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Point of View

By Maddie Dunlap, FWA Summer Intern

To many teenagers, growing up in the rural community of Maxwell is nothing but a burden.  The closest shopping mall is over an hour drive.  The closest bowling alley or movie theater is 20 minutes away and the school’s population is 160 at best.  Not exactly a booming metropolis.  On a Friday night your best bet for entertainment is a Maddie Dunlap, FWA Summer Internschool sporting event, if you’re not already playing in it, or some small social gathering on a near by rice patty.  Furthermore, most of the adolescents trapped within Maxwell’s “bubble” have only escaped because of a school sponsored trip.
However, if anyone of these teenagers has awaken from day dreaming of finally escaping our tiny incorporated area for even a few seconds, they have undoubtedly noticed the rich agriculture that surrounds them.  Some may just pass it off as the root of the 15 plus mosquito bites that occupy their legs at any given time, but some, including myself, are lucky enough to walk away with a true appreciation and passion for one of the state’s most important industries. 

Although I may not have really had an option to become involved in agriculture, I have loved every minute of my experience.  I grew up on a local cattle ranch where beef was literally what was for dinner . . . every night.  I spent my summers in Southern Oregon waking up early to monitor, move and doctor cattle, but more importantly learning what it took to literally put dinner on the table.  These long days and frequent sun burns taught me not only the essential need of sun screen, but the importance of hard work and integrity. 

These two qualities are not at all foreign concepts to any member of a California farm or ranch.  Simply coming in contact with any given agriculturist can give anyone quite a different look on life.  The childhood I had in the ag metropolis of Maxwell taught me simple things in life that are too often forgotten by most.  Days on the ranch were always filled with “please and thank you”, an appreciation for everything I had and a pride in the work I did.  Although the things I had might not be the newest or fanciest, my bed was always just right at the end of a long day.  The work my parents did may not have made them millionaires or celebrities, but not everyone’s mom and dad can say that they helped feed the world today. 

Working in the agriculture industry didn’t just help me with these more obvious lessons, but also propelled me to a very successful career in high school, mostly in the Future Farmers of America organization.  Through out high school, I was able to travel up and down the state competing in various public speaking contests, attending conferences and increasing my knowledge on agriculture in the whole state.  By the end of my four years I was the state job interview champion as well as 6th in the nation. I placed 4th in the State Extemporaneous Speaking Contest, 4th high team in the State Horse Judging Contest, and served as a North Valley Section Officer for two consecutive years.I learned that while the people in our humble county appreciate and value our efforts to grow a quality product for their families to eat, not everyone feels that way.  Coupled with this common lack of appreciation is a huge misconception of the average farmer.  It is up to each and every agriculturist to preserve the way of life that produces citizen who are hard working, good people.  It is up to us to preserve a way of life that produces well . . . food!

Because of the passion and experience I have gained, I have chosen to study Agriculture Science and will be a freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the fall.  Not too bad for someone from a little town with no shopping, spotty cell reception and lots of mosquitoes.■

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