From Competition to Service

Faith    Family    Farming

From Competition to Service

By Melanie Musselman 

Dispatch Staff


Most of the time when 4-H and FFA members lead their showstock in the ring, the intensity rises, all eyes are on the judge and the competition is fierce. All exhibitors are vying for that top spot in the judge’s eye to be named the winner of the class. But for a specific set of members this year at the Kansas State Fair, they left the competition behind for a while to take on the role as coach.

For the second year in a row, 4-H and FFA livestock exhibitors at the State Fair are truly exemplifying the mottos of each organization by helping Special Olympic youth who may have never stepped in a show ring before to have an experience either of them will never forget. Through the efforts of the Special Olympics, Kansas 4-H, Kansas FFA and the Kansas State Fair, the special Champion Showmanship contest was hosted this past Friday. Nine Special Olympic participants were instructed with the proper techniques of showing meat goats by select 4-H and FFA youth livestock leaders. After allowing time for practice and asking questions, the Special Olympians were evaluated and the top three were recognized with awards sponsored by Cargill. 

“This opportunity provided a new space for people who have a disability to learn about agriculture. We wanted to nurture, create and sustain environments where you don’t focus on disabilities, but on abilities,” said Jarod Gillig of Cargill in an online report of the event by The Hutchinson News.

This year’s nine participants were an increase from last year’s total of six which was the first year for the event. The organizers plan for this unique event to continue to be part of the State and look for the number of participants to increase as it gains interest.

What a fantastic opportunity for the Special Olympians to learn about animal agriculture and how to show livestock as well as for the 4-H and FFA members to teach them in a relaxed, educational environment. Kudos to the organizers of this event to encourage an activity at the state level that fosters service to others as the main goal. 

The second line of the 4-H motto is “my hands to larger service” while the last line of the FFA motto is “living to serve.” Both organizations teach and deem service a high priority. And, now their members can apply what they are learning in a real-world situation. It’s also very valuable that these youth have the opportunity to be peer mentors to fellow youth. Instilling a servant heart in today’s youth will set them up to put others over themselves as adults. 

I hope this inspires local county fairs throughout the state to incorporate the same programs into their schedules in the future so more youth can benefit from this worthwhile opportunity.