The final drive….

By now the trailers have pulled out of the driveway, and many have began pulling into Hattiesburg, Mississippi for the 2017 AJSA National Classic. But what if when you closed the trailer door, it was your last time? Your last time driving away from your house headed to the National Classic. Your last radio blaring, family road trip headed to wherever the destination this year might be.

Your last AJSA National Classic is comparable to graduating high school. It’s like a right of passage out of the comforts of the familiar and headed into the world of being an adult (ah!) Simmental breeder. Unlike high school graduation, there are no invitations, parties, or gifts. Many people don’t even bring it up. It’s only prevalent to the AJSA member and their family. For many of them it changes their summers, their family vacation, and what they have done for the last 10+ years.

I want to talk about it though. I want to acknowledge everyone of you whose last year it is because you know what? I’ve been there. In 2009, in Columbus, Indiana I, too finished my AJSA career. Did I win grand champion? no. Did I win overall? no. It was actually the only time in my entire AJSA career that I didn’t compete in every contest. Our unspoken rule in our family was that if we were attending you competed in everything. In 2009, I told my dad I was skipping the judging contest. I had competed in every contest for 12 years, but not this year. I’m not telling you this story, last timers, for you to skip contests this year. The moral of the story – enjoy it. Enjoy the good, the bad, the not so great contest, and most importantly the friends and the memories.

So, today I would like to celebrate some of the AJSA members who got in the truck and are traveling to Mississippi for their final AJSA National Classic. We reached out to a lot of last timers, and below we are happy to showcase some of their memories and advice. Perhaps most importantly, giving them an opportunity to thank those who have helped them in their AJSA career. If more come in this week, we will share those as well. I’ll be honest, this group is hard for me to watch move on. These are some exceptional young people, who I’m gonna make myself sound old, but I remember them as little boys and girls beginning their path through the AJSA. I have been a cheerleader for this group as they did great things. I am so proud of them.

For now, like Green Day sings, “I hope you had the time of your life.”

Morgan Phillips :: Maysville, Kentucky

What was your first AJSA event? My first AJSA Event as a competitive member was the 2005 Eastern Regional Classic in Harrisburg, PA. My novice career started in Oklahoma 2000.

What has been your most memorable moment as an AJSA member? This is a tough question because I have so many fond memories in the AJSA.  My most memorable moment as an AJSA member would have to be being elected to the AJSA Board of Trustees. Although I have won several contests and numerous cattle shows, and made a lot of friends, being on the board tops it all.  Serving our membership in this position was such a rewarding experience.  Our board had a purpose and in my opinion we accomplished so many things that helped to improve our association.

If you could give advice to a young AJSA member, what would it be? The advice that I would give younger members is to be competitive, but always be humble.   My best friends came from the AJSA and I love competing against them.  Deep down, I always hoped to win the Swiss Bell, but I am always happy for my friends when they are successful.  I would also encourage all young people to step out of their comfort zone and compete in all contests.  The fear you have when doing those contests is only temporary, but the benefits and skills you learn will last forever.  Do not take a single minute of your junior career for granted because I promise it goes by fast.

What has the AJSA taught you? The AJSA has taught me more than I had ever imagined it could. It taught me how to work, how to win, how to lose, how to be a good teammate, how to lead a group of people, and so much more. When I was elected to the AJSA board of trustees, I was not so sure about working with a group that I would only see two to three times per year. Being on the board taught me that communication is key and that a group of people that are so diverse can come together and complete tasks. The people that I have met through the AJSA and the lessons I have learned since joining have truly made me the person I am today.

Anyone you would like to thank? Although there is no possible way to mention everyone that has aided in my junior career, there are a few that I need to mention.  These include Doug Parke, Bob MacGregor, JR Boulden,  Miranda Kaiser and the Hudson Pines Farm crew,  Craig McCallum and the entire Circle M Farms crew,  the ASA Board of Trustees, the ASSF Board members, and all of those who support and believe in the future of the AJSA.  I owe so many thanks to my grandparents, Uncle Keith, Aunt Lindsay, my brother AK, and my parents, Chan and Tonya.  Lastly, I thank my Lord and Savior who has allowed me to show cattle all across this nation, meet great people, and answered my every prayer for 22 years.

Shelby Ison :: Atlanta, Indiana

What was your first AJSA event? My first AJSA National Classic was in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 2002.

