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Families, farmers discuss future of agriculture (video)

By ALLISON MILES
Oct. 24, 2013 at 5:24 a.m.
Updated Oct. 25, 2013 at 5:25 a.m.

Evelyn Scroggins attended the farm and ranch show with her sister, Audrey, and father, David Scroggins. Evelyn was affectionally called dad's post hole helper after digging a post hole and placing her in it. "When it gets over her head, it's deep enough," David Scroggins said.

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The South Texas Farm and Ranch Show served up vendor booths, live demonstrations, educational events and more, but Thursday's luncheon discussion was all about what we eat.

Jerry Parsons, a retired horticulture specialist with the Texas Cooperative Extension, was keynote speaker.

During the lunchtime event, he discussed genetically modified foods, pesticides and other food-related issues.

Parsons hosts "The Garden Show," a live, call-in radio program on San Antonio's KLUP-AM 930.

Little Evelyn Scroggins looked right at home Thursday as she wandered the Victoria Community Center parking lot, checking out the biggest and baddest tractors available alongside her dad and sister, Audrey Scroggins.

While the 3-year-old might be small in stature, she already plays a big role on the family ranch.

"She's my hole depth checker," Dad, David Scroggins, said, pointing to a cellphone picture shot during a recent fence-building project, which showed Evelyn standing in a hole nearly as deep as she was tall. "If it's over her head, we're good."

The Scrogginses were among a number of families who ventured out to the second day of the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show.

And, while some say agriculture is dying out - the United States Department of Agriculture reported the average age of the farmer is nearly 60 years old - some of the Victoria show's youngest attendees said they were ready to take to the fields once they got big enough.

For Evelyn, who already has a number of animals, including chickens, dogs and a feisty rooster named Joey, she's set her sights on bringing others into the fold.

"I want cows," she said. "And a bucking horse."

Scroggins said the rural life on the family's Calhoun County ranch is exactly how he wants to raise his girls.

"It's a genuine, conservative, self-reliant lifestyle," he said. "It's a lifestyle that we want to live."

Shelbie Van Beveren, 17, and Danielle Malik, 16, both 4-H Ambassadors, found themselves in the pole barn at the "Meet Your Meat" event. There, they helped teach schoolchildren where their food comes from and oversaw as the children mixed and mingled with animals.

Shelbie, who has raised animals since third grade and hopes to go into ag business, said farming is becoming more scarce as new houses and other developments are built. Still, she said she hopes to see future generations take on animal projects and learn about the business.

"It teaches you a lot of life lessons you really don't get at school. Like time management," she said. "At shows, you're up at 4 a.m., and you aren't home until 10 p.m."

Responsibility, Danielle added, is another important lesson.

Lucas Eli Smith, a 3-year-old who donned an "I met a rancher today" sticker, was all business as he examined an irrigation display. Meanwhile, Grandpa Lucas Janak talked nearby.

Grandpa Janak, who is retired from AT&T but ranches in the Sweet Home area, said he brought Lucas to the show because he loves tractors.

"We've got a Kubota," he said, explaining his grandson enjoys helping out. "It's good for them to know what farming is all about, so they know where food comes from."

And while Lucas might enjoy the tractor now, it won't necessarily be his vehicle of choice once he grows up.

"I want to be an ambulance monster truck driver," he said with a grin.

Thomaston farmer Noah Thompson said he saw a number of younger children but few teenagers at this year's farm and ranch show.

One visitor to his booth, where he sold his woodwork creations, particularly impressed him. It was a 12-year-old who is already honing his woodworking skills.

"He was walking around telling me what type of wood everything was made of," he said. "I asked him if he was going to take shop, and he said yes. I told him I did, too, but that was about 70 years ago."

Thompson said he's noticed more and more people moving away from farming. Those farms that do remain are larger than in the past, with some ringing in at 10,000 acres or bigger.

"When I was growing up, we had a 40-acre farm with two mules," he said. "And that was a big farm then."

William Andel, a Jackson County mechanic, agreed that today's farms are much different than those of the past. Namely, he said, they include fewer farmers but more acres.

And he knows a thing or two about old-time farming.

Andel set up shop at the show's antique tractor display, where he displayed an array of old-time motors, all in working order. Next to him sat Don Grefe, a retired Iowa farmer who now lives in Victoria and brought his restored tractors.

Both men said restrictive costs and limited available land meant it would be difficult for anyone to get into farming now unless they had family or friends already in the business or plenty of money available.

Regardless, they said they aren't concerned about the industry's future.

"Agriculture will be here until the day the world ends," Andel said.

"It better be," Grefe shot back. "Everything depends on it."

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