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‘Blue ribbon kids’

Clay County 4-H uses community partnerships to engage both ‘city’ and ‘farm’ students
Story and photos by: Allison Parker 2/25/2019


Prior to the 2019 Tennessee State Swine Show, a group of Clay County 4-Hers had a one-of-a-kind opportunity to raise their show pigs at their local fairgrounds, thanks to the hard work of Extension agent Kristen Rich, back row far right, and Randall Kimes, back row far left, retired Extension agent and now program assistant. The students are, front row from left, Matt White, Mason Smith, and John Hamilton and back row, Heath Kimes and Kendall Hamilton.
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Randall Kimes has taken on the 4-H slogan, which encourages students to “Learn by Doing,” as his career motto. For the past 33 years, his work on the market hog project has become a shining example of the retired Clay County University of Tennessee Extension director’s dedication to this creed.

When Randall was named the county’s Extension agent in 1985, most 4-Hers involved in livestock projects were only those who lived on, or had access to, a farm. However, Randall wanted to include the ‘city kids,’ too. Over the next 15 years, he worked tirelessly to bring in students of all backgrounds, even though some of them had no place to house their livestock, thus limiting their participation in animal projects. 

In 2000, the Clay County Cattlemen’s Association paved the way for a solution when the organization built the Hamp Lynn Junior Lynn Pavilion on the Clay County Fairgrounds in Celina. The Clay County Park Board agreed that Randall and his 4-H students could use this new building, which would become the center point of the Clay County livestock project. Access to the pavilion provided students without farm access a place to keep their show pigs, and the central location allowed for direct guidance and supervision from Randall.

In 2008, the county’s pig project hit another roadblock.

The feed mill in a neighboring county closed down, and with no Co-op close by, the 4-Hers had no immediate source for obtaining feed. That’s when Paul Davis, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s nutritionist at the time, stepped in. Paul, who had helped Randall develop the three ratios fed to Clay County show pigs, contacted Andy Shrum, then manager of Macon Trousdale Farmers Co-op, for help. Prior to the feed mill closing, Randall used Co-op premixes and had the feed prepared at the mill and delivered to the pavilion. Andy agreed to provide the much-needed feed. Since that time, Macon Trousdale has delivered the custom-blended feeds to the pavilion, bagged and ready for the students to use. The members pick up the feed as needed as pay for it on an honor system.

“Co-op has gone above and beyond for us,” says Randall.  “Macon Trousdale’s current manager, Scottie Sadler, and his employees really go out of their way to meet not only our feed needs but with supplies, too.”

In the nearly two decades since the pavilion was built, Randall has broadened the use of the barn beyond housing show animals to a place where students can experience the market hog project from conception to market weight. 

Each spring, 4-Hers have the opportunity to assist Randall in the artificial insemination of last year’s best show pigs. Then, as each delivery nears, the Extension agent contacts the students to come watch, and sometimes assist, with the births of their new show pigs.

The pigs are either raised there in the pavilion or, for those students who raise their pigs elsewhere, the barn serves as a nursery until the pigs are weaned and as a place to pick up feed. Randall also uses the pavilion to hold skillathon, showmanship, and judging practices with his students.

In preparation for the 2019 show season, five of Randall’s 20 students took advantage of the opportunity to house their show pigs in the pavilion’s barn. One year, 14 students housed their pigs there.

Matt White, a junior at Clay County High School, says that because of the 4-H pavilion partnership he was able to participate in the pig project as a fifth grader, even though he lived in a subdivision.

 “I truly love the entire experience of showing pigs,” says Matt, adding that without the barn, he would not have been able to show, much less breed, farrow, and raise a pig to market weight until his freshman year, when his family moved into a house with acreage. “[The pavilion] has given us a place to spend time with friends, to work and learn, and to come together as a group to prepare.”

Jason Hamilton and his children, John, an eighth grader, and Kendall, a sixth grader, say having access to the barn has had a tremendous impact on their family.

“I was privileged to be raised on a farm and enjoyed the experience,” says Jason. “Even though I’m raising my family in town, I’ve always wanted my kids to experience part of the farming lifestyle. This program gives them a taste of what my childhood was like.”

