Maryland 4-H Dairy Judging Team Goes Abroad
The summer after your high school career comes to an end is typically one of transition: saying good bye to friends, preparing for living somewhere other than the home you grew up in, and, of course, the graduation parties. This summer was especially noteworthy for the four team members on the Maryland 4-H Dairy Judging team as they had the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom and Ireland as part of an international dairy judging experience.
Three of the team members - Ian Doody, Julia Doody, and Courtney Hoff - also graduated from high school this year, while Cassidy Schirmer finished her freshman year in college. Thinking back to being at that stage of life, it is hard to imagine all of the milestones these 4-H members reached. Many in their last year of 4-H and readying their last set of fair entries, school, exams, and let’s not forget that back in October these individuals - along with coach Anne Davis and Kiera Finucane - won the National 4-H Dairy Judging Contest. What a year it’s been!
Dairy judging begins at a very young age for many of the Maryland 4-H youth. The friendships, life skills and opportunities provided by the program are not lost on this team. “Dairy judging has been an activity that has occupied many days and nights of the summers of my adolescent years. Not only has it taught me to think and reason quickly, but it has also given me a confidence that allows me to support my decisions in the presence of others who may disagree,” says Ian Doody. These are the key skills we hope to impart to all youth in the program, whether they travel on a state team or not. Julia Doody explains how she sees the impact of the 4-H program. “Dairy judging started for me as the continuation of a family tradition in 4-H, but quickly grew to much more than that. From gaining public speaking skills and confidence in my own decisions to having the opportunity to represent my region, state, and even country, I cannot express how much I have learned from and enjoyed my years in the 4-H Dairy Judging program.”
With great success comes even more hard work and this group rose to the challenge. Winning the contest in October provided another opportunity and yet another challenge to these young people. The opportunity- travelling internationally to judge dairy cattle - came with the challenge of raising $35,000. The group, along with their families and coaches, came up with a plan. As their 4-H career taught them, they put the plan into action. By the end of May, the fundraising goal was reached, thanks to generous help from organizations that came forward with fundraising opportunities, farmers who provided and purchased donated auction items and companies who donated supplies and products for the team to package and sell at various events. This was truly the effort of an entire state to reach this goal.
June 18th saw the team members, coaches and their families gathering at the airport for a fond farewell as the group departed on their adventure. Traveling through Scotland, England and Ireland afforded two judging contest opportunities as well as countless farm visits. “It is hard to pick just one thing from the amazing whirlwind trip spanning three countries. I really enjoyed having the chance to see first-hand how various dairy farms are successfully operated in other countries. I don’t think anything can top the experience of being able to judge dairy in a white lab coat in Scotland or winning our division in Ireland,” said Cassidy Schirmer. However, time was made to see many important sights along the journey. The group went to London and toured the city, saw The Lion King on stage and visited an Irish Pub (or two) with live music. “As for the trip itself, saying it was an amazing adventure does not really do it justice. Along with the team dinners and farm tours, I don’t think I will ever really forget the beauty of Ireland's Cliffs of Moher or the Ring of Kerry,” said Courtney Hoff. The trip provided countless memories for this group and they have been busy telling tales of their adventures around the state this summer.
Coach Anne explains, “Dairy Judging provides many important life skills for 4-Hers that extend far beyond learning the conformation of dairy cows. The evaluation, decision making, and communication skills honed through dairy judging are essential critical thinking skills needed in today's world. Further, the opportunities to travel regionally, nationally and internationally through dairy judging activities help expand the worldview of these young adults. The maturity and poise with which the Maryland 4-H team comported themselves on our travels was to be commended.” This quote sums up feelings all of us were fortunate to share in this 4-H experience. This program helps youths develop into strong, confident individuals capable of making a rational decision and eloquently defending the reasons used in making that choice. Even better, three of the four individuals on this team are already back home helping coach the next generation of 4-H Dairy Cattle judges!
Should you be interested in finding out more details, please see the blog that the team members wrote throughout the trip or contact Kiera Finucane at (301) 405-1392.