In my final column of 2019, I wrote “As we enter a new decade, it’s a perfect time to start new.”

It’s June of 2020 now. Can we start new, again? Are you with me? The new start of 2020 revealed itself to all of us to be new, just not any of the new we could have predicted or known how to prepare for at Christmas.

Katie Pinke, Agweek Publisher
Katie Pinke, Agweek Publisher

The words I wrote days before Christmas 2019 in my column shared a new venture of our girls receiving cattle showing kits as gifts from my husband and me, along with the book “Before the Banner: The Complete Guide to Show Cattle.” I wrote, “It will be winter reading for daughters and then in the early summer, we plan for them to attend a 4-H Livestock Showing camp through North Dakota 4-H.” The column published online on Dec. 26, 2019, in print in Agweek’s Dec. 30 edition.

But our family’s focus and direction changed on Dec. 27 with our son’s skiing accident. Part of my coping mechanism to push through difficult days was to think ahead of what would fill our late spring and summer days, our chance to start new, on our own terms, like we planned.

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I specifically looked at the dates of the 4-H livestock camp. When our girls visited the spinal cord injury rehabilitation hospital where our son spent the winter and my husband and I stayed nearby, we talked about working with their heifers, livestock camp in the early summer, and the county 4-H Achievement Days and fair planned for July. I reassured the girls we would have some routine and normal, something to look forward to in the coming months.

Enter COVID-19. A swift return home for our son from his outpatient rehab, adjusting to our new way of family life, distance learning for our daughters, a heavy workload as a small business owner for my husband, no more 4-H meetings we had planned to attend in the spring, a state fair canceled, 4-H camps canceled or being held virtually and finally our county fair being canceled. Starting new, but again, not as I planned.

With new protocols, their county 4-H Achievement Day will happen next month for our daughters. Limited, small groups, social distancing, no fair food, no county fair rides, no open livestock show, grandstand entertainment and crowd you only see in our rural corners but once a year. It feels new and uncomfortable, because it’s an unknown, but it's a new start we need in 2020. I appreciate those working in each county and state trying to make the best for youth through 4-H programs this summer.

The girls made the decision this was not the new year they could devote to showing their heifers. Youngest daughter Anika says her heifer Polly will be a cow/calf pair in a future 4-H Achievement Day and a county fair. Both girls have static (non-livestock) projects they are working to complete for the modified 4-H Achievement Day coming up next month.

Instead of face-to-face visits to two businesses to ask for donations toward the 4-H Achievement Day costs, each daughter called their assigned business this week. With a prepared script in front of them from the county Extension office and some added personal notes, each practiced by calling me a few times to overcome nerves. Standing face-to-face to ask for a donation they found to easier in past years. But a cold call by phone? A new skill. They overcame an uneasiness and completed the phone calls. I said the new experience teaches them sales skills and the ability to ask for support in difficult circumstances. They balked at my statement.

But someday, I assured them, when they’re starting new in their own lives, they will go back to the lessons and experiences of this year in their childhood and remember, no matter the circumstances of their life, they can press on to start new.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.