Ever since I can remember, agriculture has been a part of my life. When I was eight, my dad bought our first Angus cow. Our herd has since grown to include multiple beef cows and a diverse realm of other animals including sheep, hogs, chickens and even a donkey.
When I entered third grade, I became a 4-H member and, like my elders, became the next generation to be active in the youth organization. Instead of merely watching the cows graze behind my house as I did in my earlier years, I actually worked with a heifer all spring long and showed her at the county fair. I have shown animals ranging from chickens and rabbits to sheep and hogs, eventually discovering my passion for the beef and swine industries.
Organizations like 4-H allow youth to expand leadership and citizenship skills and pursue their dreams. As a member of the Cross Plains Wondermakers 4-H Club, I’ve held the positions of secretary and president. I also was a camp counselor, attended the Citizenship Washington Focus trip to Washington DC, and was a youth member at large for the Dane County Leaders Association.
It was through these leadership opportunities that I learned how to facilitate meetings, lead discussions and ultimately work with people, which opened the door to FFA and DECA. Although my high school didn’t have an agriculture or FFA program, I partially open-enrolled in a neighboring school’s agriculture program and joined its FFA. During my senior year, I also served as a state officer for Wisconsin DECA, an association for marketing students.
Four years ago, as I saw my 4-H experiences nearing the end, I was awarded a matching educational scholarship through the “JCPenny Care, Share, Win” program. I received $3,000 for my education as well as $3,000 for the Dane County 4-H program. The money is being used for an annual Master Showmanship Contest at the Dane County Fair, where the champion showmen of the swine, sheep, beef, dairy and goat divisions compete against each other to determine which showman is the best of the best.
Showing livestock has been life-changing. Instead of summers spent at the pool or hanging out with friends, I work with my siblings to raise our animals and show off our hard work at several fairs and festivals. Team work, responsibility and sportsmanship are skills I’ve gained by showing livestock. Youth involved in agriculture organizations grow up in an environment where they gain a work ethic that no other sport or youth organization provides.
My participation in 4-H and FFA greatly impacted my college plans. I currently attend the University of Wisconsin – Madison where I major in life sciences communication and animal science. After I graduate, I plan to work in agriculture marketing.
Through exhibiting at fairs, I’ve seen the gap of agricultural knowledge from farmer to consumer. Pursuing a career in marketing will allow me to use my agricultural background to communicate the importance of innovative agriculture for future generations.
As a child, I never imagined my future would include the agriculture industry. However, my positive experiences with 4-H and FFA have directed my future and helped me develop a lifelong passion for agriculture.