Some kids are destined to grow up in the agriculture industry.
Three local 4-H’ers who have spent the majority of their lives in 4-H are getting ready to end their showing careers this week at the Cass County 4-H Fair. They say as time winds down, it’s not all about the trophies, purple ribbons or champion plaques.
Early mornings and late nights are spent in the barn washing, feeding, clipping and practicing — all of that work for a quick “five minutes of fame” — the short time exhibitors get to walk their animal around the ring and impress the judges.
Wyatt Helms — the top beef showman at last year’s fair and the premier livestock showmanship champion — said showing is a lifestyle. He’s been involved in agriculture since the day he was born.
“My grandpa bought his first few sows around 1980,” Helms said. “We’ve been raising livestock for a long time.”
Helms said his dad was helping his grandpa around the farm when the market crashed for pigs — that led to his family getting more involved with cattle.
“We started raising calves and feeding a bunch of calves out for sell for freezer beef,” said Helms. “That kind of spiraled into my older brother wanting to start showing at the county fair. Really, it’s just escalated a lot from there.”
Helms said his family started raising higher-quality calves in addition to showing a lot more competitively and a lot more often — all around the country. Both his older and younger brothers show livestock.
He noted the craft has taught him to be responsible and the value work hard, but also to accept guidance from family members, FFA/4-H Club and friends. He will be attending Northeastern Oklahoma University this fall.
Another 10-year 4-H member and friend of Helms, Brooklyn Miller, said when she first started raising animals, she kept them at Helms’ farm.
“I lived in town, so my friend Wyatt actually kept them at his house,” Miller said. “To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I got myself into those first two years until we moved to a farm when I was 11 and I could keep my pigs at my house.”
Miller said that through being involved in 4-H, she has been able to travel to 11 different states to show pigs.
“I really have a new respect for the livestock industry now that I realize what work it takes,” said Miller. “A lifestyle has become out of it for me — this is what I do, and I enjoy doing it every day.”
Miller was recently awarded champion master pygmy at the 4-H Pygmy Goat Show along with meat goat showman. She says 4-H teaches hard work, determination and how to stay humble even when you don’t get the placing you want.
“You always try to stay positive and set a good example for the younger members because overall, that’s what 4-H is about,” stated Miller.
Miller plans to continue to raise and show pigs with her twin sisters in the Indiana Junior Swine Circuit.
Kian McWherter is rounding out her 10-year 4-H career as well. She has shown pigs and rabbits for ten years and goats for nine.
“4-H is a really important thing to our family, it’s been in the family forever,” McWherter said. “It’s something I’m passionate about.”
She says it’s important every year to enjoy the process and never get discouraged by results.
“You have to have the passion first,” she said. “You have to work every day. If you do bad one year, don’t get discouraged about it — keep trying and keep working at it.”
McWherter will be attending Western Illinois University to study animal science and agricultural science — the same school Helms’ older brother attends. She plans to join the judging team and get involved elsewhere on the campus farm.
Her main advice to younger 4-H’ers? “Be passionate about it and have fun — it goes by quick.”
Reach Quentin Blount at email@example.com or 574-732-5130.