Family farm lessons prove worthy in real life

Andy Jensen

Looking back on my five years at SDSU, I’ve come to realize that what I’ve learned growing up on a farm has heavily influenced me as a person, a student, and a worker. The lessons learned from growing up on a small farm have been outstanding and life changing.

When I was eight, I begged my parents to buy me chickens. Grandma and Grandpa Jensen use to have all different kinds of fowl. From chickens to ducks and geese to guinea fowl and I fell in love with them at an early age. For Christmas that year I received a book on everything I needed to know on how to raise chickens, and then that January, a box of 100 fuzzy little chicks came in the mail. We raised them and dad let me sell the ones I didn’t want, and keep the ones I liked. Grandma Jensen taught me valuable lessons like: hens won’t peck my hand off and that the old rooster isn’t as mean as he seems. What did I learn? Overcoming fear is simple, do it once and you’re unstoppable.

When I was nine my dad purchased a big, beautifully white Charolais heifer for me to show in 4-H. While she was the base for many years to come, I learned many things taking care of a barn full of calves. While I was only nine, I didn’t realize how much that would be a stepping-stone to having two, three and even four calves at once. I took charge in making sure that calves got taken out for water two or three times a day, that their stalls were cleaned and bedded and that they got their baths to make them look good. I reminisce a lot in the summer that it would hit 9:30 at night and I’d still be out in the barn making sure everything was ready for the next day. What did I learn? Responsibility and punctuality. In life, people and animals rely on you to help. It always pays to be a few minutes early, especially when dealing with calves that want to go out for a drink!

As the years progressed, we added pigs and sheep to my list of livestock. From there I had to take them on daily walks and, at times, they were my best friends. For those of you who remember when the news was saying that “4-H desensitizes kids to death”, it couldn’t be further from the truth. The first year I showed pigs, we sent my prize-winning barrow on the truck to the packing plant, and boy did I cry! I learned a lesson that is still, at times, hard for me to get over. What did I learn? That saying bye to an animal that you’ve spent so many hours, so many trips, and learned so much about in the several months you’ve had it is harder than it seems. But that is part of the farming and ranching lifestyle. It’s also important to know where your food comes from, and this was first hand training for me. It’s surreal to sit down to supper and know that pork chop you’re eating came from the pig that you had just spent so much time with. In all, it makes me proud to be where I came from.