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Simple lessons for next generation

Tom J. Bechman kids showing sheep in show ring
LEARNING HUMILITY: No one wins every time they enter a show ring. It’s how you handle it when you don’t win that matters most.
Gratitude for what we have, humility and respect for the environment — these are key lessons you can instill in the next generation.

You turn the faucet on, and water comes out. It works every time — until it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, do you panic? Or do you see it as an opportunity to learn and teach a lesson?

Here are three lessons every young person in agriculture who will become part of the next generation of farmers, leaders and ag businesspeople should master. Believe it or not, you can help them do it:

Gratitude. OK, I’m as human as anyone. When water began seeping up above the wellhead in the backyard this summer, I wasn’t thinking about teaching anyone lessons. I saw headaches, heartaches, hard work and dollar signs instead. All that proved to be true. Leaks in our 40-plus-year-old pipes led to digging, hiring experts and shelling out dollars to replace the water line.

Waiting for it to get fixed, there were times when I turned on the faucet and nothing came out. You don’t know how much you enjoy taking a shower or flushing an indoor toilet until you can’t do it. When I was born in 1953, our farmhouse didn’t have indoor plumbing. But it did within a few months of my arrival. So, I’ve never known a world without running water and flushing toilets. They’re still luxuries in some parts of the world, but not here.

Our grandkids get frustrated when the cellphone drops a call, or their computer game shuts down early. Perhaps parents who make kids get off those devices now and then know what they’re doing. Maybe they’ll appreciate them more when they get them back.

Humility. When our oldest daughter, Allison, was ready for 4-H, we bought three barrows. We didn’t want her to win her first year — I had seen what winning could do to young kids I worked with as a 4-H leader and FFA advisor.

We succeeded. One pig didn’t even make it to the fair because he hurt himself tromping in the mud. (Concrete for the hog lots came that fall.) Allison’s other pigs both placed dead last in their class. OK, maybe we were a little too good at achieving our goal.

It wasn’t the last time she would place last. But along the way, she won a class at the state fair and captured senior showmanship honors at the county fair. Today, Dr. Allison Bechman lives in Atlanta, Ga., and has global responsibilities in her role with consumer research for the Coca-Cola Co. Was learning humility at an early age a help or hinderance? You decide.

Respect. There is respect for yourself, respect for others and respect for the environment God gave us. There’s also the fact that kids and grandkids learn by doing what you do. Rodney Atkins made “Watching You” a hit country song, talking about how his 4-year-old learned to be like him, copying both the good and bad habits.

You’ve got an opportunity to teach your kids, grandkids and neighbors about doing the right thing for the environment come this fall. Leave that soybean stubble untouched. Don’t till it up this year. When the next generation takes over the farm, you might find out they rank stopping soil erosion right up there with harvesting big yields in importance.

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