Raising 4-H Steers Help Wisconsin Gal Pay for College

Youth organization is much more than livestock and canning; for one girl, selling 4-H steers helped pay for college.

| March/April 2011

  • Showing Her Prized Hereford
    Jessica Pearce shows off her Hereford steer as she takes it through its paces.
    Beth Probst
  • Jessica Pearce and Her Hereford
    Jessica Pearce, a teen from Bayfield County, Wisconsin, used the money from the sale of her prize Hereford to help fund her college education.
    Beth Probst
  • Reserve Champion Steer
    4-H champion livestock bring the best price at auction.
    Beth Probst

  • Showing Her Prized Hereford
  • Jessica Pearce and Her Hereford
  • Reserve Champion Steer

The scramble for financial aid is on. For anyone who has teenagers getting ready to head off to college, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Federal student aid forms, scholarship essays, college applications, graduation parties, savings, hunting for that summer job, and, unfortunately, loans. Sometimes it takes a chimerical combination of resources to get through that first year. That's where selling 4-H steers could come in.

“I need at least market price,” says soon-to-be college freshman Jessica Pearce. “Everything after that is really good for me.” Moments later, the Bayfield County, Wisconsin, farmer steers her Hereford among a packed crowd of local business owners and community members.

“We’ll start the bidding at $1 … Do I hear $1 … $1.05, $1.10, $1.15 …” as fast as the auctioneer goes, the hands shoot up. Within minutes, the auctioneer shouts, “Sold.” But, Pearce’s job isn’t quite done. She walks over to her newest customer and poses for a photo for the local newspaper. Her steer just sold for a price well over market value. And, while parting with her steer is tough, tomorrow the 18-year-old heads off to college a little more financially secure on her way to make some other dreams come true.

The Bayfield County Livestock Auction, which takes place annually during the county fair, is one of the best in the region. In part, because many of the local businesses bidding on steers were once 4-Hers themselves.

“Our community is a strong supporter of 4-H,” says Ian Meeker, 4-H youth development educator for Bayfield County. “As former 4-Hers, or parents with former 4-Hers, many of the local business owners know how much work the kids put in to showing these animals. They also know they are getting a premium product.”

As for the teens showing, “students really get what they put in,” Meeker says. “But overall, I think the program teaches some core lessons – most important being you learn how to learn new things.” Projects range from building rockets to planting a garden, canning, woodworking or auctioning a steer off at the county fair, to more conventional skills such as public speaking. All in all, there’s pretty much something for everyone.



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