Whether it is to “make the best better” or “living to serve,” youth livestock organizations in Nebraska have filled their members with lifelong lessons. I have been a member of 4-H and FFA for the past ten years and let’s just say that I have learned A LOT. So, here are ten things that I have learned in my ten years of participation—I’m sure you can relate.
- Pink halters are a necessity
You probably think I am crazy here. But, my first year in 4-H my dad bought me pretty pink halters for my market steer project. They lead so many lessons, from knowing when to let go to it’s ok to being last in the class. And yes, they are still around.
- Fair friends are the BEST friends
Through my many years in 4-H and FFA I have met people from across the country. County fairs, progress shows, and livestock judging contest are all great ways to meet new people involved in agriculture. I have met some of my best friends at these events. Like my mom always tells me, “Your best friends will have the same passions as you.”
- Sometimes you NEED to let go
It was the day before the fair and my feeder calf heifer was still not halter broke. My dad had a brilliant idea to tie a rope to the far end of my halter. It worked for a while until she jumped, and I ended up on the underside of her. I ended up with road rash, bruises and a lot of tears. Now that I think about it, maybe the lesson should be “NEVER wear shorts when working with cattle.”
- Sometimes losing has more lessons than winning
During my fourth year in 4-H, I began to enjoy showing pigs. I started setting high expectations for myself in the showring. Before the county fair, I spent hours driving my pigs down the road in preparation for showmanship. In showmanship, my black gilt ran around the ring like she had never been out of the pen before. I ended up with a blue ribbon and was devastated. The next year, I worked twice as hard and cared twice as much. When I walked into the ring with my barrow, I won showmanship. Now, because of my set back, I am constantly successful in the showring.
- We always love and care for our animals
Livestock projects bring many animals into our lives. While the livestock industry is often bashed for “not caring for our animals”, we all know that is not the case. Each animal develops their own personality and we learn how to love them. Whether you have one animal or twenty, each animal is hard to get rid of—trust me, I have been there too.
- Record books just might be the worst thing EVER
Since my first year in 4-H, my mom has made me fill out record books and let me tell you: it was AWFUL. I absolutely hated the hours spent filling them out. However, everything paid off when I was old enough to apply for trips. Having trips paid for makes it all worth it. So, kids, fill out those records.
- Take every opportunity you are presented
Part of it is in my nature, but I am an opportunity seeker. Every time I am presented with a new opportunity, I jump in feet first. I have learned that the best experiences are made when you are scared out of your mind. So, if you are contemplating going to a conference you have never been to, trying a new project, or running for a leadership position, DO IT; trust me, you won’t regret it.
- It truly is an honor to represent your state on the national level
I have had the opportunity to represent Nebraska at four different national judging contests. While some dream to compete at one, each contest has taught me something different. Still, if there is one think that I have taken away from these experiences, it is you must work hard to be average. Everyone competing at these events are good and if you are anything like me, you yearn to be the best. If you want to compete with these competitors, you have to study like there is no tomorrow.
- Don’t take anything for granted
Right now, the world is faced with a new life changing disease. This disease has shut down many stock shows, judging contest, and other 4-H and FFA activities. Everything that was once normal cannot go on. We are lost and unsure of how to spend out free time. When the world opens up again and we need to go back to “normal,” we need to experience everything as it happens, like it will never happen again.
- Goodbyes are hard
In the last ten years of my life, I have grown to love the livestock industry and the opportunities it gives youth. As I take my next step in life, I have to say goodbye to 4-H and FFA—the organizations that built me—and I am not sure I am ready for that.
Ten years is not that long of time when we look at the big picture of life. However, the lessons I have learned in the past ten years of my life are nothing short of impactful. To the eight-year-old just starting 4-H, you are in for ride. To the freshman taking your first ag class, soak up the next four years. To the senior preparing to walk in the ring for the last time, you have made an impact on the younger members. To the adults, thank you for allowing us countless opportunities to succeed in the industry that feeds the world.
Savannah Peterson is a fifth-generation farmer and rancher. Her family grows corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa, and has a cow/calf and feedlot operation. Savannah is an active member in 4-H and FFA, where she has participated in many state and national teams.