Mid morning we all received news that the “Impossible” had happened, and that a miracle took place. Tests, and scans would later prove that the “Impossible” was actually possible with our Lord and Savior, and that the scans that had taken place a couple hours apart seemed to show two different people, yet, they were done on the same exact loved one. There is no doubt God had a hand in the healing of our Sister in Christ, and that it was not her time after all.

 

 

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2017 proved to be a wild year, as I stated earlier, however, 2017 was a year of life, love, lessons, and miracles. Bring on 2018, a year I believe will be filled with hope, laughter, accomplishments, love, and of course, many more memories. I cannot wait to see where we are a year from today.

 

Blessings,

Sierra

CHRISTmas Time

     I haven’t written in quite some time. I’ve had plans to write, but find myself filling my schedule to the brim, and never having time to actually sit down to write them out… Making time to spend on yourself is so very important, and yet, so many of us, never clear an hour or two to just be us. Watch our favorite movie without interruption, go shopping at our favorite place, just because we feel like it, or much less, take time to just simply catch our breath in a world that is fast paced.

 

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     Yesterday, our family celebrated the first of quite a few Christmas Gatherings. This one was my immediate family, along with Moms parents, her brother, and his wife, and kids. As we all gathered in my parents home, all 16 of us ranging from 65 to 3, our house filled with laughter, smiles, the rich aroma of all the Christmas goodies we love, and soups brought by each family. As we finished our supper we all gathered in the living room for my favorite Christmas Tradition… Pa opened an Old King James Version of the Bible, and read the First Christmas Story… The little ones surrounding him as he read of Mary and Joseph traveling from the City of Nazareth to the Town of Bethlehem, finding a manger because there was no room for them in any of the Inns, and Mary giving birth to the Savior of this World where livestock were typically stalled. Our house grew quiet as we all listened, and reflected on that night so many years ago..

 

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     I am thankful to have parents and grandparents who have set Jesus in the spotlight, at all times, not just Christmas, but 24/7/365. We finished out the night opening presents, and just enjoying our time together. There is no doubt that Christmas is my all time favorite Holiday, I love the story of the birth of Jesus, I love the giving Spirit that comes over so many, the cheer you see in the faces of others, but most importantly I love the time spent with Family, and Friends.

 

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     As the years have flown by, we’ve lost many loved ones, just as everyone does. In my younger years we would go to the Hudson Family Christmas, which consisted of Great Great Aunts, Great Grandpa, Moms Parents, Cousins young and old. In 2008 we lost Great Great Aunt Geneive and Great Grandpa Don, the two who held those Holiday events… I look back on all of the memories my siblings, cousins and I have of the old farm, and can’t help but smile, so many cherished moments with those who have passed, but yet hold a special place in our hearts still today. I am constantly reminded that sweet cherished memories, today, are better than none at all, even if we do miss those individuals. We have so much to look forward to, we have others to make cherished memories with, and someday, God willing, we will be those who our Great Greats Nieces and Nephews, Great Grandkids, and others will have precious memories to cherish for years to come.  Today and Tomorrow will be filled with more Christmas Events, but I truly hope each of you will enjoy every second spent with the family and friends you’re surrounded by, make those sweet memories, cherish the stories you hear, all the sweet smells, and tastes of all the treats you love.

     Wishing Each and Everyone of you the Merriest of Christmas’, remember the true reason for the season, and the price he paid to save each of us!

Blessings,
Sierra

A million and some more…

An Odometer constantly rolls forward as you travel down the road….

     I am absolutely positive I am not the only one who watches their Odometer creep up as you travel down the road… Some may call it a distraction, but to me it’s a reminder. A reminder of the minutes we spend in our lifetime, on the road. Not just on the interstates, or back roads, but on the road of life. We spend each moment of our life chasing a never ending dream. Constantly pursuing higher levels of life. To some it seems as though its a race, but is it?

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     I spend the majority of my time traveling, to and from shows and events, or just trying to make it to the closest Walmart (which is an hour away in Kansas or Oklahoma… haha). Giving me plenty of thinking/Car Karaoke time. Life is a seamlessly never ending adventure, or well, that’s how we live it. Do we take moments for granted? All the time. Do we ever make up for lost time? Never, our clocks are always ticking. How do we make the best of our time? That’s for you to decide. I have recently come to the conclusion that I am missing out on certain events in life, simply because I choose not to pay attention to them. I place larger “events” or “happenings” ahead of those I don’t realize might have more significance (whether it be sentimental value, or anything else), if I would just open my eyes to them. We live in a world full of “instant”, “high speed”, or “never ending”. Everything is at our finger tips, every little thing. So much so that when we take ourselves out of our “comfort zone” we realize just how “immediate” our lives are.

