Youth and Agriculture: 4-H, Agriculture Advocate Starts Young

Youth and Agriculture: 4-H, Agriculture Advocate Starts Young

Sixteen-year-old Addie Dillon has just returned from the state’s 4-H Congress on a high. She represented Caldwell County as a voting delegate at the four-day annual event that features a wide-ranging slate of educational programs, competitions, and recreational and social experiences. She also was inducted as a district officer and took home top honors in her age group for a presentation in the egg cookery category. Congratulations, Addie!

Move over Food Network Stars!

Addie not only researched and prepared a 12-minute presentation about egg nutrition, how to properly cook an egg, safety and handling, and the differences in the various grades of eggs, she had to work that information into an interesting and compelling cooking demonstration. For Addie, her presentation and recipe for egg muffins with eggs, cheese, bacon, and vegetables were a winning combo, earning her a spot in the national competition which will be held in Kentucky in November. 

When it comes to presentations, you might say Addie is well on her way to becoming a pro. She says it is all because of 4-H and agriculture.

“It teaches so many skills,” she says. “4-H has some really awesome programs that can help you learn about agriculture and the industry but it has so many other programs.” She ticks off a list: forestry, robotics, sewing, food science, to name a few. “4-H gives you so many opportunities. I’ve met people from across the nation. It’s just a really awesome program. And it’s not just limited to agriculture. There is a place for everybody.”

Showing Lambs and Mentoring Younger 4-H Members

 Spend a few minutes with Addie and she can give a master class on the merits of both 4-H and agriculture. Her enthusiasm carries over to her involvement with others.

 “She is an amazing young lady,” says Crystal Ward-Taylor, a lender with Carolina Farm Credit in the Lenoir and Conover branches, who also serves as a volunteer 4-H leader for the Caldwell County 4-H Livestock Club, of which Addie is a member. “She does a great job with her sheep and showing. She mentors the little ones who need help. She is a hard worker and has a huge knowledge of livestock and agriculture. We love her.”

Addie is quite involved with her show lambs – she has seven this year – and enjoys being part of the Catawba Valley Showmanship Circuit. She and her parents, Steve and April Dillon, also travel to shows out of state, mainly in Virginia, but they have also been to shows in Oklahoma and Kentucky. “Showtime is fun and if it is not too far of a drive, I’ll go there. I really like to show in a lot of different states.”

She shares her experience with younger girls, mainly ages six to 11, showing them the ropes when it comes to how to take care of their lambs and how to show them.

“I guess it’s my way of giving back, teaching them about 4-H projects and programs that I really care about and love.”

From Livestock Judging Competitions to Confident Public Speaker

Addie is an enthusiastic, confident ambassador for 4-H who is accustomed to speaking to others, whether one-on-one or to small groups, such as the egg cookery competition or teaching others about lamb showmanship. She was not always so comfortable. In fact, she says she was quite shy when younger.

“I think the thing that has helped me the most with teaching and presenting myself to others would be livestock judging,” she says. “In livestock judging we do these things called “reasons” and during the contest you have a class of four animals, and you have to place them. Reasons is like an impromptu presentation to a judge on why you placed the animals the way you did. You’re giving a presentation on your reasoning. You have to be calm, confident, speak loudly and clearly, talk in a way they can understand you, have good posture. It’s just as if you are addressing a group of people.”

Sounds like she is mastering these skills. She was the recent overall winner of the University of Tennessee Livestock Judging Camp. At the end of July, her team took home top honors at the North Carolina 4-H Livestock Judging Contest, where she was also second highest individual.

The Difference Agriculture and 4-H Makes

While a love of agriculture holds a special place in this teen’s heart she also recognizes and acknowledges the role 4-H and agriculture play in her developing skill sets. Leadership is another of her impressive attributes.

“I have learned how to present myself to people and it makes it a whole lot easier when I’m trying to teach people something because I can do it in a more logical, ordered way than just jumping around. It teaches you many different things. It teaches you how to be organized and time management. It teaches you a whole lot about responsibility, especially the agriculture aspect to it.”

Because Addie hopes to pursue some type of career in agriculture, maybe in animal science, she looks toward various 4-H events to help her build a college resume. That experience and involvement resulted in her winning a trip to the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, last year.

For this teen, who started showing lambs at age seven, and has a long list of daily chores involving the care of her show lambs and an equally long list of other 4-H events and activities, she looks forward to the Egg Chef Challenge at the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference in Louisville, which coincides with the North American International Livestock Exposition. Not only will she present her egg cookery demonstration, she also plans to be in the show ring with her lambs. “It’s a lot harder competition, but it’s really cool to see how they do things. Most of the time people are really nice. You can ask questions. It’s good research. You can learn more tools and methods. I like meeting people, too. I can talk show lambs all day. When I’m at shows, no matter where they are, I’m in my zone.”

No doubt, Addie Dillon will represent North Carolina, 4-H, and agriculture well.


In part 2 of our Youth and Agriculture series, Carolina Farm Credit’s Crystal Ward-Taylor shares her experiences as a volunteer leader of the Caldwell County 4-H Livestock Club.

By Leah Chester-Davis