November and December is the time of the year that people celebrate everything that is good in their life, and reflect on what they are thankful for. I have spent the last month doing the same thing, and have really taken some time to reflect on the things in my life that I am grateful for.
First and foremost I am grateful for my family and my friends. They have supported me throughout my life, and backed my decisions.
One of the biggest decisions I made that changed my life happened almost seven years ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but my decision to get a couple of pigs to show helped me to find who I was, and to forge a career path for myself.
I’m sure those around me wondered what a girl with an extensive equine background was going to do with some pigs. They were certainly different than anything we had ever owned, and would challenge me in ways I was unaware of at the time.
I am extremely grateful for my neighbors, Dick and Sharleen, who allowed me to keep my hogs on their farm. Without this needed space, I likely would have never had them, and would have missed out on all the experiences I have had the pleasure of having.
I am grateful that my gilt, Shanae, was able to compete well at fair and give me my first taste of success in the show ring. I am grateful that my parents bought her during the junior livestock sale, so that I could keep her to breed.
I owe a lot to the Hotchkiss and Cedaredge FFA chapters, who allowed me to keep my girl at their facilities during my first year of college, before I had a place of my own to take her.
That first year was hard for me, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career, and felt fairly lost. However, that all changed in the spring of freshman year, when my very first litter of piglets were born.
It was at that time that I could see how much joy they brought me, and how much I really loved the agricultural industry. When I got back to school I changed my major, and felt like I finally knew where I wanted to go.
Once I was able to bring Shanae to Fort Collins, that is when she really began to teach me life the lessons that I know I will take with me for the rest of my life. I am grateful for the dedication she taught me, because I had to take care of her day-in and day-out, no matter what else I had going on.
She also gave me a gift, and one that is priceless. She gave me the gift of passion. After raising pigs for a few years, I found something that I was really passionate about. It wasn’t raising or even showing pigs: it was providing an opportunity for youth.
The pigs allowed me to connect with 4-H and FFA members, and help them learn the importance of livestock, and the life lessons they could learn from having these animals.
This gift of passion is one that can never be repaid. It started as a small spark that has now ignited into a burning fire, and I feel that I will have these animals the rest of my life.
Having the pigs is what led me to having the goats, which I have found that I love more than I ever thought possible. The goats gave me an opportunity to get back into the show ring, and learn about the dairy goat industry.
That first set of goats sparked new passion, and one that has grown each year. I started out with one grade Boer doe and a purebred Nubian doe, and now my herd has grown to include fullblood and percentage Boers, more Nubians, Alpine and alpine crosses, LaMancha’s and the adorable Nigerian Dwarf goats.
I love learning about the different breeds, and having the opportunity to show all day at the dairy shows. The kids bring me incredible joy, as I watch them play and grow.
Having these animals is a big responsibility, but one that I love. I am thankful for my family and friends who have helped me care for them when I am out of town, because without their help, I couldn’t be involved in the other organizations that I enjoy.
Through my experience with these livestock I was able to see a new side of the agricultural industry, and one that I am forever thankful for. I hope to continue to grow my livestock business, and to grow the programs that I hope to one day establish.
At some point, I want to be able to provide facilities for students who want to show, but do not have the land to keep the animals on. They will learn to care for their livestock just as they would if the animal was kept on their place. I hope that this will spark their passion for the agricultural industry, just as it did for me.
I also hope to create a program for students who can’t afford a show animal. I keep females back every year for replacements, and would love to one day have students show these animals in breeding and jackpot classes. This way they can still get the experience, without having to worry about how to pay for the animal.
The last thing I want to create is a scholarship program. I know how grateful I was for scholarships in college, and I want to be able to pay that forward. It is my hope that this scholarship will also encourage students to stay in agriculture.
As we move towards January, my anticipation mounts every day for the new kids and piglets that will be born. I am grateful that I get to be part of this cycle, and that I have been afforded the opportunities that these livestock have provided me. ❖
I didn’t know it at the time, but my decision to get a couple of pigs to show helped me to find who I was, and to forge a career path for myself.