Mary Tyler Moore once said, “Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fall in order to practice being brave.” Recently, I took a big chance as I flew from the mountains of West Virginia to the (very) windswept plains of Central Montana. Here’s a little background: for my major, I am required to complete an internship as part of my graduation requirement. I waited a little bit too long (the last semester before I graduate), and here I am, finishing up my internship in Montana. I always knew that I wanted to visit Montana, but I never in a million years thought I would be living there for three months!
I relate this to the stock show world. Garth Brooks said, “Just keep taking chances and having fun.” While I was in high school, I decided I wanted to try a new species: swine. I’ve been showing sheep and cattle for almost my whole life, so pigs were going to be a new adventure. We didn’t (and still don’t necessarily) have the facilities to keep a couple of pigs. My dad raised a few pigs as part of his SAE (Supervised Agriculture Experience) while he was in FFA, but never for show. This meant that our knowledge base was relatively slim when it came to raising, training, and then showing pigs. That first year, I took a pretty big risk! My pigs didn’t grow like they should have, and we learned from that. We made changes and after that, my next pigs grew like they should.
I was always that kid that wanted to show at a national show. Just one time, that would be fine. I’m sure there are others out there just like me. I finally got the opportunity to attend my first junior nationals a couple of years ago. We took a risk heading into Lexington, KY not really knowing what was going on other than to make it to the various contests we signed up for (make sure you take advantage of those if you haven’t attended a junior national) and make it to our classes on time. I am so glad that we went, it was a great chance for the three of us that went from our state to improve as showmen, make friends, and get that national show experience.
This boils down to taking that chance. Show that new species. Try that new product you think might work better for you and your animal. Go to that new show. You might not win, and you could fail, but you’ll be thankful for it in the long run. You’ll learn something and you might have some fun with it too!
Jennifer Friend was raised on a small cow/calf and sheep farm in Central West Virginia. From an early age she caught the “show bug;” when she was two she told her Mom that she wanted to show a sheep while her Mother was judging a sheep show! Ever since then, she has been showing sheep locally and at the state level. It wasn’t until she was 8 that she was allowed to show a calf and that heifer’s influence is still found in Jennifer’s herd. Besides the show bug, Jennifer competed on 4-H and FFA livestock judging teams and then went on to judge at the collegiate level for West Virginia University. She will be graduating in May 2018 with a BS in Agriculture and Extension Education and Jennifer plans to pursue a career in production agriculture.