During his tenure as Clay County’s Extension agent, Randall has helped more than 100 students raise pigs through the market hog project and successfully show them at the state’s 4-H/FFA Swine Show.  More than 15 of his 4-H students have exhibited grand or reserve champion pigs at the annual statewide competition, including his own children: Terra Kimes Davis, Kayla Kimes Jenkins, and Heath Kimes.

As Randall was working diligently, teaching his students the life lessons inherent in livestock projects like the market hog project, little did he know that he was actually grooming one of those champion title-holding students to eventually carry on his career creed. With his recent official retirement, the beloved 4-H agent’s dedication to his students came full circle as he passed the “Extension torch” to Kristen Rich. Under Randall’s guidance, Kristen began showing as a fourth grader and continued through her senior year. In 2011, she and her pavilion-born pig Claudia received the Grand Champion Market Hog title at the state show.

“The timing was just so perfect,” says Kristen, who received her degree from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in December. “Since I started college, this has been my dream job.”

The new 4-H agent says she looks forward to continuing the partnership with the Clay County Park Board and the barn.

“We are so lucky to be in a community that sees the good these livestock projects do for our students,” she says. “And I am excited to continue using these projects as an avenue for youth development.”

As for Randall, he is serving as a program assistant for Clay County 4-H and continues to help students raise livestock as well as compete in other 4-H events. Even though he’s guided many youth to the championship ring, Randall says his program is about much more than competing.

“Clay County’s 4-H has never been about raising blue ribbon livestock,” he explains. “Our goal has always been focused on raising blue ribbon kids.”

Results for 2019 Tennessee State Swine Show

Breeding Gilt Champion Drive

Overall — Ellie White, Clay, first; Bethany Sims, Roane, second; Lincoln Hart, Bledsoe, third; Emma Rue, Roane, fourth; and Gage Latham, McMinn, fifth.

Berkshire — Champion, Gracie Rue, Roane and Reserve Champion, Sophie Helton, Cumberland.

Chester White — Champion, Emma Rue, Roane and Reserve Champion, Wesley Trew, Polk.

Duroc — Champion, Bethany Sims, Roane and Reserve Champion, Tylan Lusk, Warren.

Hereford — Champion, Jadon Mertz, Warren and Reserve Champion, Grace Debusk, McMinn.

Spot — Champion, Emma Armstrong; Bedford and Reserve Champion, Emily Cline, McMinn.

Yorkshire — Champion, Ellie White, Clay and Reserve Champion, Bethany Sims, Roane.

AOB — Champion, Audra Hart, Bledsoe and Reserve Champion, Collen Mertz, Warren.

Crossbred — Champion, Lincoln Hart, Bledsoe and Reserve Champion, Gage Latham, McMinn.

Market Hog Champion Drive

Overall — Bethany Sims, Roane, first; Mary Carter Shirley, White, second; Maddie Rippy, Sumner, third; Lincoln Hart, Bledsoe, fourth; and Audra Hart, Bledsoe, fifth.

Duroc — Champion, Mary Carter Shirley, White and Reserve Champion Bethany Sims, Roane.

Yorkshire — Champion Lincoln Hart, Bledsoe and Reserve Champion, Eli Mundy, Claiborne.

AOB — Champion, Audra Hart, Bledsoe and Reserve Champion, Hannah Sanders, Warren.

Crossbred — Champion, Bethany Sims, Roane and Reserve Champion, Maddie Rippy, Sumner.

Carcass Class

Will Poynor, Williamson, first; John Allen Leath, Sumner, second; John Hamilton, Clay, third; Will Dodson, Clay, fourth; Kenley Roark, Macon, fifth; Caden McKnight, Monroe, sixth; Ethan Troglin, Cumberland, seventh; Keri Cox, Bradley, eighth; Lake Bates, Hickman, ninth; and Elizabeth McCollum, William son, tenth.

Showmanship Winners

Explorer — Champion, Jake Ozburn, Bedford and Reserve Champion, John Allen Leath, Sumner.

Junior— Champion, Audra Hart, Bledsoe and Reserve Champion, Ellie White, Clay.

Junior High — Champion, Bethany Sims, Roane and Reserve Champion, Maddie Rippy, Sumner.

Senior Level 1 — Champion, Eli Mundy, Claiborne and Reserve Champion, Foster Wingler, Rutherford.

Senior Level 2 — Champion, Lincoln Hart, Bledsoe and Reserve Champion, Samantha Roberts, McMinn.

