Although unable to hold the Minnesota 4-H Dairy Showcase at the conclusion of the Minnesota State Fair 4-H livestock encampment, 4-H Dairy Showcase organizers embraced the unexpected challenges that 2020 has brought and proceeded with a unique, meaningful recognition program.
Special to this year’s program, the 4-H Dairy Showcase recognized 4-H members who missed out on one of their last opportunities to exhibit as a 4-H’er. Those eligible included 4-H members in their last year of eligibility (often referred to as grade 13) and those who have just completed 12th grade. Aspelund Ever-Readies 4-H’ers Madelyn Wehe and Owen Scheffler placed in this year’s showcase, with Wehe receiving third and Scheffler placing 11th.
All 4-H dairy project members who have completed grades 12 and 13 were eligible to apply for this special edition of the Minnesota 4-H Dairy Showcase. Typically, 4-H’ers are required to exhibit at the state 4-H dairy show and must receive a blue ribbon.
This year, those two requirements were taken out of the mix to recognize the dairy program’s senior members and provide a “capstone celebration” for their 4-H dairy career.
Showcase recipients were selected based on their leadership and accomplishments in 4-H and their community (70%), and a virtual presentation demonstrating their knowledge of the dairy industry (30%). Winners, announced via virtual program at the end of August, received a cash prize.
Serving in the community
The dairy showcase is unique since it highlights the leaders in the 4-H community who both do things for others and understand the importance of it.
Scheffler says part of the applications asks about leadership roles, since individuals who do the most for others and help others become a better 4-H’er are also recognized. The showcase requires both leadership skills and quality animals.
Through his six years participating in the dairy showcase, Scheffler says he’s understood the process and how it works, as well as how people are chosen. In Wehe’s three years of experience in the dairy showcase, she’s learned to keep trying, keep taking opportunities like participating in quiz bowl and judging, and just being herself. Specific to this year, Wehe says she liked how the qualification requiring applicants to receive a blue ribbon wasn’t an option, because those who demonstrate leadership skills may not always get a blue ribbon and be able to participate.
Added Wehe, “We are really thankful for the sponsors this year that wanted to support us, even though everyone is struggling we are so thankful we could still have a showcase and a program this year.”
For the virtual presentation, Wehe created a farm tour at the farm she works at, and talked about the different stages of a cow’s life. She says the tour was geared toward consumers as a way to show the average person — who hasn’t been on a dairy farm — to see what goes on. Wehe says she kept it pretty simple so the information can be applied to any dairy farm. She also strived to keep the video easy to interpret and fun for the consumer to learn about. Wehe explained how calves are fed in the calf barn and took viewers in places such as the parlor.
Scheffler chose to put together an instructional video for youth, going in depth about how to feed show animals throughout the summer, as well as focusing on how to feed them on the day of the show to “fill them out.” Another option applicants could choose from for the virtual presentation, Scheffler says, was making a cooking video, geared toward dairy products.
Being a strong, positive advocate
The application consisted of a series of questions pertaining to things such as the involvement in the dairy industry, top experiences in the dairy industry and how those experiences have affected others.
With the pandemic in mind, Scheffler and Wehe both agree that there has been a positive impact on the dairy industry when it comes to the products consumers are purchasing.
In times like this, Scheffler says it’s “very” important the dairy industry keeps moving forward, especially since the work never stops as the cows still have to be milked and cared for. Through the pandemic, Scheffler notes that more and more people are realizing where their food comes and that someone actually has to milk the cow to be able to get milk in return.
“Many people don’t appreciate where their food comes from,” said Scheffler. “This is a reminder that [dairy farmers] work hard to keep you happy … when the grocery store shelves were empty, people were panicking and didn’t think of dairy products as essential and part of [their] well-being. When does someone go through their day without using dairy products in one way, shape or form?”
Wehe adds that serving as a strong voice for dairy farmers is vital in letting others know dairy farmers and dairy products are still there for them, especially since there’s a lot going on with non-milk alternatives (like almond milk), and proving cow’s milk is better for consumers is a big part of that.
“Being able to be a positive advocate for dairy farming, especially now in the pandemic when there’s so much unknowns … and continuing to be that strong advocate is a really big part of it. I’m so thankful I get to have that voice. There’s so many 4-H’ers who are so passionate and work to share the good news.”