Grounded: Raising Kids with Integrity

By Celia Dubauskas

It’s lunch time at Pinal Feeding Co, and outside of an office window you can hear the quick patter of feet rush towards the door.  “Dad, I found an ear tag!”  These are the feet of the Aja children, as they race towards the door to proudly show off their discovery.  Bass Aja, the manager of Pinal Feeding Co, picks up Andy, 5, and Perry, 3, to see the ear tag they found in the feed yard.  Anna Aja follows close behind, with a smile on her face, bearing lunch for her kids. 

Perry (left) and Andy (right) bring friend to visit the feed yard. Photo by Celia Dubauskas.

I took a trip to Pinal Feeding Co to meet with Bass and Anna about the feed yard, yes, but also to immerse myself into an agricultural environment.  I grew up in an urban-suburban environment, and I wanted to get a better understanding of what it means to grow up in agriculture and the values it instills in kids.

I began my visit with a personal tour by Bass, himself, across the feed yard.  I was amazed by how vast the yard was.  Thousands of cows were divided by age, size, and health into different pens with room to eat, play, and grow.  Bass explained to me the process of raising and selling cattle and how hard each employee at the yard works to ensure optimal health and proper care of each animal.  We finished our tour at the mill, where corn is steamed and blended with the grass, alfalfa, and other nutrients that make up the feed distributed to the cattle.  “Is it weird to say that it smells good?”  I asked Bass as we passed through the mill.

Freshly steamed and ground corn.  Photo by Celia Dubauskas.

We headed back to the office, where Anna and the kids had just arrived.  Bass took the kids out to see the cattle, while Anna and I headed inside to discuss life in agriculture and family values.  I wanted to know what it means to grow up in agriculture and what core values Bass and Anna hope to instill in their children, through exposure to the yard. 

Anna and Bass Aja with kids Andy, 5, and Perry, 3.  Not pictured is their oldest son Bass Jr., 7. Photo by Celia Dubauskas.

“People in agriculture are salt of the earth people.  They are the best kind of people to grow up around:  hardworking and humble.”  I certainly found this to be true.  The people I had met at Pinal were not only humble, but they were proud about the work that they do.  They care for the animals, and they care about putting nutrient-rich food on families’ plates. 

Anna grew up on a ranch and explained to me that she grew up understanding what went on her plate and what contributed to a healthy diet.  “We were raising our own food, so I knew where it came from.  As a kid, did I eat Pop Tarts once in a while?  Sure.  But I grew up understanding that food is about much more than just taste.  It is about life.”  One of the major values that Anna hopes to instill in her kids is value of the life cycle.  “That is one advantage that kids in agriculture have: a greater understanding of life and death.  My kids understand that things die.  Understanding the life cycle has given them a greater respect for life at such a young age. “

When Bass returned with the kids, he added that he hopes to teach his kids integrity through the work that he does.  “The kids need to see the respect I have for my team.  It is so important to follow through with your word and mean what you say.  We are a family here.”

Bass and Anna both agree that hard work is a value they both learned from agriculture.  “There is a major difference between physical hard work and mental hard work,” explained Bass.  “You can experience exhaustion from both.  There is value in understanding both.” 

Bass and Anna were raised in different agricultural settings, but the couple agrees that raising kids in agriculture teaches hard work, integrity, and humility. “It keeps them grounded.”

Family is a core value for the Aja couple.  Photo by Celia Dubauskas.

This post was written by Celia Dubauskas. Celia is an undergraduate student at Arizona State University, studying Nutrition Communication. This spring, she has been an intern for Arizona Beef Council, creating written and social content for our platforms. Celia is an experienced fitness professional and is certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Her passion for fitness has fueled her interest in nutrition and learning more about health and diet culture. Keep on eye out for upcoming posts!

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