I grew up following in the footsteps of my grandfather and parents. Footsteps made in the showring and livestock judging arenas. I participated in 4-H for the maximum number of years I was eligible. I think 4-H and FFA are the foundation to building future leaders in the agriculture industry and our communities.
Communication skills are learned and practiced while participating in 4-H and FFA. Contests teach youth to “think on their feet” and communicate thoughts, opinions and experiences relating to their projects. These activities lay the foundation for youth to become well spoken, confident and comfortable in front of an audience.
Part of showing livestock is caring for animals; youth are committing themselves to learning about the nutritional and health needs of that animal. There is even more involved when preparing livestock for the showring. Looking back, I realize the hard work I dedicated to my show steers and the responsibilities I had at a young age. I never thought of it as labor because fun overshadowed the challenges.
Each individual show animal has its own personality. While discovering the quirks of each animal, I was learning patience and respect for different personality traits. Part of showing is to know the strengths and weaknesses of your project and learning how to present the animal to the judge.
Some of the best friends I have were my biggest competitors in the showring. Even though we were fierce competitors, we were also each other’s biggest fans. We form friendships with people that have similar interests as us. We learn to respect and appreciate the differences in our personalities and abilities.
Showmanship was a big thing at our house and my biggest competitor shared the same barn as I did. My second biggest competitor and I are still good friends today. She exhibited breeding heifers, while I showed steers.
4-H and FFA influence youth with experiences that will last a lifetime. These programs teach communication and animal husbandry skills.They provide a great opportunity for community involvement, leadership development and personal growth. The contacts made and friendships sustained help youth to connect with a world bigger than they could ever imagine.