Friday, October 7, 2011

National 4-H Week

4-H has been a part of my life
 as long as I can remember.
In the beginning I was just a tag-along,
as my sister is 10 years older than i
 and was active in the 4-H Horse project,
competing in shows, camps, trainings, clinics and judging events.

Through her involvement we met a family
who had other livestock interest,
mainly sheep and beef cattle.
Those conservations sparked an interest in me
that would last a lifetime.
I was 3 or 4 when we met this family
 whose daugther was smack in the middle of my sister and I in age.
Her name was Carol and she looked up to my sister
 and I looked up to her. 

I began begging for a lamb..
I begged and begged,
and begged...
and begged some more.
I pestered my mother for a lamb for 4 YEARS,
before she gave in
and agreed to have ONE lamb
that's it...no more!

I was elated! 
It was a Suffolk crossed market lamb
 that lived in our backyard.
This one lamb got me started as an active member of 4-H. 
From there I purchased more sheep
 and while in high school maintained a flock of about 75 ewes.
Which if you don't know is unheard of in the state of Georgia. 

My interested didn't end with sheep. 
 I was soon showing cows and pigs as well
 in local, regional, state and national shows. 
4-H is what helped me determine my path in life.

Showing sparked another interest and love...
livestock judging.
Through 4-H I had the opportunity to travel
 all across my state
and to national contest in
Kansas, Kentucky, and VA. 
It was a wonderful experience
 that helped me to learn to select animals
 in showrings and on farms.

Let me share with you a small part of my livestock judging story:
Beginning in the 6th grade I judge livestock
on an almost all girls team expect for 1 boy.
This means I took a class of 4 animals and ranked them
from best to worst
After all the rankings had been turned in
I would explain to an adult my "reasons" for placing the class.
In some contest we also had to answer questions about the animals.

In 7th grade I moved to a new school and new county,
I was now on a new livestock judging team..
this one was all boys and 1 girl.
These boys became like my brothers...i got 4 of them!
We traveled together, practiced together, showed together
not just for that one year but until I was a senior in high school.

The first year was rough...learning to compete as a team
the 2nd year these 4 boys and I came together as a team
always working to beat our last score
always trying to prove that we were good.
We won regional,
We won state,
I was high individual.

The next year 1/2 of our team moved up...
3 of us were now in the senior division...
there were scholarships and trips at stake
we had to step up our game.

In 9th grade we did OK, we were all in the top 20
our team was in the top 5

In 10th grade we were better, all of our team were seniors now
at state we were all in the top 25
our team was number 2
we earned a trip to compete at the American Royal!
We flew to Kansas City,
piled 7 people in a mini van with 21 pieces of luggage
and drove to Manhattan to visit K-State
singing Kenny Chensey's last hit
and practice with the judging team.
We all did OK
Our team was in the top 10
but we didn't make headlines anywhere but in our hometown

In 11th grade we were untouchable, 4 of the 5 in the top 10
our team was number 1
and I was high individual.
We earned the right to represent our state in Louisville,
at the NAILE, North American Livestock Exposition
We drove 10 hours one way
again 7 people in a van
with way too much luggage
This time we made a little more noise
we were in the top 10 in each division
in the top 20 individually in more than one division
Overall we were number 8
I was number 21...

These trips were long, the hours were tough,
but we worked through disagreements,
heartbreaks, and more
we committed to a goal and gave it our all
we accomplished it not as individuals but as a team

Now we have all gone our separate ways
Only I remain active in the livestock judging arena
But those skills I still use today
as a "showmom",
a beef semen sales rep,
and as a professional judge  

I can't believe how many things in my life
 have revolved around the skills learned
 in this one organization.
From DPA to summer camp,
skill-a-thon to stock shows,
it was an adventure i loved and would never trade.

Thank 4-H for Making me Better!!

Caci