MY 4-H STORY
By Mia Herrera
It is safe to say that 4-H has more than just impacted my life. It has given me opportunities that would enhance my leadership and citizenship skills, and it has also shaped me into the person I have become. 4-H has provided life skill s and given me the confidence to take responsibility in preparation for a successful future, in both my career and helping others.
My 4-H experience started in 2006, when I was very young, at the age of 7. Our family had decided to purchase land to have chickens and dairy animals in order to produce homemade products for heal their living. I started out wanting to show the chickens because of how cute and cuddly I found them. Quickly my interest in showing chickens soon initiated my desire to show dairy goats as well at our local 4-H county fair. For my first year showing a goat, I bought a doeling from a fellow 4-H member. I groomed that doeling, fed her, and cared for her as if she were my child. When it was time to bring her to the show ring, it was an event I could never forget. It was not about winning a ribbon (although my eyes lit up with such enthusiasm when the judge handed me that maroon ribbon with gold script for: “Participation”
written on the bottom of it). It was the thought of taking an animal that I had raised, taken responsibility for, and presented to the public eye. It was such a prideful moment for me! I was hooked. My desi re for more experience grew fast, and I began spreading across the map (you know like when Indiana Jones tracks his excursions in red on the map? That is how it felt anyway.) I was exhibiting at as many fairs as I could, determined to strengthen m y goat showing skills.
My first time entering the huge show ring at the State Fair, I was 8 years old. I inspected every comer, every animal, and the face of every showman. Every exhibitor in the ring had the same look of determination – ready to execute anyone who stepped in their path of winning the competition. Here I came with my little doeling, with her dainty little prance, and me, clueless of what the competition had in store for me. I learned what it truly meant to be in the State Fair. I showed my heart out, and I think the judge realized this. He pulled me aside after the show was over and sort-of interviewed me about where I bought my goats and m y experience so far. He was surprised to see that an exhibitor of my age was
attempting to show in such a tough competition, with adults on top of it. He took me around to some of the big breeders at the fair and introduced me to them. I spent the rest of the weekend at the State fair receiving advice from Dairy Goat Celebrities. Enhancing my showing skills was daunting at first. I began competing with not only youth, but also in the Open Shows, which consisted of 4-H Youth and various breeders that had been in the business for quite some time. Years passed from my first time showing a goat, and the more I practiced the more determined I became to make myself the best exhibitor.
After that time the State Fair Judge introduced me to some of the major dairy goat breeders, I became acquainted with some of the representatives and chairmen of the State Fair. They told me they were so impressed by my accomplishments as such a young youth exhibitor, that they chose me to conduct the Dairy Goat Showmanship Class and hands-on training portion of the State Fair Annual Pre
Fair Seminar and Ethics Training! My task was to schedule and build a curriculum that would allow me to teach everything I had learned about showing a dairy goat, to over 100 youth exhibitors (and their parents). The pressure was on, but I grabbed that microphone and I showed every exhibitor how to tum, walk, set up, and groom their animals, even down to how to answer the judge when he wanted to evaluate your knowledge on the ADGA Scorecard and the conformation of the animal you were exhibiting.
Standing up in front of that many people, and presenting something I had learned so much about was difficult for me. Not because I was not prepared to present my knowledge on dairy animals, but because I was never a good public speaker, and I wasn’t sure how to go about explaining it all to them. Before 4-H, I was always shy. My development as a public speaker from County Events presentations of Public Speaking, and providing these annual seminars seemed to peak quickly. That first time I just went for it, and after much improvement, I was able to give public speeches in various setting effortlessly. Between teaching other youth my knowledge and speaking out in school and other settings, I was confident I could do anything if I put my mind to it!
After my 6th year in 4-H, at 13 years old, I was invited to go to the American Dairy Goat National Show in Loveland, CO, with one of the Oberhasli Dairy Goat Breeders I met at the State Fair, who had seen me giving seminars on my knowledge of dairy animals. Never in my life had I seen so many lovely animal s I Walking into the show ring when it was time for Showmanship was nerve-wracking. Compared to prior experiences, this was not the type of pressure I felt when I had to stand up in front of 100 youth and give a seminar. THIS was not showing my first time at the State Fair. It was more than that. I was being live-streamed across Amen ca. My family, friends, everyone was sharing this moment with me. It was talking my breath away. Before I stepped into the ring, however, I heard a familiar voice behind me say “you can do this!”. It was the judge from the State Fair! My confidence came back, and I was ready to go. There were 54 other youth competitors in my division, and after 2 bloodcurdling hours, I walked out of that show ring 3rd place in my division, in all of the U.S. What an emotional life experience.
As my confidence grew after having exhibited at so many fairs, I began conducting other seminars and showmanship clinics with other 4-H and FFA groups that were implementing Dairy Goats into their curriculums. I found it satisfying and refreshing to help other youth be prepared for the State Fair competitions as well as National Competitions. I felt it would be a nice gesture to not only share all the knowledge I had obtained throughout my experience as a youth exhibitor, but it would be something that would help me grow as an individual. My life experiences with 4-H also enhanced my academic standing and improved my overall achievement in many aspects of my life. For both 4-H, and during homeschooling / my High School years, I served many community service hours monthly, if not weekly. These hours included cleaning up local historical sites to singing Christmas Carols at retirement homes There were times when I would supervise Petting Zoos for rehabilitation centers and schedule Summer Camp clinics on how to mil k, raise, and make dairy products from goats. Organizing my time as well as my knowledge in 4-H has helped me establish who I am, and grow as a person. I realized after many years in 4-H that even my career goals were set to help others. 4-H just makes you a better person! I plan on incorporating my knowledge of the Spanish language along with my knowledge on agriculture and husbandry to conduct classes as a professor here and in other countries giving lectures on how to rai se dairy animals for homesteading purposes. In all, 4-H is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I look forward to staying involved in it, making a difference in my community, and passing on my knowledge in the future.