By Megan Schulte
Driving away from the county fairgrounds, I turned and looked out the rear window of the car. That small white barn with wooden pens began to look smaller and smaller until it was completely out of sight. Turning back around in my seat, I leaned my head against the window and closed my eyes. A blue ribbon was clenched in my fist. My lungs began to tighten and tears streamed down my face.
How could I do this to someone I love?
How could I leave her there knowing what was coming next?
How could I abandon her in a time she needed me most?
At the age of nine, I didn’t want to fully believe that at the end of the fair my animal would be harvested. I knew full well going into the project what Charlotte’s fate was. Although, all I could think about during that car ride were the times Charlotte and I walked for hours around the front yard, or the time when I dug a hole in the dirt just so she would have a place to roll around in.
When the car pulled into the driveway, my door was open and I was in the house before Mom even had the car in park. The next two days were a blur. Not once leaving my room, the tears never seemed to stop. The small blue ribbon, now wrinkled, was still clenched in my palm.
On the third day, my Mom came into my room and handed me a small blue piece of the decorations that I had put above Charlotte’s pen at the fair. I don’t know what it was about that small piece of paper, but it saved me that summer.
As a farm kid, you get to know life and death pretty well. Just because we grow up dealing with death more than the average person doesn’t mean it won’t hurt when it happens. At a young age we learn to cope with the passing of the people and animals around us in a different way.
That summer I just needed to cope with the fact that Charlotte wasn’t coming home. In the end she was going on to do even more amazing things than she would have if I had taken her home with me. After being harvested, Charlotte was able to help feed a family from my community.
Since that summer, I have learned so much more about production agriculture and what it takes to help feed the world. The bond between a 4-H’er (or a producer) and their animal(s) is something so unbelievably strong. When it comes time for an animal to go to market and be harvested, it is hard on all of us. Although when it comes down to it there is nothing more rewarding than knowing we are doing everything we can to feed the growing population in not only our country, but also the world.