While walking through the barn the other day feeding the baby calves still on milk I caught myself analyzing one and thinking, “Maybe she’ll be good enough to go to All-American this year.” And that’s all it took. How many times have I done that and never thought about it; I look at a calf and think about her potential, her parentage, and her future. And more often than not, that potential future and the culmination of her past generations all add up to a hope for the future and the chance that she might be stylish enough and correct enough to merit a trip for not only her but also me to go to the All-American. It’s not something you think about only in September, and it’s not something you think about only in a past tense. The All-American is something you think about in the spring when you’re looking at your potential show string, in the winter when you are just trying to get through another day, and in the summer as it gets closer to realization and you need a pick-me-up after a frustrating day of too much to do and too many breakdowns. It’s what you think about when a calf is born, and when you look at that two year old heifer bagging. And sometimes it’s a sad thought, like when that two year old you were so excited about comes in with a blind quarter. But the thought of All-American is always there, always in the back of our minds.
The All-American has given us many great things so far, from phenomenal cattle and indelible memories, to lessons learned and hope for a future. And that’s really what it’s all about. The All-American offers so many learning opportunities, from the showmanship contest to the judging contest and everything in between. And that’s one of the things that is so amazing about the All-American; you leave with amazing new experiences, but on the trip home you’re already thinking about next year. It helps inspire us to breed better animals, work with them all through the year, and daily do things that we might not feel like doing but we think, “If she’s good enough to go to All-American, I need to do this.” All-American is all about the future. It’s the eight year olds in the showmanship contest, the little siblings begging to walk the older one’s calves- to even just hold on to the end of the lead rope, practicing showmanship first when you’re young for the contest and then when you’re aged out of it because you know that calf needs to know everything you have learned through the years. It’s the youngest kids learning to judge because they want to know how to pick out a calf, and when their older competing at the collegiate level at the All-American. It’s the farm kids who think of All-American as their vacations, and spend so much time in the barn with their cows because they’re excited to go back and want to learn and do the best they can. It’s bathing in the hottest summer months and working with those heifers and cows when you are exhausted and would rather be resting. And it’s being breed proud, whether it’s Holstein, Jersey, Red & White, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn, Ayrshire, or Guernsey.
All-American has given us a great deal, but it has so much left to give. With farming as tumultuous as it has been the past few years, All-American is that one constant that gives us a little hope. And it’s where we can look into the ring and see our future. We may not be here forever, but as long as we are I hope to see those young people taking to the ring with the cattle they have worked so hard with. All-American runs in families, because there are many now that are multi-generational All-American exhibitors. And that’s perhaps one of the best things to see, because in my experience, once you attend the All-American the first time, you’re hooked and always look forward to going back. Perhaps the best quality of Harrisburg is that in a business that you never know what tomorrow holds, All-American inspires hope for the future.
Rose Morian is a farmer’s daughter, milkman’s wife, former 4-Her, and author of the column Rose’s Ramblings in Farmshine. When she’s not writing she is working on her family’s farm, adoring her Boxer and Boston Terrier, helping coach the county dairy judging team, or any number of other farm things. She was 1st Alternate Red and White Queen in 2013, when she had 2 cows nominated Jr All-American, one of which was Honorable Mention Jr and Open All-American. Rose owns and shows Holsteins, Jerseys, Red and Whites, and Brown Swiss, having shown a homebred representative of each breed at All-American over the years. After her first time at the All-American in 2005, Rose has been attending Harrisburg faithfully since 2007. Many of her fondest memories and best friendships have started at Harrisburg