A juggling act
Guilty. That’s what I felt. Guilty for being so excited to leave the ranch and head to college. Guilty for leaving behind all of the chores and jobs that didn’t get done over the summer. There was so much to do, and weaning was only a couple of months away. Manure needed to be hauled, the barns needed to be painted, fences needed to be fixed and the show calves still needed to be worked on before the state fair. Yet, I was going to be an hour and a half away from home at school.
I had always dreamed of being a Jackrabbit. Blue and gold ran through my veins as both of my parents, many of my cousins and even my grandpa had attended school in Brookings, SD. I was excited to meet new friends and get away from my dusty, old town. I was excited to be on my own, without a curfew, going to classes that I chose myself and preparing for my future. I couldn’t pack my bags fast enough. I was ready to have a roommate and buy shiny new textbooks and walk the paths through campus.
Yet, I was the oldest daughter of three, leaving home to tread uncertain waters. I wasn’t sure where my career path would lead me, and I was doubtful that I had a place back at home at the ranch. However, I was positive that my heart was in the agriculture industry, and I knew it was because of my upbringing on a cattle ranch.
I moved into Hansen Hall, the aggie dorm that was known to have cowboys practicing their roping skills in the front yard and farm trucks that filled up the back parking lot. And, while my new friends in other dorms were able to stay each weekend to hang out with their friends and go to football games, I quickly noticed my cohorts in Hansen Hall cleared out on Friday afternoons as soon as classes were done for the day to help at home. Many would even stay until early Monday morning, so as to reap a few extra hours of work on the ranch.
I soon developed that routine, as well. Heading home on most weekends to help out with weaning, preg checking, calving, bull sales and shows kept me busy throughout the school months. And, although many of my country classmates weren’t planning on staying in production agriculture after graduation, it surprised me how many still went home to help on the farm.
Did I feel like I was missing out on things at school? Definitely. Did I feel like I wasn’t doing enough at home? Of, course. Yet, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. For farm kids, it’s truly a juggling act to combine a four-year degree with responsibilities on the farm. Now that I’m graduated, I have realized that this balance was a good practice for my current career as a freelance writer and speaker along with my concentration on beef production at my family’s purebred Limousin operation. My juggling act has now changed between my communications work and my cattle chores, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As young farmers and ranchers head back to school, it’s a time for change, balance and growth. College is a place for young people to explore their passions and to realize the importance of who they are and where they come from. As for me, I’ll forever look back on my school days with fondness. I’ll always remember those days of peeling out of the parking lot to get home in time to move cattle, and I’ll never forget speeding back to Brookings to get back to the fun times of those ever-important college years.