With school getting back in session, I thought it would be useful to give all of the readers an educational lesson.
No, it isn't anything like using statistical analysis to forecast the first freeze date of the fall, or how to write a narrative in 500 words or fewer about how to solve the state's budget crisis.
I wanted to let you all know about a program and a group of students that seems to fly under the scholastic activities radar. For decades now, students in the 4-H program on the Livestock Judging Team have been developing their skills in becoming the future leaders of the livestock industry.
So what is livestock judging? To be honest, I wanted to know more about it as well, so I asked Beth LaShell, who, along with Brad Fassett, is one of the leaders of the program and has dedicated and volunteered her time to the team (and to many other endeavors), exactly what to judge for, what the program does for the kids, and what are the potential end-results.
I was impressed.
When judging livestock - breeding and market sheep, hogs and cattle - team members have to place the livestock and give an oral reason on why they placed it how they did. These reasons are important, and sometimes difficult, because they have to convince an official, who has already reached a decision, that their placement is logical. They must place their classes correctly in terms of quality based on the species and whether the animal is being raised for breeding or meat production purposes - all from memory.
So what do the students get out of this?
Through judging, the team members develop: confidence to stand behind and give reasons for their decisions (based on a detailed process), public speaking skills and the ability to work as a team. Additionally, because the team accepts children ages 8 to 18, the team develops leaders and role models in the older students, as they tutor and teach the younger kids.
But it isn't easy. When the kids enroll in the program, they are expected to help with fundraising activities that enable the team to travel extensively to contests. This fall, the team will be selling apples, apple cider and apple pies (make sure you check out their stand at the upcoming Homegrown Festival on Oct. 18); in December, they will be selling Arizona citrus. The fundraising is needed because there aren't too many events on the Western Slope. Therefore, they travel throughout eastern Colorado, and even Nebraska and Texas to go to competitions.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the Livestock Judging Team provides an amazing conduit to college. In fact, since 1994, 19 members have had the chance to attend college on scholarships because of their specific skills. Currently, there are six students in college on judging scholarships.
Impressive - and a program that should be supported by our diverse community. If you have any additional questions, contact Beth LaShell at email@example.com.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.
Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.