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     Do I want to just live day to day missing opportunities, picking and choosing my livelihood, and what I think is best for me? Or do I want to allow God to make his move, to help me make mine? When will I become tired of trying to force the upper hand to God, all because I think I know what is best? Do I get so caught up in what I think my life should look like that I am missing opportunities God is placing right before my very eyes? Ecclesiastes 3:11 says:

     “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

 

Rushing around to catch this life that I thought I was supposed to be living, is absolutely ridiculous. I feel like I am not appreciating the life that God has planned and mapped out for me. What am I saying with all of this? “Sierra, it is time to get out of the fast lane…” I’m not saying that I am stepping out of this lifestyle that I love, but I am going to slow down, appreciate the good life that God has blessed me with. Tuesday I found out I have pneumonia, something I definitely was not expecting. I came home on Wednesday, right in the middle of our “Fall Run”, on my four and a half hour drive I decided it was the quietest my car has ever been…. I found myself emotional, upset, and just flat mad that I would allow myself to get this sick… Then I realized, “This has happened for a reason”. I truly believe God has been telling me to wake up for quite sometime, and I just kept pushing it off, putting my head down and pushing forward.

 

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So here is to bed rest, time spent healing the damage I have done to my lungs, all the fluids in the world, and of course antibiotic that I am not a fan of. It’s time to heal, reflect and slow down. It will be awhile before I am able to watch the miles passing endlessly on my odometer, sing as loudly as I please to my favorite songs, and spend hours on end behind a camera. So I will leave you with this… Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. I promise, the outcome will be so much more than you ever expected…

-Sierra

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P.S. Enjoy the images, a few are from around home, the rest are from different places I’ve traveled 🙂

#LifeWithSierra

An insight to my life, and family history…

 

     My life is a never ending road chasing white lines, perfect lighting and good livestock. Until recently have I come to terms with my place in the Livestock Industry, and I guess you could say it may surprise you. I am a 5th generation cattle farmer and rancher. Being raised in the Texas Panhandle on my grandfathers Hereford ranch you could say I am nothing short of blessed. I was raised in the passenger seat of an old feed truck on cold winter mornings, in the stands at cattle shows all across the country, and on the road to many sales, or livestock events. If one of my relatives would have chosen a small path different, I wouldn’t be where I am today, because of their love and relentless passion for pursuing this lifestyle.

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     What exactly is this lifestyle, you may ask? It’s the early mornings and late nights, long miles, cold wintery days, blistering hot days. It’s nursing baby calves back to health, or shedding a tear when you lose one. This lifestyle is full of misfortune, and yet wonderful happenings all at the same time. We witness new life, almost daily, and in the same day will witness the closing of a life. We are the first to take a brow beating from PETA, or HSUS for what we stand for, but in all reality do they truly realize how much we care for our livestock?

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     My Great-Great Grandfather lived along the Volga River, in Russia, in a small German community. In the early 1900’s they boarded a ship looking for greater opportunity in America. As they landed in New York City, they found themselves on a train to Wisconsin, which eventually led them to Shattuck, Oklahoma, and then to Lipscomb County, Texas in 1915. Lipscomb County has been our home for all of these years, ever since their arrival. They began to run Hereford cows, through the droughts they were able to withstand the deadly conditions, and make it through. In the years to come they became prominent Hereford Breeders in the region, hosting many sales, raising many champions, and most importantly developing a path for future generations to follow. As it has turned out both great-great grandpa Alex Born and great grandpa Harry Born have been inducted into the Texas Hereford Hall of Fame.

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     The trials and tribulations my relatives experienced have become something I cherish, something for us to look back on. Their stories of hardships have taught us exactly where we come from, what brought us here, and why we continue to battle to preserve this life we love, so dearly. I am a livestock photographer, I guess you could say I fell into it naturally. Loving both livestock and cameras, it is what I was meant to do. Capturing moments for generations to look back on so that they too can relive the stories of times passed, just like I have. Going back through old family scrapbooks always brings so many emotions back for me. I love seeing the backdrop photos from all over the country, the photos of old sales, and events my family would host, or even the photos of harvest, the fields of gold, and the combines of a lot different size than those we have today. What made those days so different from today? I’d say it’s a variety of things, the work ethic was different then, a dollar meant more than we realize it does today, and the American Farmer and Rancher were appreciated for what they are.

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     Today, our Farmers and Ranchers are overlooked, and pushed to the bottom of the totem pole. They aren’t appreciated for their 12 hour days, for the food they bring to everyones tables, or for being a constant in American History. American Farmers face rapidly growing populations, quick changing markets, and constant resistance toward their practices. How do we bring America back to a place of love for these hard working men, women, and families? It’s not too easy I am afraid. The average age of the American Farmer is growing as the years pass by. These up and coming generations are finding their places else where, not that its a bad thing, but something I often question. As to if we, as decedents of American Farmers and Ranchers have made the right choice in veering from the fields, tractors, and combines. I guess that answer will never truly be answered.

     I leave you with this thought…. What have we as young Agriculturists done to help promote our passion, and livelihood in the past 24 hours? What can we do to better our Industry in the days, months and years to come?

-Sierra