Ten years and twenty goats later

By Madelyn Toole – 

In Adams County, there are few events as big as the Adams County Fair. One week out of the year, our community comes together to share in good food, entertainment, and to support local youth. It has become a large part of our little corner of the world and a good number of people choose to share in it. I have always been a fair-goer– this is largely due to my love of
animals and fried foods. However, the most likely reason I enjoy the county fair so much is because of my competitive spirit.
At a young age, I walked into the least-popular barn on the fairgrounds at the time, marched up to a pen, and declared that I would be showing goats when I began 4-H. My mother is a former 4-H member who, at the time, definitely preferred other species to the one I had chosen. She had shown cattle, hogs, and sheep and knew little about goats. However, I would not budge on my decision, and when my first year of 4-H rolled around, we purchased two goats as my project: Buckeye and Starbucks. I fell in love immediately. Over the years as a member of 4-H, in addition to goats, I have taken hogs, feeder calves, and a creative writing project. But clearly, the goats and I were a perfect match and we clicked instantly.
Ten years and twenty goats later, it is so hard to say goodbye to something I have grown to enjoy so much. I adore the animals, but more importantly, I appreciate the experience that showing has given me. I have been given the opportunity to engage in friendly competition with the other youth in the county, make new friends, and learn about failure and success along the
way. 4-H and showing goats has taught me that winning is never the only success. There is success within the friendships that I have made and the times I have learned about responsibility, luck, and persistence.
Showing livestock at the fair is definitely a family event. It would be nearly impossible for a child to be successful without the assistance of their family, or some type of a support system. Whole families become involved, and then connect with other families with similar interests. This leads to a community of families and friends, all connected by their interest in showing at the county fair. It begins as a team effort at home, and then becomes a group project at the fair. You gain the support of your family, your 4-H club, and the friends you have made.
My dad has a signature phrase that he says frequently at our house, “It is not what you get from it, but what you become by it.” This rings true about my years in 4-H. I have won trophies and honors, but receiving those recognitions was never the ultimate goal of the program. On the contrary, it is what I have become from it that is most important. I now know
when to lend a helping hand to my sisters or others, how to be responsible for a living creature, and how to be thankful when someone supports you.
What have ten years and twenty goats taught me? I have learned that it’s important to be passionate about what I do. I have learned a little about winning with style and losing with grace. Finally, I have learned that when needed, there will always be people in our tight-knit county that will lend you a helping hand.