Achievement is marked by perseverance

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Ohio farm

It came in the mail this year, the 2020 Agrinaturalist magazine. Since 1984, this has been the official publication of the OSU College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Science (CFAFES). It is the source of information about our college issues and events.

Guided by mentors and educators, a future generation of ag communicators bring unique stories to the forefront of life by their marketing designs and editorial content that can and do inspire us all. This year brought about an incredible, uncommon situation and the results were phenomenal.

On the cover, there was that headshot of a Jersey that drew me into the bold headline, 150 Years of Sustaining Life! The theme was there for all to focus on our CFAES sesquicentennial celebration, and yet it seemed to address every issue that has taken place since March.

Sustenance

I realize we use the word sustenance in many ways but never has it meant more than in 2020. At the core of everything we have and are experiencing, we are challenged to sustain life on every level of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. With little or no warning, we were all thrust into new rules and new versions of life controlled by an unseen and formidable issue. It was both personal and professional and personal health was in a dual with fiscal health.

At first, we had very few clues on how to proceed to achieve. It was not as if we could just plug in the GPS and go — it was destined to be a winding journey with detours. Some of us were at home blazing new paths and yet others were the warriors on the frontlines. Suddenly the pandemic was showing us how one weak link could break down the entire food chain system.

Necessity

As all of us pioneered the next destination, there were no easy answers. One adage kept reverberating in my mind, and it was, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” For my immediate challenge, I was creating some plausible solutions on how to teach Dairy Cattle Selection and Evaluation in an online course with 27 students who took the class to see real cows, real farms and interact with real people.

The only “real” element I could guarantee was the REALity of the situation. They felt a similar pressure and I assured them we would learn together.

Following are the positive outcomes:

1. We welcomed each other into our homes, and it was a glimpse we do not have in a traditional classroom.

2. When I was a kid, I thought the word “zoom’ was used when watching cars travel fast on the highway. ZOOM became our personal best friend and partner. Despite unstable connections and two students in Puerto Rico, technology was on our side.

3. If you ever thought live TV was old fashioned, think again as I was live countless times with no dress rehearsal. Sometimes I was Meryl Streep and Lady Gaga and at other times, my performance was lack luster. Re-runs however were available.

4. There were ways to bring the industry to them on our Facebook page and this encouraged some good stories to be told.

5. The students were patient and respectful and I was surprised at their developing skills demonstrated with reasons. From them, I learned! That is a pretty good outcome.

6. I realized that these students were missing milestones and there were disappointments. It was good to put aside my problems and focus on their needs. That kept me grounded.

I could go on, but somewhere amid a challenge, you find a new mission. It is not expected or perfect, but it becomes what we make of it. In general, I hope families found more quality time together and possibly sat down to dinner.

On the farm

Living on a farm, I was forced to pay more attention to washing my hands for a greater cause. Although 4-Hers missed out on events at Spring Dairy Expo and OSU students had their year-end banquets canceled, I am thankful (at that point) we could protect their health.

I realize that you do not read my columns for any kind of high-level intellectual research but let me revert to the theme of sustaining life. As simple as that may sound in this complex world, it is still the noble goal for how we can and will define life in the next 150 years.

When we were all told there was a need to stay at home, I was quickly realizing how our cows felt when spring temperature and lush green pastures awaited them beyond the barnyard. Lots of curiosities came to my mind as I smiled through a mask and wondered if people could tell that by my eyes.

Now the issue of washing my hands more frequently was a good habit as we go in the house from the barn. And how do you teach an aging mother that she cannot get her hair cut and that I am now her untrained hairdresser! Unprecedented became the favorite term of broadcasters.

We were all encouraged to think about how to handle to new normal. I am not 150 years old but normal is only a setting on the washing machine. Instead, I like to think of rotating through a process of habits.

Maybe we have discovered achievement is better measured by our passion and perseverance. So, raise a milk toast to what we have endured and commit to fixing what needs repaired. After all, that is the definition of how we can and will sustain life for the next 150 years.

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Bonnie Ayars is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University, coordinating all state 4-H dairy programs and coaching the OSU collegiate and 4-H dairy judging teams. She and her husband also own and operate a Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle farm. In 1994, Bonnie was named Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.

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