Grounded in gratitude at take off

By the time these words are inked on a page of newsprint, I’ll be at The Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, Scotland. As I wrote in my column last fall, Dan and three of his fellow Stearns County 4-H’ers earned a berth in the International Dairy Judging Contest. What seemed so far away back in October is now just days away.
As I make final plans and pack my suitcase, lots of feelings are flowing through me.
Excitement is bubbling over the top.
I love to travel – the adventures, the sights, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures – all of it.
I’m also really excited to share this experience with Dan. I try not to think about it, because it makes me cry, but he’ll be spreading his wings in a few short years. Time together now is precious.
Anxiety is simmering beneath the surface.
Every time I travel, there’s always a bit of angst to temper the joy. I worry about leaving Glen and the girls and the farm. I worry a little about the travel itself.
Relief is seeping in.
Since October, Scotland planning and correspondence have been permanent items on my to-do list. I told Dan I’ll be officially excited once our plane takes off, but I’m already starting to feel relief that everything has come together.
Pride is constant.
Every time I try to imagine what Scotland and The Royal Highland show will be like I am reminded how proud I am of Dan and his teammates: Megan, Tyler, and Lanna.
4-H’ers get one opportunity to compete in the national dairy judging contest during their years in 4-H. That means this team from Stearns County had just one chance to earn a spot in the international contest. In all of 4-H and youth activities, there are lots of last chances due to aging out, but I can think of only a couple other cases where you truly only get one chance.
Dairy judging isn’t easy. Competitive dairy judges need good time management, observation, critical thinking, and note-taking skills. There’s a lot to keep track of while placing a class and 12 minutes goes by mighty quick.
And then there’s the subjectivity. There’s no time clock or tally of touchdowns to decide who wins. Dairy judging scores are all subjective. Every official judge evaluates classes differently. Placing a contest well comes down to which 4-H’ers saw the class most like the official. Reasons scores are even more subjective.
Dairy judging practice isn’t any easier. Every set of reasons kids give is followed with, “Good job. But here’s how you can do it better.”
It’s never just, “Good job.” There is always feedback on how to improve.
Dan and his teammates embraced that constructive criticism last fall while preparing for the national contest. Each set of reasons they delivered was better than the last.
Their preparation – and a little luck – helped them make the most of the opportunity. Again, I couldn’t be more proud.
Gratitude is keeping me grounded.
There are so many people to thank for making this experience possible.
To Glen, Monika, Daphne, our families, and employees: Thank you for keeping everything going while we’re gone.
To Dan, Megan, Tyler, and Lanna: Thank you for taking on the challenge of dairy judging and for committing to reaching your goals.
To my fellow dairy judging coaches, parents, and 4-H staff: Thank you for helping with the many, many details this trip entailed.
To all of our families, friends, and business owners who signed on as sponsors: Thank you, thank you, thank you. This opportunity would not have been possible without your financial support.
When we first started talking about accepting the invitation to the international contest, we reached out to the companies with whom we do business to ask for their support. I have been overcome with gratitude by everyone’s generosity and belief in supporting youth experiences. We are so fortunate to be part of this incredible business community. Thank you, again.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, Monika, and Daphne. Sadie also writes a blog at She can be reached at [email protected].


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