Picture this: you are 12 years old, your dad is the coach of the very successful, high school football team but you have no interest whatsoever in the sport or the commitment. There were 3 things that mattered to you in life at this point: Hunting, Fishing, and Faith. It was May school was about finished for the year and to fund summer activities for your youth group, it was decided to conduct a labor auction. Back then, the youth group roster included seniors, juniors, sophomores, and a 6th grader (you are that 6th grader). How would you feel about your situation? To say that I was nervous to go up on the auction block was an understatement. But when my turn came I was getting bid on left and right - it was exhilarating! But when our pastor yelled out SOLD I couldn't have imagined how my life would change from that point forward. Out of all of my church family that was bidding on me that day, it was the one person in the congregation that I didn't know very well who had purchased my labor abilities.
This is where my agriculture story starts.
After the auction, I went to go meet and thank the middle aged man and women who had made my purchase, and when I asked, somewhat sheepishly; what my jobs would encompass. She simply replied by asking “Do you like scooping horse poop?” I answered that I would be more than happy to do anything required. I mean I had liked animals but I had never been around a farm of any kind, so going out and helping a farmer clean stalls seemed fun to me.
So what started as a single 8 hour day of work to help my church, turned into a full-time job fast and I loved it. After about 2 weeks of on the farm work, I met some 4-H members from her club. Most of these kids, just like me lived on the edge of town and didn't have the means to keep animals so, they kept them at her house. So I waited until September, filled out the paperwork and bought a few chickens from Rural King and a few from a local breeder to get myself started. I kept my 6 chicks at her house and made a weekly trip out to clean their pen and do chores (she did the chores all the other days of the week). Now it was July, time for our county fair; it was 6:00am, and I was wide awake waiting to get picked up and get the fair started.
That year, I received Grand Champion Cockerel overall but more importantly made countless connections and walked away with a new agriculturally related group of friends. I was hooked. From that day forward, I knew that I had found my place in the world. I realized I had big shoes to fill and the monumental task of continuing the traditions of American Agriculture while seeking out my part in feeding, fueling, and clothing the world. I have now grown far beyond my original enterprise by renting pasture from another farmer to raise chickens for both layers and broilers, commercial turkeys, and am now heavily involved in showing and raising boer goat breeding stock and wethers. Hailing from the Maroa-Forsyth chapter, I am also very active in FFA as well as being the Illinois Association FFA Section 16 Reporter.
I am very excited to see what this year holds for me on the Raised In A Barn team and am extremely excited to get this opportunity to serve as a voice for agriculture.
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Reed Jostes Illinois