By PETTUS READ
As a farm writer, I often receive communications from readers who have opinions about my subjects and sometimes their opinions may not agree with mine. When you write an opinion column, of course you expect differences of thought among the masses and you soon take criticism for what it is worth and move on. But, when someone questions your support of an activity that began three years ago for a very good reason and puts scripture as the basis for why you should not be in support of the activity, I do feel compelled to explain.
In July of 2013, a group of young farmers who make up the Dekalb County Young Farmers and Ranchers organization were looking for a way to provide funds to help high school graduates in their area go to college. It seemed just about every kind of fundraiser had been tried in their county and they were looking for something unique and different to get enough money for a scholarship. Since Dekalb County is known for Center Hill Lake and its abundant fishing, as well as hunting resources, the group thought that taking one of the area's favorite hunting sports and forming a contest would be a good idea to raise some cash for graduates.
During the summer, most of the locals and hunters in the area around Dekalb County enjoy frog gigging. Frog gigging requires you to take a flashlight, a frog gig, some good boots and a buddy with a sack to visit a real wet area where the frogs live. There you harvest the frogs under the guidelines and rules of the area game warden, as well as the state of Tennessee. You can take no more than twenty frogs and after your hunt you can have some of the best eating from the frog legs you harvest. Dekalb County has some of the largest bullfrogs I have ever seen. Because of this fact, the idea of a "Giggin For Grads" contest was born and it's about one of the greatest ideas I have ever heard of. On a night in July of 2013 the first contest was held with a lot of success. Despite the out of sorts feelings of some folks in other parts of this country that didn't have a frog in the hunt, the event developed a lot of support from people who heard about the protest.
As soon as the "Giggin For Grads" contest was announced, save the world and animal welfare groups got on social media to protest the young farmer's efforts. A TV station out of Nashville even got in on the act. The fact that a group of young people were raising funds for college scholarships by means of a legal, decades old hunting sport, regulated by the state of Tennessee laws and the harvesting of a product served on the tables of Nashville's very own finest restaurants, seemed to have not been very important in any of the news reports. The news only wanted to cover the controversy.
That first year the protest groups acted uglier than warts on a frog. Their goal was to stop the contest, but their efforts seemed to have croaked.
The young farmer group held tough. The community held even tougher. Other young farmers joined them and the contestant numbers grew from an expected 20-plus entries to almost 100 entries. Donations were sent to the event from people from adjoining counties and the scholarship fund grew to more than $1,000. Due to the efforts of the animal groups more frogs were harvested that evening than planned, but that made for a better frog leg supper to celebrate the event's success. I hear that if you want to donate this year, you can send your donations to Dekalb County Young Farmers and Ranchers, 865 South Congress Blvd., Smithville, TN 37166.
Instead of the hundreds who were to come and protest in Smithville that night, only four showed up with their signs. The young farmers supplied them with water and food, as well as kindness. Later in the night about five more arrived, but as one young farmer said, "Everyone is welcome to their opinion, but not their way."
Once again, on June I9 the Dekalb County Young Farmers and Ranchers will be holding their event to raise money for scholarships, just as they have since that evening in July of 2013. I spoke with a representative from the YF&R group and she says they are already having calls from animal cruelty groups with all kinds of threats including those of bodily harm to humans.
The email I received only quoted scripture and came from the state of California. I'm just impressed that we have young people willing to stand their ground on something they think is right to help someone else go to college no matter the threats.
-Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org