When I was 9 years old my mom drove myself and a little beagle to our local county fair grounds. I attended my first 4-H meeting, which was a hands on dog obedience class. We met every Saturday morning and worked with our pups. Eleven years, many meetings, shows, friends and memories later I exhibited cattle at our county fair one last time. 4-H was an organization that truly helped shape me in to the individual I am today.
My first project was dog obedience. I started with a beagle who would have much rather been hunting than been in “school”. Needless to say our first year was none to eventful, but I did learn a lot. Molly was more questionable to what she actually picked up on… The following year I had a new pup who was more willing to learn. Over the years Abby, my more “trainable” dog, and I participated in many 4-H obedience trials. We were lucky enough to qualify for the state contest and did very well. Obedience was not a project I stuck with all 11 years, but it was very fun. Out of it we also gained a loving and obedient family pet for nearly 13 years.
Being a dairy farm kid, exhibiting cows followed shortly after. I’ve shown everything from dairy heifers, cows, feeder steers and dairy steers. A feeder steer in case you’re wondering is a calf that is half way grown. They go on to be raised on feed lots and then become tasty beef. Dairy steers are just like beef steers, only they are dairy breeds. Many of the bull calves we sell from our farm go on to be dairy steers and then sold as beef animals. The cattle is where I found my true passion.
From the age of 10 on I have loved to show cows. Our fair was just my starting point. We had great dairy advisors who worked with kids so they were able to show at the fair even if they didn’t own cows. Many of the kids from our county also went on to several state and national shows, thanks several parents and advisors. I was able to show at the state fair and the North American Livestock Expo. My parents didn’t have the extra time to take me, but with people we had met in 4-H I was able to have this opportunity.
Once I was older I began using my market projects (animals I had taken to the fair to be sold such as the steers) to fund my habit of showing heifers and cows. I would sell my steers, and occasionally market rabbits, in the end of August at our 4-H auction, then attend our local fall Holstein sale to buy a heifer or cow to show the following year.
One of my last years in 4-H I was privileged to be on the state 4-H dairy judging team. This was my first trip to World Dairy Expo. If you’ve never been, it is an experience. This is another trip I would have never been able to experience had it not been for 4-H.
4-H also helped me pay for college. I received money from the milk sold from my cows I had purchased to pay for my college. I am able to say I never needed a student loan and graduated debt free. If not for 4-H this would not have been possible.
Not only did 4-H teach me many lessons and responsibilities, it also made me more prepared as an adult. There is a reason 4-H has more than 6 million youth currently involved in its programs. It is a great program. 4-H is more than steers and pigs. It’s lessons and memories. Things that can’t be bought nor experienced any other way. I must say, I am counting the years (4 more) until the tribe can start up. I think they are too!
If interested in joining 4-H contact your local extension office. I promise you won’t regret it!