What has been your most memorable moment as an AJSA member? There have been multiple memorable moments throughout my fifteen years in the AJSA program. They have ranged from painting keepsake boxes as a novice, water fights after the shows, fireworks on the drive to nationals, racing down the hill in Iowa, breaking down in Iowa on the way back from Nebraska to our county fair, placing in the top ten with heifers we raised, receiving all three AJSA merit awards, being the first recipient of the Nathan Adkins Memorial Scholarship, and meeting friends from all over this great nation. It would be impossible to narrow down my time in this program to just one moment as I have experienced so much. However, I am eternally grateful for each moment I have been blessed within this amazing program.

If you could give advice to a young AJSA member, what would it be? Enjoy every moment you have as a Junior, be humble in both your wins and losses, and say thank you to those who got you where you are. Time goes by a lot faster than you think. Never take anything or anyone for granted. Shake the judges hand regardless of how you did in the ring and always walk out with your head held high. Make sure that you jump for any opportunity presented to you, whether that is meeting a new friend or running for a trustee position. The last thing you want to do is get to the end of this road and have any regrets.

What has the AJSA taught you? The AJSA has taught me that family is everything. I have always said that I have many families. I have my cattle, FFA, 4-H, school, church, and blood related families. They all hold a special place in my heart, but I have a definite fondness for my cattle family. The people that make up my cattle family have slid in without me even knowing it over my entire time in the AJSA program and the cattle industry. They are the kind of people that will drive all the way to Adair, Iowa with two trucks and a flatbed trailer to pick you up after your truck broke down coming home from a national classic and get you back in time for the county fair. They are the kind of people who will sit you down and remind you what is truly important even if it is not what you may have wanted to hear after a difficult day. They are also the kind of people that are there to laugh and cry with you and without a doubt be there when you need it the most. I would not trade my cattle family for the world.

Anyone you would like to thank? I have been blessed that the number of people that I could list would be seemingly infinite. I have much to be grateful for and I could never say thank you enough to the people that have gotten me to where I am today. However, I would like to thank everyone that is involved with putting together the fantastic national and regional classics that I have had the opportunity to attend, Randy Smith, Scott Sinnamon and family, the Herr, Meinders. and McGurk families, Nancy Adkins, Nana Willis and family, Jame Kreiger and family, Doug Parke and family, all of my AJSA and IJSA friends and family, my grandparents and family, and above all else my mother, father, and sister. Those last three people have without a doubt shaped me the most in my time as an AJSA member. I strive to live every day to make my mother proud and I know I would not be the person I am today without her. My dad has driven me to every single nationals and regionals, fit all of my calves, and encouraged me every step of the way. My sister has allowed me to continue to follow my passions even while attending college and I could not ask for a better friend and partner in crime. I know I have missed some people and I can only hope that they know how much I appreciate all that they have done, are doing, or will do for me. Thank you!

Jody Bargary :: Tonganoxie, Kansas

What was your first AJSA event? My first AJSA event was the in Sedalia, MO at the 2011 AJSA National Classic. I showed my first Purebred Simmental heifer named Shoeshine.

What has been your most memorable moment as an AJSA member? While there have been many memorable moments during my time participating in AJSA events, my most memorable was this past week at the North Central Regional Classic in Huron, SD. I was fortunate enough to show the 5th overall bred and owned purebred heifer. It was my last show that I would exhibit cattle at as a junior, and the heifer I showed was out of my favorite cow that I previously showed in AJSA events as a heifer. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for my last time in the show ring. Being able to work towards that end goal with a heifer that I had raised just reminded me of why we’re here as exhibitors and cattle producers, and what we’re all trying to work towards.

If you could give advice to a young AJSA member, what would it be? If I could give advice to a young AJSA member, I would just say go for it. Whether you’re doing sales talk or showmanship, don’t too worried about messing up or doing something wrong that you don’t give it 100%. If you really put yourself out there with everything you do, you will get the most out of every experience.

What has the AJSA taught you? Looking back on my experience as an AJSA member, there is an endless list of what the AJSA has taught me. For me, the AJSA has taught me to really step outside of my comfort zone. During my first AJSA event, I was shy and was just trying to make it through all of the contests. By the end of the week, I had made some friends during these contests and relaxed a little bit. Through many more events and contests I became more comfortable with striking up conversation between peers and adults aswell. As a result, I began taking on challenges that I had never previously thought about trying. I ran for the AJSA Board of Trustees after being involved with the breed for just four years, and was able to get elected at the National Classic in 2015. The AJSA has really helped me come outside of my shell and helped me achieve goals I would have been very intimidated by if I had not become so involved in the association.

