Mott, R. L., Simonsen, J., Tummons, J., Vandermause, R., Ball, A., Cletzer, D. A., Peckman, J. (2022). What is the meaning of youth livestock production? A hermeneutic phenomenological study. Journal of Agricultural Education, 63(3), 83-99. https://doi.org/10.5032/jae.2022.03083
Raising livestock for food production is a unique cultural phenomenon. It has been well documented that showing livestock as part of 4-H contributes to practical skills, knowledge, and life skills. While it is common to view livestock production through skills-based or economic lenses, there are subtle nuances of the phenomenon, social, cultural, and emotional aspects that are harder to capture. The purpose of this study was to generate an interpretation of the meaning of livestock production for long-standing 4-H livestock project members, and to uncover how these project experiences manifest in other aspects of members' lives. This project answers the question, "What does it mean to be a livestock producer?" Based on the assumption that understanding is rooted in lived experience, we used a Hermeneutic approach to examine transcripts of in-depth audio recorded interviews with 4-H members who are high school juniors or seniors and have been enrolled in livestock projects throughout their entire 4-H careers. In an additional photo elicitation activity, we examined participants' reflections on livestock photographs from their childhood. We uncovered two overarching patterns, paradoxical in nature: a) Livestock Production as a Culture of Care and Connection; and b) Livestock Production as a Culture of Loss and Misunderstanding. Patterns illuminated in this research inform educational experiences surrounding youth livestock production. This study also adds to agriculture industry's understanding of how youth experience growing up in livestock production. Finally, this study provides insight into the importance of exploring the ways livestock producers engage with consumers about agriculture.