Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Perseverance, integrity, honesty, responsibility and service are the hallmarks of any successful business. Several young business enthusiasts learned these characteristics through the 4-H youth organization and have created growing entrepreneurial ventures.
Seizing an opportunity netted 15-year-old Megan Marion her first sales job with her family’s livestock feed dealership. She supplies fellow 4-H’ers, friends and family with just the right nourishment for their animals. “There were no dealers for Hackman Brothers Feed in our area since our own dealer stopped selling the product. My family decided to be a dealer and my parents, Tim and Tammy, agreed that I do the paperwork and orders. Selling the feed enables our family to feed our livestock — cattle and pigs — for a lower cost while making good products available to others.”
To boost her outreach and sales, Marion initially offers a discounted price so buyers can try the product. “My customers usually like the product and I sell it to anyone that’s interested. Hackman offers feed for different species including swine, cattle, rabbits, sheep, goats and pet food.”
Marion’s 4-H career has been loaded with various projects. Currently in her seventh year, she has completed sewing, swine, cake decorating, cattle and sheep projects, and often travels with her family to pig and cattle shows locally, regionally and nationally. Her years in 4-H provided the benchmark for her interest in FFA. While the Marions live in Vigo County, their children attend Riverton Parke Junior and Senior High School in Parke County because of the school’s recognized FFA program. Megan will be a sophomore, her brother, Matthew, a senior, and younger sister, Michaela, a sixth grader.
“4-H has taught me responsibility, how to keep track of paperwork, feed my animals, and how to talk to judges,” Marion says. “My 4-H time prepped me for involvement in FFA. I began livestock judging with the Vigo County 4-H Livestock Judging team and now do that for FFA and at shows where my family attends.”
Becoming entrenched in FFA’s ideals and programs has boded well for Marion as she is one of six youth to travel to and compete in livestock judging at the International Royal Highlands Livestock Show in Scotland from June 19 to July 3. The team includes her brother Matthew, Corey and Tanner Edge, Shelly Benell, Kelly Dressler and the team’s coaches, Doug and Lisa Edge.
Marion’s chosen FFA Supervised Agriculture Experience of agri-business sits well with her livestock feed sales venture. “If I keep records of everything I do well with the sales then I can use what I’ve learned to compete at district, state and even national FFA levels. In my senior year of high school I can apply for a National FFA Foundation grant that would help toward further business development.”
“4-H has helped me develop life skills and is a good experience,” says Megan. “I’ve learned so much and made lots of friends.”
The cute factor as a money maker
When Bailey Bergherm began her 4-H career 11 years ago, she really didn’t know anything about goats. What she has learned since has transformed her into an astute young businesswoman who helps young 4-H’ers, has launched her interest in judging goat shows and established her as a respected Boer goat breeder.
“4-H has been an inspiration to me,” says Bergherm, who lives in southwestern Vigo County. “Through my 10 years in 4-H I’ve shown cattle, horses and sheep, and completed projects in arts and crafts, but learning about and showing Boer goats has had the greatest impact.”
Her first year in 4-H Bergherm entered the goat show with a dairy doe, a Boer doe and a meat wether. “I just thought it was cute to watch them eat, and I learned how to show them. The Boer goats turned into a bigger experience seven to eight years later. I’ve had 80 head at one point and am approaching that again. My parents and I rotate them on the land we have, and we do embryo transfers for recipient goats to build the herd and encourage better breeding.”
“Approximately 15-20 brood does are the base of the herd and we’ll have close to 60 babies, or kids, born starting in September. I’m hoping to sell a large percentage of those. About 75 percent are sold to 4-H’ers as meat wethers and the other 25 percent are my money makers, making about $2,000 per goat. I entered the tax world two years ago,” she says with a laugh.
Bergherm, who is in her second year at Ivy Tech with plans to finish her education in veterinary science at Purdue, likens the goat industry to the cattle industry. “Goats are similar to cattle in that people will pay a lot of money for potential prize-winning steers. I’m now seeing goats selling for big money so they do well in breeding and showing.”
She has established herself and her goats in the industry through networking, working at other recognized Boer goat operations in Indiana and offering her services to 4-H’ers and goat shows. “I try to keep a small percentage of goats back to show at national shows like the American Boer Goat Association,” says Bergherm. “My parents, Julie and Bill, have helped me a lot, and Dad drives me everywhere with our trailer of goats. I’m now being asked to do some clinics and judge for other counties’ 4-H programs. That’s my way of giving back to 4-H. Eventually I want to judge national shows and be active in the industry and have a voice.”
Earning your first 4-H animal
Emmy Macak learned at a very young age that she has to work and save for what she really wants. “When I was very little, even before I was in school, I would always go to the rabbit barn first at the Vigo County Fair. I loved rabbits and asked my parents, Brad and Brandy, for one. They told me rabbits cost a lot so I had to come up with the means to have rabbits and raise them. That’s when I came up with the idea of making jewelry to fund my love of rabbits.”
Now 13 years old and an eighth grader at West Vigo Middle School, Macak’s zest for salesmanship has grown significantly. Her first month of making jewelry and selling it at Trish Schoffstall’s Front Porch Friends and Flowers Too shop in West Terre Haute was Macak’s taste of success. “Once I started selling jewelry at the ‘Front Porch’ my business started booming. I sell the glass beaded and custom jewelry at area craft fairs and offer necklaces, earrings, bracelets, bookmarks, key chains, and Christmas ornaments. I’ve also made rabbit charms for a project for the rabbit barn.”
While Macak no longer sells her products at Schoffstall’s store, her efforts have not gone unrecognized. Her first year in 4-H she won grand champion for her jewelry at the Vigo County Fair and a blue ribbon for them at the Indiana State Fair. She continues to do well with jewelry at the county and state fairs and hopes to pass the jewelry-making tradition on to younger sister Grace. “I hope she understands it’s a great way to support her rabbit project. She loves bunnies too, and makes jewelry now for mini 4-H and also sells her jewelry.”
“4-H has taught me leadership, business and social skills,” says Macak. “I have to talk about my jewelry to judges and older people so I can’t be afraid to talk to people. I hope it helps Grace in her life because she’s following in my footsteps a little.”
What’s to come
Many Wabash Valley youth excel in 4-H, whether their interests lie in livestock, horticulture, foods, photography or other areas.
The Tribune-Star will be highlighting one person each Sunday for several weeks. Be sure to read through the Valley Life section for the details on these youth, their achievements and their impressive work ethics.