I paid too much for the steer at the auction this year, going about $650 over what I’d wanted to pay.
But I’m not the least bit remorseful about it. There was simply no way in HELL that I was going to let the lovely gentleman to my left who was so enthusiastically supporting the Lodi-area kids have this particular steer.
Just…not happening, dude.
This steer was going to be Ashley’s last FFH project. This would be the third and final year that I could have the honor of making her project pay off for her; the last time my grocery money would be going directly into her future college tuition.
Selfishly, I wanted rather badly to share this transition with her. I wanted to take that tenuous, few-moments-once-a-year connection we had all the way to its natural, inevitable end.
It’s such a tiny, tiny part I play here, once a year for just a few moments, when I show up at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday with my buyer’s card and my checkbook. I sit there with my coffee and circle the kids from my hometown in the auction book, and do my humble best to make sure that none of them end up getting less than market rate for their animals.
Which is why I also paid a little more than I technically had to for a pair of hogs.
Whiiiiich is not exactly the best frugal method, and there’s a part of me that rolls her eyes and sighs heavily every time I do it. (And you should hear the ranting whenever I make that little hand signal to the auctioneer: Bump that bid up a quarter, make it three even…maaaaaan, my inner Frugal Zealot goes bananas whenever I do that…but gee whiz, I can’t stand the thought of one of these kids not making at least the break-even on their market animals…!)
But this is an investment in more than meat. It’s not just about feeding my family, or even just about that local, organic-method gourmet-stuff.
To me, it’s a direct investment in the future. It’s a way for me to tell these kids that what they’ve done matters, that somebody other than their parents (who are, let’s face it, contractually obligated to believe that everything their kids do is “awesome” and “meaningful” and “good job, buddy!”) believes in them, and values what they’ve done, and thinks they did a damn fine job, kiddo, a DAMN fine job.
I don’t think it will come down to being the difference between a “successful” life versus one lived on skid row…but hopefully, it can be another chip tossed into the bucket that says “yes, you do matter, and you can succeed, you don’t suck, you are a winner.”
When the hard times hit, and they will, because, welcome to being human which kinda sucks sometimes, maybe that little extra reinforcement will help them keep their chins up, will help them keep slogging forward.
These kids are the ones who will be making the world whatever it will be for my kids – and my grandchildren, and all the other generations after them.
They’re worth supporting. And while I can’t necessarily claim a direct return on the investment, I still feel so very strongly that it is a good one, and that I do get more out of it than I give.
After the auction, Ashley brought over the paperwork and gave me a hug. I shook hands with her parents, and told them how proud I was to have had this small role in her life, what a fine young lady I thought she was.
She’s already started her college courses. Already left the nest for the dorms.
Already has both feet firmly on the path of Young Adulthood.
Considering that I still have not quite gotten my arms around the concept of Eldest being in
kindergarten elementary middle high school, I can imagine that this must be a tremendously unnerving time for her parents.
I paid for my animals at the fair office; it’s always a bit of a shock, handing over a hefty sum all in one go like that. I’m still not used to it, and it still gives me a moment of vertigo.
I tend to become rather compulsive about checking the savings account balance in the days leading up to the auction. Am I QUITE sure I ACTUALLY saved enough? Yeah-yeah, I’ve been putting, like, $600 a month into that savings goal, but still…is it REALLY all there?!
I had A Moment as I was writing the check; a moment when yet again the thought occurred to me that this is so not the “cheapest” way to buy meat.
And then I thought about Ashley…off at college now, with checks of her own that need writing, undoubtedly more of them than she had anticipated because anybody ELSE remember how college was?
The money is going to be whipping out of my checking account regardless – that’s just what money seems to do, really.
And if it’s going to be generating that breeze anyway, well, by Gah…I rather like the idea of it becoming part of the wind beneath somebody else’s wings, instead of vanishing into a nameless, faceless void.
It just feels right, like it’s making the world I dream of for my own kids someday.
Which is worth a whole lot more than the price I’m paying for all this.
Fly strong, kiddos. I believe, from the center of my being out, that you guys will make this world glad you were around to guide it, someday.