I grew up in rural Oklahoma where kids eagerly await their ninth birthdays in anticipation of raising their first 4-H livestock project. For me, it was a crossbred pig, but regardless of the type of animal, the one thing all exhibitors have in common is the long list of life lessons these projects teach us.
Caring for an animal regardless of the weather, sacrificing other activities to be in the show ring and preparing diligently but not always coming home with a blue ribbon are all experiences that taught me so much about the value of hard work, goal-setting, patience and humility. Like so many others, I had to lose before I won, but the second places or the times I didn't even qualify were invaluable in my quest to improve.
More than 7,000 youth from across the state will descend upon Oklahoma City March 15-26 for the Oklahoma Youth Expo, the world's largest livestock show, and I am proud to say these students are the future of Oklahoma agriculture. Exhibiting at the Oklahoma Youth Expo helps instill a passion for the agricultural industry and encourages self-confidence and leadership in our youth, all of which are needed to ensure one of our state's leading industries remains viable in producing a safe, affordable and abundant supply of food and fiber.
There is no doubt the Oklahoma Youth Expo has a huge economic impact on the Oklahoma City community, as it draws more than 50,000 visitors to the city and creates a $24.5 million annual boost in the local economy. But more than the economic benefit, the show is a huge investment in human capital. These young men and women are tomorrow's farmers, ranchers, business owners, educators, politicians and leaders. As an executive who is always looking for talented individuals to join our team, I commend the Oklahoma Youth Expo for helping students develop a marketable skill set employers are always eager to find.
Oklahoma Farm Bureau is proud to sponsor the Oklahoma Youth Expo and the dedicated youth who participate each year. As the state's largest agricultural organization, we pride our self on supporting students who are passionate about the agricultural industry and the legacy of rural Oklahoma. Good luck to all Oklahoma Youth Expo exhibitors!