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The Butterfly Effect

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Like every butterfly, it starts out as a small, fragile and, yes, sometimes weird-looking caterpillar that surrounds itself in a ball of silk. It rests for what seems to be an eternity and then the following spring it emerges from its mummifying cocoon with colorful wings and beauty to make any gardener happy. Just like the butterfly, I, too, believe that I have gone through a transformation this summer. Although I might not have the wings to prove it, I now have a better knowledge basis than before I started my time at the Institute, and fellow Noble employees have witnessed my growth.

All my life, I've tried to imagine my future and plan my course of action. Unfortunately, life doesn't hand you an instruction guide when you're born, and none of us grew up with a Jiminy Cricket telling us what is the right and wrong or how we should pursue in life. Disney makes it look so easy, but maybe it's not that hard after all. Maybe all we really have to do is set a goal and work towards it to achieve the things we want in life.

As I began the summer here in Ardmore, I didn't comprehend the experience I was about to have. I was able to work alongside some of the most influential ranchers north of the Red River and had the opportunity to understand the ranching way of life.

Attending Penn State and going to class every day have given me the foundation for a career in animal science, but it was the real-world experience that I gained here at the Noble Research Institute that truly put my education to the test. Who knew that a Pennsylvania college student who has been used to cold, harsh winters and working on a small family farm would be able to navigate what seemed to be the Amazonian-jungle and Sahara-Desert-like landscapes of the Oswalt ranch with only a paper map and a Kubota side-by-side, and cover over 2,000 acres in two hours?

arika in the field with livestock

It didn't dawn on me until these last several weeks how special a "butterfly" I was. I am generally a modest person, and some will even say that I'm my worst critic, but I now see my potential in the agricultural community and my future influence in the animal science field. For the last several months, I have worked with the best of the best and have been able to bounce ideas off of my fellow Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture about several projects. I stepped outside of the invisible box everyone is so scared to leave and developed new skill sets like learning pasture management.

At times, I felt like I was getting pushed near the edge of a cliff and about ready to fall off because I didn't feel qualified to give recommendations to a local producer in terms of his pasture management. But I'm thankful for this experience.

I have never felt more prepared than when I presented my findings to the producer during our presentations last week. After I had brainwashed myself over seeding rates and quality of forages, I would later meet with several consultants to discuss whether my findings were accurate. I'm happy to say that I now have a greater appreciation for soil scientists and agronomists. This experience has opened my eyes to a new area of interest that I think is highly important for any animal science major. I plan on taking another soil science class or possibly an agronomy class so I have a better understanding of this subject.

As the weeks wind down, and the rest of the Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture start to go their separate ways, it's like the end of The Breakfast Club movie, bittersweet but hopeful. I look back at all that I was blessed with this summer; I had an incredible experience that I was able to share with what are now seven of my closest friends from across the country; I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to work at a top-notch research and consultation institute, and have a great appreciation for the Oklahoma lifestyle. I'd like to leave you with a quote that I think clearly depicts my experience here this summer at the Noble Research Institute.

"They say the bigger your investment, the bigger your return. But you have to be willing to take a chance. You have to understand, you might lose it all. But if you take that chance, if you invest wisely, the payoff might just surprise you."

Don't pull out the Kleenexes quite yet. I'll be sure to send you all one final blog before I set out into the sun in a small white airplane back to Pennsylvania. Here's to two more weeks at Noble!

Arika Snyder is a 2013 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Lewistown, Pa.