Never Been A Bigger Smile: Two Teenagers Talk About The Pressures And Successes Of Farm Life
As part of our series County Lines, Community Voices producer Anna Lurie went to rural Northeastern High School to talk to students in FFA about their lives. In this story, two sophomore friends at Northeastern, Luke Wilson and Cody Reed, discuss the pressures and successes they experience raising and showing livestock.
Luke Wilson: Okay, my name is Luke Wilson and I’m from Northeastern High School, I’m a sophomore and I’m 16 years old.
Codee Reed: I’m Codee Reed, from Northeastern High School. I’m a sophomore and I’m 15 years old.
Luke Wilson: Okay, Codee, I understand that you operate on a bicentennial farm. What does that mean to you?
Codee Reed: Bicentennial is a farm that has been in operation for more than 200 years for those of you that are wondering and… it’s a lot of pressure, cuz I know that a lot of my family members before me have worked and put in a lot of hours to keep the farm going. And knowing that I can screw up one little thing and the whole farm can go downhill, go out of operation, that’s not something a lot of people think about but it’s always there in the back of my head, like, I can’t screw this up.
Luke, I understand that you, uh, you run a small, uh, very small breeding operation for show club cattle. What’s it like not having a lot to work with but trying to get where you want to be?
Luke Wilson: Well, one of the biggest things for me is like, the funds, it’s really hard when you really want a bunch of, like you want good stock and a good breeding set to have and the funds are really hard to come up with. It’s also really hard because of land, I don’t have much land to work with to have enough heifers and cows for good stock to produce to sell to the kids who would like a club calf. And I also run, uh, like a show cattle operation, that’s more what I mainly do than anything.
I show winter round and then I go in the summer at our fair and have a good time at the county fair and hope to do well, even though we have a very competitive county fair.
So, Codee, do you show livestock?
Codee Reed: Yeah, I show livestock. We’ve had a lot of pretty good success with our show calves. I’ve been going to Junior Hereford Association Junior Nationals and going to Junior Nationals is really exciting for me, well, you get to meet people from every state that Herefords are in except Hawaii and Alaska cuz that’s quite a ways to go to show a calf, but I’ve met a lot of great people, I’ve done fairly good every year. Um, for a little farm in Ohio that doesn’t have a lot of recognition to go to a National Show … that was a real sense of self-accomplishment for me, with not always doing too great at county fair or state fair, but going to a national show where there’s easily over 12,000 head of cattle, to get 4th in class out of 8 calves. There’s never been a bigger smile on my face.
So, what is care like on one of your show steers, like what do you do on a daily basis to make sure that show steer or show calf is getting where it needs to be? And what do you do as a showman that helps you improve along with your calf?
Luke Wilson: I practice on the calves, walking them mostly more than anything, aside from working on their hair and stuff. I walk ‘em pretty much nightly and try to walk them into their stance with their back legs staggered to make them look a little bit more beefy in their stance when they are in the show ring. And with me doing that it really helps cuz the steer or heifer or whatever you’re showing will begin to trust you a lot more in the show ring and, when you get that calf set up in the right position, you’re not over there messing with it, like some other kid will be doing, the judge will notice that more than anything.
I’m out there from anywhere from three to four hours a night, just out there training the hair and washing them, cuz they’re white and once one of them gets pretty dirty you’ve got to get that stain out so it doesn’t um, stain them and make them look bad for one of the shows.
And, it all worked out in the end, and I was pretty happy with how the steer did at the fair. He got 4th overall in his class and I couldn’t be happier for what he did and all of my accomplishments and all the work I did into him.
Well, I think that’s about all we have for you guys today. My name is Luke Wilson and…
Codee Reed: I’m Codee Reed.
Luke Wilson: And thank you for listening to us.