Participating in 4-H and FFA were some of the most memorable moments in my life and many of the paths I am taking now came from the experiences I had in these youth programs. I remember participating and helping at the 4-H fundraisers and showing market steers at the county fair and in FFA I remember having Back to School barbeques and volunteering to ring the Christmas bell for the Salvation Army. Through these years of being an active youth agriculturalist, I have had many great experiences, yet I still missed out on the many opportunities these organizations provide.
Did you know that in 4-H there is an annual event called the Showcase Showdown? Well neither did I until recently. The Showcase Showdown is a three day event that offers opportunities for 4-H members to participate in contests, workshops and tours. Children can join the 4-H club as young as 5 years old and stay in the program until they are 18. For 13 years, young adults have to opportunity to participate in agriculture activities at the competitive level and at the Showcase Showdown there are plenty of competitive activities to stay busy.
There are cake decorating contests, food cook-off contests, rocket launching and robotics contests, as well as table setting contests. These all sound like so much fun, yet there is more! There is a dog skill-a-thon, horse judging, livestock skill-a-thon, produce evaluation, prepared as well as impromptu presentations and hippology. The hippology contest gives youth the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of equine science and management at the junior, intermediate and senior level. Another interesting contest is produce evaluation. The contestants are given sets of vegetables and fruits, which are then evaluated and place in order based on quality and table readiness. After the contestants sort the produce they give a set of reasons to a judge defending their position on their placement of the produce.
Along with the many contests, there are workshops that educate the youth on topics such as wind science, graphic design, engineering, assistance dogs and many more. The Showcase Showdown sounds like such a great time and I wish I had known about the opportunity when I was in 4-H. To better understand the competitions I interviewed a few students who attended this year’s Showcase Showdown, at Laramie County Community College and this is what they had to say.
A young group from Albany County was at the Showcase Showdown to compete in the Livestock Skills Competition. Kemsley Gallegos explained that during the Livestock Skills Competition the team is “scored on their ability to work with others and problem solve.” During the competition, teams work together to identify breeds, identify whole sale meat products, and identify exterior parts of livestock. The teams identify each of these categories for cattle, sheep, hogs and goats. The teams are also required to identify different types of feed from cereal grains and forages to vitamins and by-products. If that is not enough, the groups also identify large and small equiptment relevant to livestock production. The Albany team took first place in the senior division which does not come as a surprise, the team seemed very prepared. Kemsley Gallegos, Thomas Christensen II, Jebidiah Hulett and Amanda Christinsen are all young adults who come from ranching backgrounds and are hard workers who deserved the first place award.
Along with the 4-H Showcase Showdown another summer event for youth in agriculture is the Wyoming FFA Camp. Every year Wyoming FFA members have the opportunity to participate in a camp that is held in Douglas, Wyoming. This year there were two sessions of camp because so many members participated. Each session is five days long during June. FFA Camp does require a registration fee and students pay for this fee by fundraising or applying for the Jim and Marcia Thrush Memorial Scholarship.
FFA Camp was established in 1978 and has become premier leadership training for FFA members throughout Wyoming. From the establishment of the camp, over 5,000 FFA members have participated.
“Attendees at camp generally look forward to a very full schedule with an emphasis on communication and self-awareness. Workshops include how to interview, public speaking, dealing with peer pressure and life as an FFA member, as well as some fun stuff like camp fires, Ag. Olympics and a dance,” explains ffacamp.org. The FFA Leadership Camp purposes are, to provide an atmosphere with positive personal growth, build awareness of self-worth, empower members to make a difference, be a role model and positive influence on others, along with doing the right thing. The program also aims to teach members the importance of defining one’s personal values and gives FFA member’s opportunities to prepare for personal and career success.
To understand the effectiveness of the FFA Leadership Camp, I interviewed Paden Koltiska of Sheridan. Paden is the 2nd Vice President of the Sheridan FFA Chapter. Paden was raised both on a ranch as well as in town so he understands the urban and rural lifestyles. He entered FFA following in his sisters footsteps but states that he is, “really glad that I joined the FFA, it has had a huge impact on my life.”
This is the second time that he has attended FFA camp and explains that his favorite part of camp is the first day when everyone plays volleyball to break the ice and meet more FFA members. “At camp they really encourage you to meet new people and they split you apart in different groups. It is important to have connections across the state,” explained Paden. The theme this year was “Now”, which hit home with Paden. He told me that “there are always tough decisions that we have to make in life and they taught us to make decisions for ourselves and what makes us happy. We wrote down some of the regrets we had then on the last day we burned our regrets to live in the “Now”.”
Paden had learned so much about his worth at camp and made many friends along the way. The person that Paden displays today reflects the goals of FFA camp created, by defining ones personal values. Paden also said that he would do whatever is necessary to come back to camp because of the skills and life lessons that he learned. There might be a chance that if you attend you will have similar experiences with other young agriculturalists.
Over all youth involvement and activities are vital to making the agriculture community strong. Young adults learn skills, respect and are able to network through these activities, all leading to one main goal, agriculture advocacy. Looking back, I wish I had known about these fun activities. If you are interested in learning more about these great youth events please visit the FFA and 4-H website by clicking the links below.
Wyoming FFA Webpage: http://www.wyomingffa.org/
Wyoming 4-H Webpage: http://www.uwyo.edu/4-h/
Written by: Kadi Davis, Summer Intern