Anyone you would like to thank? There is a list of people I would like to thank, but my parents rise to the top of that list very quickly. My father and I have always enjoyed raising cattle together. While he has not been able to go to every show with me, he always makes sure I have the tools I need to succeed. My mother also makes sure I have the tools I need to succeed, especially at shows. We all know how busy shows can get between contests and cattle, and my mom makes sure both myself as well as my calves are doing okay at all times. Almost everybody knows that most the work is done at home, and both of my parents have been by my side in helping with that too. From helping me walk heifers in the morning to feeding them when I’m at school, they help me with anything I need. I truly would not be where I am today without the support of my parents, and that’s something I will never be able to thank them enough for.

Britney Beins Francis :: Deweyville, Utah 

What was your first AJSA event? My first AJSA event was the Western Regional Show in Moses Lake, Washington; I’d like to think was around 2008. I competed at Western Regionals for a couple years when we attended my first Jr. Nationals in 2011 in Sedalia, Missouri.

What has been your most memorable moment as an AJSA member? As a member of the AJSA and being a Jr trustee, I’ve had more memorable moments than I could possibly count, but probably my two most favorite memories would be the friendships and colleagues made through not only the simmental breed but the beef industry as well. Having friends across the nation who share a common interest is an amazing experience. My family and I have been so lucky to be taken in and accepted by everyone in the AJSA. The second memory would be the life lessons and skills we as members pick up while competing at a young age will always be mind blowing. As a trustee sitting on the side as junior members gain confidence year after year and striving for their goals is always a heart warming moment, one I’ll never forget.

If you could give advice to a young AJSA member, what would it be? My advice to an AJSA member would be, no matter how you do in any competition or how you place in a show don’t ever be disappointed in yourself or put others down. Always be positive, be a supportive friend and push yourself harder for the next time. A champion was once a contender who refused to give up.

What has the AJSA taught you? The AJSA has taught me that there is always a part of yourself you’d never know is there until you push yourself out of your comfort zone. I never thought I’d be as good of a public speaker, livestock judger, or cattlemen if I didn’t try at every opportunity given. You just have to believe in yourself.

Anyone you would like to thank? I’d like to first off thank my parents for their endless support, pushing me to be my best and the many hours driving to shows for us girls. My sisters and husband. To Hannah Wine, for being the best youth advisor and being fun yet strong for dealing with all the youth. And the Lord above, for being a silent guide in life.

Jessica Smith :: Picayune, Mississippi

What was your first AJSA event? My first AJSA event was the 1999 National Classic in Hutchison, Kansas. My older brother, Alan, was just old enough to start competing, and I was a satiny little novice. Those novice years were the best years of my life.

What has been your most memorable moment as an AJSA member? Over the past 18 years, countless memories have been made. From driving to the 2001 Junior Nationals in Fort Collins, CO without A/C in our truck to spending Independence Days watching fireworks from tie-outs, we’ve made memories through the good and the bad. There are too many good stories to tell, but one of my favorite and definitely most memorable moments has to be at the 2005 Junior Nationals in Sedalia, MO. It was my very first National Classic to compete in, and with a few years of novice practice under my belt, boy was I ready to run with the big kids. At the end of our week at the awards banquet, I was stunned to hear my name called out with my older brother and his friends for Top 20 Public Speaking. As they called the names out, starting at 20th place, and on down to 1st, I found myself standing in the top 3. Sure enough, I won the Public Speaking contest that year, and I don’t know who was more shocked, me or the room full of AJSA members and their parents! It was so awesome to see my hard work and practice pay off, and it made it even sweeter to beat my older brother.

If you could give advice to a young AJSA member, what would it be? Advice…hmm… I could write a book. My main piece of advice is to take advantage of every opportunity: in the show ring, in a contest, and especially out in the barns. Seize the opportunity to show off your animals that you have been preparing for months for the show; enjoy those few minutes with the judge. Seize the opportunity to learn something new in a contest, even if you hate giving a speech in front of judges or giving oral reasons for the judging contest; you are building life skills. Seize the opportunity to mingle with people from all parts of the United States; make new friends; these are relationships you will have for years to come.

What has the AJSA taught you? The AJSA has not taught me one given thing but many, many things about being a successful leader, a good cattleman, and a great friend. The AJSA has helped mold me into who I am today and will remain a part of me forever. This isn’t the end for my AJSA involvement. I mean, what else would I do every second or third week in July? Go to the beach and Disney World like normal people? No thanks.

Anyone you would like to thank? A HUGE thank you to the ASA Staff and Board members for all of their hard work in making sure the AJSA stays strong, past AJSA members and trustees for being great role models for me to look up to, my parents for hauling me thousands of miles the last 18 years, and all of the many friends that have turned into family along the way. Y’all have made these years worthwhile. And I can’t forget to thank God for blessing me to be a part of something bigger than myself. We owe it all to Him and the Simmental cow.











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