July 22, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
A big, hairy deal
MARION, Wis. – Growing up showing dairy cattle, clipping quickly became a part of life for Jacob Harbaugh of Marion. When he picked up his first set of clippers, Harbaugh did not expect the activity would eventually become a business that would earn him state-wide recognition.
Harbaugh, a member of the Clintonville FFA Chapter, was named the Wisconsin Star in Agribusiness June 14 at the Wisconsin FFA Convention & Expo in Madison. The award stems from the culmination of his Supervised Agricultural Experience based on his fledgling dairy cattle fitting business.
“I already had a dairy production SAE that I was working on,” Harbaugh said. “I spent a lot of time clipping, and at first, I thought that clipping could be a revenue source for that. But, then I got to thinking that I was providing a service for dairy farmers and that I might as well fill out the ag services SAE.”
That is how Harbaugh’s business, Harbaugh Hair Care, was born.
Harbaugh said he began clipping around the age of 12, working to keep the animals on his family’s farm groomed. From there, he branched out to help close friends and relatives and then moved on to working for others as a fitter around the age of 16.
“I started my SAE with three clients, and when I filled out my proficiency application this year, my SAE had grown to over 25 clients,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh said his clientele has continued to grow since submitting the application earlier this year.
The majority of Harbaugh’s clients are located within Wisconsin, but this summer, Harbaugh said he will travel across the Upper Midwest, working for farms that are exhibiting cattle at various shows and fairs.
Harbaugh said he has enjoyed improving his fitting abilities, and he finds satisfaction in a job well done. Developing his talent at fitting is not the only skill that Harbaugh has gained through his SAE.
“I have learned the value of communicating well with others, being able to let them know when I am and am not available,” Harbaugh said. “Time management is another big skill I have developed, being able to build my schedule, making sure I am not double booking. Budgeting and keeping track of expenses as well as invoicing clients are other skills I have learned.”
Harbaugh said he has learned life as a fitter can be grueling.
“The days get long, and you don’t get a lot of sleep at the shows,” Harbaugh said. “The biggest challenge is trying to fit everything in. There just aren’t that many fitters out there for the amount of work that is available. I have to turn down a lot of people because my schedule is already booked pretty full.”
A recent graduate of Clintonville High School, Harbaugh has been an active member of FFA since his freshman year.
“I went to national FFA convention and really made the decision to get involved from there,” Harbaugh said.
Besides his SAE work, Harbaugh was involved in his chapter’s dairy judging team and served as a chapter officer.
Harbaugh’s dairy production SAE is based on the herd of registered show cattle his family owns. The Harbaughs raise heifers on their farm near Marion and have milking females housed at other farms. Besides being active in FFA, Harbaugh has been an active member of 4-H and several junior breed associations and has been showing his family’s cattle from an early age.
After spending the summer fitting dairy cattle at a variety of shows, Harbaugh will attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in the fall, majoring in dairy science and food and agriculture business management.
Harbaugh plans to continue his fitting business, on a part-time basis, while he attends college.
“Having an extra income source is always nice, so if I have a weekend free, I might as well clip if I can,” Harbaugh said.
His involvement in FFA, Harbaugh said, laid a great foundation for his future in agriculture.
“I would encourage any young person, whether or not they have a background in agriculture, to take advantage of everything FFA has to offer,” Harbaugh said. “All of it – the life skills, the leadership experiences, the communication skills, the business development – are all such important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to future successes.”
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