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Fostering a passion for agriculture

During the County Junior Livestock Show held Jan. 9, cows ready to walk the ring were guided by the children who have been caring for them in a demonstration of their commitment to the care of those animals.

Children aged 5 to 18 presented animals they’d cared for and worked with as part of 4-H projects. Some children own their animals, while others borrow an animal for their 4-H project. Either way, caring for livestock teaches valuable life skills, like personal responsibility and financial management, said Pearl River County Extension Agent Alex Shook. Perhaps most important, the kids learn to observe and care for livestock in an ethical manner.

Close to 20 children participated in the show. Most of the families who participated in the livestock show had several previous generations who also took part, said Shook.

Extension Agent Richard Hay loves sharing his passion for dairy cows with young people, but he did not attend Saturday’s show in his capacity as a 4-H professional. Instead he was there as a grandfather, excited to watch his granddaughter show cows.

“It is a wonderful vehicle to teach young people responsibility, accountability and real world experience,” said Hay.

While the participants are competitive, they also learned how to lose with grace.

“They’re learning how to fail. They’re learning how to overcome,” said Hay.

While many extra curricular activities such as sports, scouts and band, might teach similar life lessons, raising an animal is different because it cannot be put on the back burner, said Hay.

“When you’re taking care of an animal, that animal depends on you for its well being.”

Karlee Carnes, 12, participated in the livestock show for her second year. She comes from a family that raises cows and wanted to do a 4-H project because she likes cows.

“I like it because there’s competition,” said Carnes.

At 8-years-old, Eli Slade was a little too shy to explain what made him excited about 4-H, but he did say he’s learned a lot from the program and made new friends.

Holly Saucier, who is nearing 13-years-old, remembers the moment she decided she wanted to show her own animals. She was in the cow barn at the state fair where her older brother was showing cows. When she caught sight of the lambs being prepared to show, she knew she wanted to do that too.

“It definitely takes determination and responsibility and you have to have confidence,” said Saucier.

Saucier started showing lambs last year, but Saturday was her first time showing a cow.

Hay said many of the children who participate in 4-H programs go on to work in agriculture related fields.

“There’s so many people moving away from the farm. It’s important to have people in the agriculture industry that have a passion for it and keep it moving on,” he said.