In our 4-H program we strive to put our young people on a trajectory to thrive. We find out what young people are passionate about. Often this is related to their project work. We build upon that foundation skills and competencies that we hope will serve them well as they mature. It is hoped these indiviuals will go on to thrive as adults. We want them to contribute to society through their work. We want them to contribute through their giving back to their local community and their world.
I have had the pleasure of working in 4-H youth development for over twenty years, and it is exciting to see youth excel at the highest level. I have really enjoyed watching some of our 4-H dairy youth excel in dairy judging competition. We have a few individuals in our 4-H dairy program that have won time and time again in national competitions. These folks have now qualified to participate in international dairy judging.
In 2021, Nicholas Hammer (Hillsborough County), Julia Heijkoop (Sumter County), Austin Holcomb (Hillsborough County), and Savannah Rice (Hillsborough County) placed 2nd at the national 4-H dairy judging contest at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. Nicholas Hammer was the high individual in the entire contest, the first time Florida has ever had the high individual in dairy judging at World Dairy Expo. This top-three team finish qualified these individuals to represent the United States in competition in the UK this summer.
These young people are no strangers to dairy cattle judging. They started when they were junior 4-H members judging at the Florida State Fair, the South Florida Fair, the State 4-H Dairy Show, and other competitions in Florida. The members of this team also won first place in dairy cattle judging in years past at the North American International Livestock Exhibition in Louisville, Kentucky. Also, they won first place at the All-American Dairy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Now they will have the opportunity to try their hand in international competition on another continent. In addition to competing, the youth will also be touring dairies and farms all over the United Kingdom.
Of course none of this would be possible without the dedication and support of volunteers like our state level dairy judging coach Gene Holcomb. Gene has worked as a 4-H volunteer and dairy judging coach for over three decades. Also it would not have happened without the support of Florida’s dairy farmers. Florida’s dairy producers believe in and financially support dairy judging practices and competitions in our state. Our Florida youth are very best that industry and individuals support them so much.
I am very proud that our 4-H members, who are now all recent alumni of our program, will be representing Florida and the USA abroad. I am even more proud of the individuals they are maturing into. These folks are truly individuals of the highest character that will certainly make us proud as alumni and as they continue their journey through what should prove to be satisfying and successful lives.
As you can imagine, travelling abroad is not an inexpensive endeavor. We have set up a special fund to support these youth on their journey. Anyone compelled to make a donation, large or small, can donate here: http://ufgive.to/4H2UK/.
Congratulations to our youth and we hope you learn a lot and do well in international competition!