Skillathon Winners

Explorer Division — Brett Rogers, Sumner, first; Ransom Johns, Williamson, second; Ava Shrader, Jefferson, third; Drew Comer, Macon, fourth; Hudson West, Macon, fifth.

Junior Division — Kendall Hamilton, Clay, first; Audra Hart, Bledsoe, second; Logan West, Macon; third; Kenley Roark, Macon, fourth; Caden McKnight, Monroe, fifth.

Junior High Division — Callie Head, Sumner, first; Kyra White, Macon, second; Eli Rich, Clay, third; Caleb Baird, Sumner, fourth; RuthAnn Johns, Williamson, fifth.

Senior Level 1 Division — Wesley Trew, Polk, first; John Neely, Rutherford, second; Ella McLerran, Clay, third; Liam Allen, Williamson, fourth; Stephanie Bates, Bradley, fifth.

Senior Level 2 Division — Kennedy Hill, Union, first; Keri Beth Cox, Bradley, second; Kaitlin Taylor, Wilson; third; Collen Mertz, Warren, fourth; Heath Kimes, Clay, fifth.

Premier Exhibitor Winners

Explorer Division

Breeding Gilt — Emma Rue, Roane, first; Tylan Lusk, Warren, second; Jake Ozburn, Bedford, third; Samantha Taylor, Rutherford, fourth; Ransom Johns, Williamson, fifth.

Market Hog — Drew Comer, Macon, first; Tylan Lusk, Warren, second; Emma Rue, Roane, third; Haley Poynor, Williamson, fourth; John Allen Leath, Sumner, fifth.

Junior Division

Breeding Gilt — Kenley Roark, Macon, first; Audra Hart, Bledsoe, second; Laney West, Bedford, third; Elizabeth McCollum, Williamson, fourth; Kendall Hamilton, Clay, fifth.

Market Hog —Audra Hart, Bledsoe, first; Kenley Roark, Macon, second; Mary Carter Shirley, White, third; Kendall Hamilton, Clay, fourth; Logan West, Macon, fifth.

Junior High Division

Breeding Gilt — Bethany Sims, Roane, first; Kyra White, Macon, second; Maddie Rippy, Sumner, third; Gage Latham, McMinn, fourth; Emily Cline, McMinn, fifth.

Market Hog — Kyra White, Macon, first; Maddie Rippy, Sumner, second; Bethany Sims, Roane, third; Will Poynor, Williamson, fourth; RuthAnn Johns, Williamson, fifth.

Senior Level 1 Division

Breeding Gilt — Wesley Trew, Polk County, first; Hannah Sanders, Warren, second; Eli Mundy, Claiborne, third; Ella McLerran, Clay, fourth; Sophie Helton, Cumberland, fifth.

Market Hog — John Neely, Rutherford, first; Wesley Trew, Polk, second; Hannah Sanders, Warren, third; Eli Mundy, Claiborne, fourth; Grace Rich, Clay, fifth.

Senior Level 2 Division

Breeding Gilt — Kaitlynn Norton, Sumner, first; Kennedy Hill, Union, second; Samantha Roberts, McMinn, third; Lincoln Hart, Bledsoe, fourth; Madisyn Harris, Loudon, fifth.   

Market Hog — Kennedy Hill, Union, first; Kaitlin Taylor, Wilson, second; Madisyn Harris, Loudon, third; Samantha Roberts, McMinn, fourth; and Lincoln Hart, Bledsoe, fifth.

2019 Tennessee State Junior Swine Show

The Tennessee State Junior Swine Show was held Jan. 10-12 at Middle Tennessee State University’s Tennessee Livestock Center.

The show featured 284 youth exhibitors from 38 counties across the state who presented 560 hogs in the showring. This included 158 breeding gilts and 402 market hogs. In addition to the individual hog classes, youth competed in showmanship, skillathon, and the ultrasound carcass class. This year’s show judge was Seth Ebert of York, Neb.

In addition to contests, youth were asked to participate in a canned food drive to benefit Nourish Rutherford Co. Food Bank. A total of 712 cans were collected.

Tennessee Farmers Cooperative helped sponsor the event, presenting a belt buckle and Co-op jacket to exhibitors of the grand and reserve champion of the Market Hog Show and providing an additional monetary reward if those champions were given Co-op feed as part of the animal’s nutrition plan.

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