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Separating the farmers from the slickers

By Dennis Minich

Last Friday was interesting and entertaining as I spent most of the morning hanging around the Adrian and Archie high schools watching FFA members compete in a variety of agricultural related events.

I will admit, I found myself lost with categories such as entomology, floriculture and agronomy. However, there were categories like meats and dairy products where I was ready to step in. I like to think I know my foods, but I didn’t get a chance.

Watching the youngsters talk, it sounded almost like a foreign language. It reminded me of way back to the very first days of newspaper writing in Harrisonville. It was 1991 and I was hired to be the sports editor of the “County Paper.” During the interview process I acknowledged I also had several years of experience in business, political and government reporting as well as having written on a wide variety of topics, all of which I was comfortable doing again.

I remember the shock, however, at the end of my first week on the job, the then-editor, Emery Styron, said, “Oh, and by the way, you are also our agriculture editor.” My mental response was something along the lines of “You do know I grew up in the suburbs, don’t you?” or “you want me to do what?” I believe my oral response was, “OK.”

I know one of my very first weeks on the job I was out in the middle of some field with a guy telling me about musk thistles and the weevils they were using to kill them off. (I haven’t heard about musk thistles for a long time, so I guess the weevils worked.

Anyway, years have passed. I’ve been around a farm or two. I don’t know a lot, but I know a lot more than I did. I now know enough I can converse in very rudimentary conversations and I can even give an informed opinion from time to time. So as the morning moved along, I decided I would give some of this judging stuff a try.

One of the very first categories I saw set up was nursery landscaping. A whole bunch of pieces of wood and other vegetation set out on tables. Students had to go through and I guess identify what the objects were and probably if they were healthy or not, I am not sure.

But I was pretty pleased I could identify most of them. As I walked from left to right at the first table there was a stick, another stick, a bigger stick, a piece of a bush, some grass, a stick, another piece of grass, a twig, a limb, a stick and some grass…. When I passed my analysis along to one of the sponsors, he assured me I was close, but frankly, he didn’t look like he meant it.

  I did not see it on the official judging forms, but one of the categories must have been aeronautical engineering because while all of the participants were milling around before the start of the competition, there seemed to be paper airplanes flying everywhere. I guess maybe that is where they figure out who would make the best crop dusters, I don’t know, like I said, it was new to me.

One scene which I did recognize was out in the livestock area. There were two rams in adjoining cages and even though they had two layers of metal between them, they decided to start butting heads. Typical politicians.

On that same note, one of the FFA events is parliamentary procedures. I told an advisor those kids could work tomorrow at almost any city government. Apparently, I was not the first person to ever make that observation.

My only real disappointment of the day came when they were announcing competitions and where to line up to go to the appropriate area. I heard the announcer say, “bar management.” I headed that way post-haste. I got there to find out he had said “farm management” not “bar management.”

Bummer.

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