Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Farm City Week: Kiwanis Club Meeting Keynote Speaker!

 I was asked to speak at our county Kiwanis club at their monthly meeting yesterday, November 15th, 2011 in honor of Farm City Week. My topic was Rodeo: A rancher’s way of life! I wanted to put the speech that I gave on my blog, for anyone interested who couldn't attend the meeting. It was a lot of fun, and everyone was very warm and welcoming! I was even given the "Golden Rule", an actual "Golden Ruler", since I was the keynote speaker. I'm pretty proud of the fact that I was able to be the keynote speaker, as I'm only 21, and I really enjoyed myself!

I have taken out the introduction, as you probably already know me, so enjoy the rest!

Rodeo: A Rancher's way of life.

Many people do not realize that events that are featured at rodeos around the country and state are actually based on day-to-day practices that occur on the ranch.

Growing up, we always had a few cows roaming around in the pasture. My goal is to have a herd of my own, which I plan on continuing to build after I graduate next fall. Ranching is both an art and a science, and if you ever get a chance to visit a ranch or a farm, I highly suggest that you do. One of the most effective ways to teach people about ranch life is through rodeos that are put on by Cattlemen across the nation. I love to go to local ranch rodeos and see men and women in the community, and from around the state, taking part in showmanship and sport, all the while educating the people attending about our way of life.

The Manatee County Cattlemen’s Association has an annual rodeo, and I enjoy attending and seeing how people react when the events are competed in. Public perception is always taken into account when choosing events for the lineup and program of the rodeo, and we are always careful to point out that the people participating are trained and skilled at what they do. Animals are always well taken care of, and every situation that can be planned for, is carefully thought out.

Rodeos are a fun way to see exciting and sometimes humorous events, but they also teach a lot about ranch life. Even though some events seem like they are purely for the crowd’s enjoyment, every event has a rhyme and a reason behind it.

Some interesting facts: Florida was the first state to have cattle, and 63 of the counties in Florida have cattle today. We are a growing industry, and we have many farmers and ranchers in the community today. By being the first place in North America to have cattle, we are also the birthplace of the cowboy! We aren’t just talking boots and hats; we are talking about the real deal! Ranchers represent the largest single segment of American Agriculture!

Florida cowboys were called “Crackers” because of the sound they made popping their whips in the old days, and many still carry on the term today. Whip popping contests are often held at rodeo events, and this is one of my personal favorites. My dad taught me how to pop a whip at an early age, and it is not as easy as it looks! People take this useful tool, and make it an art form. It remains an effective way to herd cattle, and helps cowboys and cowgirls run their ranches. The whips never touch the cattle or horses, and are used purely for sound. Cowdogs are also a useful tool, and they tend to be a crowd favorite. Who doesn’t enjoy two small dogs with the ability to lead and direct a herd of large cows? It is very entertaining, but extremely helpful!

Bronc riding is a rodeo favorite. This event is somewhat dangerous, and left to the skilled cowboys who showcase the ability to stay on a horse who is riled up for a small period of time. There are several variations of this event; sometimes, wild ponies are used, and the teams of cowboys and cowgirls have to try and saddle the pony and ride them for a bit. These ponies are usually taken straight out of a herd of horses that are fairly wild. It is a very entertaining portion of the rodeo, and such a real situation. In ranching life, you never know when you might come across a wild horse, and preparing for that can make the most out of a very dangerous situation.

Two of the most common and sought after events, true to real life ranch situations, are calf roping and team roping. One event showcases two riders working together, and the other event has a team working to rope the calf, to show how it is handled in the event that it needs to be doctored or given medicine. This is a prime example of how a real rancher handles cattle. It is a skill of precision, aim, timing, and patience. The calf is roped by one member around the head, and by the other around the leg. They will either pull the calf down or tie the legs if there is any potential for danger or injury to either party involved. This is a crucial skill so they can administer antibiotics, bandage up a leg, or just make sure the calf is healthy and safe.

Wild cow milking is one of my other personal favorite events. You never know when you need to milk a cow, and it may just be away from the barn, and other useful equipment. This is another exciting event, because the cows are standing up with the team members beside them, trying to fill up a bucket. We had a cow who wouldn’t nurse her baby, and if they aren’t milked within a certain time, it can be very harmful to the cow and the calf. Events like this are entertaining, yes, but they are also a symbol of something that actually happens on a working ranch.

The stampede race is a county event that is true to the name. Cowgirls lie in sleeping bags, with their horses at the other end of the arena. After someone yells, “Stampede”, to symbolize a herd of cattle who are either running away, or towards the group, the girls have to get up, put on their boots and hats, roll up their sleeping bags, carry their saddle and saddle pads to their horse, saddle them up, and ride the horse to the other end of the arena. Stampede is probably one of the most feared words in the rancher vocabulary, because it could either result in injury, death, or a loss of cattle. This event is a true testament to cowgirl skill and speed and gives them a chance to show what they’re made of.

Cow sorting and branding are two events that rely on the team working together. In sorting, three or four cattle are called out by the judges, and the team has to get only those cattle separated from the rest of the herd. This is made more difficult as other cattle can’t go past the team, and it is all about team planning and strategy. In the branding event, the team has to get a calf safely to the ground while the female team member runs over and puts a chalk mark on the calf’s hip. I enjoy the team events, and you can tell what teams work well together. Staying calm and cooperation are vital to successful ranching.

Many individual events, such as barrel racing or cutting, showcase a rider and their pure talent and ability to connect with their horse. I love watching people who really know how to ride and ranch, and it is truly beautiful when someone has that connection.

Any Farm city week speech would be incomplete without honoring Faye and Vic Blackstone, one of the most influential cowboy couples who ever lived. They lived right here in Manatee County, and Mrs. Faye was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1982. She is credited with inventing several trick riding maneuvers, and she married Vic Blackstone and together, they helped influence Florida’s rodeo traditions since moving here from Nebraska in 1951. She even helped jumpstart the career of the famous singer Reba McEntire, when she got her to perform at our county fair in 1978! It was an honor to meet Mrs. Faye, and I along with everyone miss her since she passed earlier this year. Mrs. Faye and Mr. Vic had a huge impact on cattle ranching and rodeo, and we owe a lot to these examples of what cowboys and cowgirls should be like.

Ranching is still a vital part of the Agriculture industry. Over 90% of American farms and ranches are family owned and operated, with an average size of 40 head of cattle. We are feeding and providing for our communities, country and the world. Today’s beef industry is highly efficient, and we are producing more while using less. Farmers and Ranchers are the original environmentalists, because we are stewards of the land. We believe in preserving land for future generations. We know the value of good business, a healthy and safe product, and we love what we do.

I hope that you all walk away with a little more appreciation for those who are feeding the world, and I encourage you all to get out there and support those in your community who are keeping the traditions alive. There are many local places to visit, and I love to encourage families and businessmen and women alike to look up activities like “Florida Ag Venture”. This is a group of local farms and ranches in Manatee County who got together to offer services for people to come and visit their establishments. I highly recommend it.

This week is Farm City Week, and I hope that you all have enjoyed hearing about Rodeo: The rancher’s way of life. The next time you see a rodeo, you may want to stop in and get a taste of some of the traditions that keep Florida alive and thriving.

As with all of my blogs, I hope that you have enjoyed this blog, and I hope that you all have a great week! Thanks for stopping by, and I appreciate all of your support!

The Beef Queen

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