Many of you parents and supporters out there might wonder sometimes why your kids want to get up at 4 a.m. on a Saturday for a long ride in the car to go somewhere and look at cattle in a dingy livestock barn. Or why they want to spend their Saturdays grading chicken carcasses hanging from chains or hours after school or in the evenings learning to identify plants and meat cuts that you didn't even know existed. And we can't forget the crazy things such as reciting the FFA Creed in the shower or rehearsing their oral reasons to a brick wall...but this is a great description of the reason why.
Judging (or public speaking, floriculture, environmental science, marine ecology or whatever your child's chosen event may be) can take them places. Whether that's to college, on trips across the country, to state and national shows and conventions and most importantly to personal success.
Not to mention the countless memories made, unbreakable relationships formed and times shared where talking on and on about what makes that gilt or goat so spectacular is socially acceptable.
Kids may never look at a sheep or a pit of soil again, but most certainly they will have to make a decision, give a rationale, take notes, be a consumer and speak in public again, all of which can be learned from these so called "judging events." The "a"wards like trophies and ribbons are wonderful, but the "re"wards are even better: life skills, relationships, memories, a future and so many more.
FFA strives to teach "premier leadership, personal growth and career success," while 4-H strives to "make the best better." A judging contest is where FFA began (at the American Royal Livestock Judging Contest in 1928 for all you history buffs). It didn't take 4-H long to see the value in these events either, and they continue on nearly 100 years later. Before the state FFA CDEs and state 4-H contests hit full swing this month, take some time to remember that this is what it is all about.
Sure, it might be wonderful for your team to win the state championship for that trip to Indianapolis, Denver or Louisville, but for every team that wins, there is at least one who doesn't. It depends upon the contest for how many, but for every top three/five/ten individuals that are recognized with ribbons, there are countless ones who do not get a ribbon.
No matter your awards, remember the rewards. Whether it's a selfie with your team, a pat on the back from your coach/advisor or some new skills gained like identifying tree ages or what a good udder looks like on a dairy cow, or a quick shot of your team reacting to winning the state championship, a trip across the stage with your advisor and needing to brush up even more on your skills for the national contest, there's something in judging for everyone.
Judging is more than marking a 50, busting a class, talking reasons or winning (if you're not sure what some of that is, ask your kids). We do it because we're not crazy enough.
Best wishes for a successful spring season!