A feature from the 2020 Farm Prodcuts Guide.
Kaitlin Bell, an 18-year-old from Nottingham, Pa., made Pennsylvania Farm Show history January as the first person in the fair's 104 years to win Beef Cattle Supreme in both the heifer and the bull livestock showing categories.
The Farm Show judges evaluated Kaitlin and her fellow competitors on their ability to guide their animals in the ring, while scoring their cattle on specific traits like muscling and posture.
"I started crying, I was so overwhelmed," says Kaitlin of her Farm Show experience. "My parents were crying and screaming, and ran into the ring. People try for years and never get to win even one division."
"Young people like Kaitlin Bell are the future of Pennsylvania's $135.7 billion agriculture industry," said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. "We are proud of Kaitlin and the example she set during Farm Show for excellence in knowledge and care of her animals, as well as confidence and a tenacious competitive spirit. She represents a bright future for our industry."
Good bovine genetics was only part of the story; hard work and family support over the years played an important role.
"Leading up to the Farm Show, my brother David and I spent hours every night after school to get the cattle fed with their individually mixed rations and turned out to their respective pastures. The most time consuming part was the daily stall cleaning to keep their hair soft and silky," recalls Kaitlin.
As a child, Kaitlin showed an early affinity for animals. Parents David Sr. and Tiffany encouraged their children to join 4-H, a worldwide youth development organization with an active Chester County chapter.
"Penn State Extension's 4-H Youth Development program is open to all youth ages 5-18 years old, no matter their background or where they live," says Logan Hall, 4-H Extension Educator. "We offer a wide variety of project areas including animal science, food science and STEM. Youth can even lease a large animal as a 4-H project."
"We see firsthand the amount of responsibility, decision making, leadership and dedication it takes to prepare a large animal to be handled and safely shown," says Tiffany. "It's almost like the kids that participate in showing have an 'unfair' advantage over those that don't."
"There's so much to learn and you make amazing friends," says Kaitlin. "I've learned the value of hard work, a deep respect for animals and the importance of balancing the books because feed is not cheap."
Kaitlin's family, especially her brother, tends the cattle so she can still compete when she returns home from college on breaks. Caring for these animals is a significant commitment of time and money they are happy to make.
"I always tell kids involved in livestock showing to remember to thank your family," says Kaitlin.
Says David Sr., "Farming is not your typical job, but I wouldn't trade the long days and sometimes short nights because of the family togetherness. There are so many things in life that pull a family in different directions, but farming is something that pulls you together."
Kaitlin, now a junior by credits at Kansas State University (thanks to a dual enrollment program with Oxford Area High School and Cecil College) is pursuing a major in Agricultural Business with a minor in Animal Science.
"In 2050, we are anticipating a world population of 9 billion people meaning we need to figure out how to feed 2 billion more people than we are now. There is opportunity in increasing crop yields and efficiently raising livestock. There is also opportunity in raising organic, grass fed beef. There is a market for everybody," says Kaitlin.
With agricultural champions like Kaitlin Bell at the helm, we are optimistic, too.