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Life Lessons I Learned from 4-H

July marks the start of county fair season around the Rocky Mountain West. While some counties fairs are already in progress, the Teton County Fair starts this week. Growing up in 4-H, this remains one of my favorite times of the year. Even though it’s been 13 years since I was in 4-H, the program has played an influential role in making me who I am today, teaching me many valuable lessons.

6. Don’t Wait for Spring: Be Prepared.

If you have ever been to Jackson in December, you know how cold it can be. Around Christmas there was a week straight of -0 degree and often -20 degree days. The snow pack is harsh, and it was probably my least favorite time to have chores, let alone halter break a steer. It’s in my nature to procrastinate, but it was much easier to start halter breaking in the snow. If you waited for spring your calf could run free, dragging you in tow with nothing to slow him down. The same principles have proven true in real estate marketing; it is much easier to prepare large projects in the winter than in the busy spring and summer season of ranch sales.

5. The Importance of First Impressions

Each year my goal was to win Grand Champion Market Beef. Teton County livestock shows started with showmanship. One of my cousins had a theory that the judge would pick his top market contenders during showmanship. So as much as I wanted to focus on market, showmanship was where you made the first impression. You had to go in with “arena presence” and get the judge to lock onto your animal right away. That continued to be the case after 4-H, into college, the start of my career and currently. It may not be “arena presence” I’m going in with, but so many times your initial impression is important to relationships moving forward.

4. A Smile Might Help, but Substance Dominates

Yes I did just mention how important first impressions are, but after the first impressions are made, you still have to know what you are doing to succeed. One year in the county fair showmanship, there were only two of us that could answer the judge when he asked what the ideal rib eye area was. That pushed me from Reserve to Grand Champion showman. On the reverse, another year at state fair I took third in showmanship. When the judge gave his reasons, he said he wanted to place me in the reserve champion spot, however I didn’t give the correct answer to his questions, and I needed to know more about the industry. There is nothing that replaces knowledge, whether it’s my experience in marketing or our brokers’ understanding of ranches; that expertise is irreplaceable.

3. “Big animals are good for the soul.”

This was a saying of my grandpa’s that my dad liked to repeat. A good portion of 4-H is during the teenage years, which often comes with mixtures and swings of emotions. No matter how up, down, or irritable I was, working with my animals repeatedly put me into a better mood. Horses and cattle are strong and powerful, yet you build a relationship with these creatures that is incredibly special. To this day, if I am stressed there is nothing more therapeutic than being on my horse. Yes exercise is good, but large animals will calm the soul like no other.

2. There is no substitute for hard work and sacrifice…therefore it’s worth it if you enjoy it

4-H was a lot of work. I scheduled summer jobs around animal care. I gave up other sports and activities in the summer to work on my 4-H projects. At the time, I didn’t think of it as sacrifice because 4-H and my animals were my passion. When the fair came around there was nothing that could replace the work put in throughout the entire year. When out with all the animals, I could easily pick out the ones who had been worked with and the ones who hadn’t. I’m fortunate to work in an office with people that all have that same work ethic. They work extremely hard and make sacrifices but just like 4-H it is all worth it when you are doing a job you love because everyone here is passionate about the ranches and lifestyles we sell.

1. The Importance of Community

One thing that meant a great deal to me about 4-H , is the friendships made with everyone from 8 to 80 years old. I looked up to the older kids and it was exciting when they would help out, and it was an honor when I was the older kid for the younger kids to ask me for help. Every year as I go back to volunteer, my favorite part of the fair is being with this tight knit community. I think what makes it so is we have all been involved at every different phase of our lives. Some of my best friends to this day were made from 4-H. There are people there who were friends with my parents and grandparents. There are my 4-H leaders, who are now friends, and there are my friends that I “showed with.” There are the older kids who helped me, whose kids I assist as a 4-H volunteer. There are the younger kids who I aided when I was the senior, and one day when I have kids, it might be the same younger kids who help mine.

To all the 4-H and FFA kids out there, good luck these coming weeks at the county fairs!

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