Cattlemen’s Family Legacy Heifer Scholarship goes to Darby Knoll
The average age of the U.S. rancher today is 58 years old, according to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture. In contrast, producers under the age of 35 who are principle operators or a farm or ranch represent just 6 percent of the nation’s agricultural producers. Meanwhile, 33 percent of the nation’s producers are over the age of 65.
This age gap has resulted in quiet main streets, empty classrooms, shuttered businesses and fewer opportunities in rural America.
However, the reality is that soon the torch will need to be passed on. Yet, with so many young people moving to urban areas in pursuit of other career opportunities, it’s left many wondering, who will the next food producers be?
That’s why the Cattlemen’s Family Legacy Heifer Scholarship was created. The program is sponsored by a partnership between the Western Junior Livestock Show and the Center States Fair Foundation. Its goal is to support youth in agriculture and help them get a solid start in the cattle business. The scholarship isn’t a cash award that should be used to pay college tuition; this one is unique in that the recipient receives a heifer donated by a Black Hills Stock Show exhibitor.
This year’s recipient is Darby Knoll, a high school senior from Platte, South Dakota. The daughter of Dave and Maryann Knoll, Darby recently graduated and has started taking online classes in the pursuit of dual degrees in business and economics.
“My goal is to one day go to law school and get involved in politics,” said Knoll. “I also love agriculture and promoting this industry to others. I hope to stay involved in the cattle business, and receiving this heifer will be the official start of my herd.”
Knoll will receive a Red Angus heifer from Gran Red Angus. Owned by Larry Gran, the cattle are managed alongside his daughter and son-in-law’s — Katy and Cory Johnson — herd in Veteran, Wyo. The Johnsons operate Flat Iron Red Angus, and collectively, the family has been involved in the cattle industry for 80+ years.
“We’ve raised cattle a long time, and we wanted to find a way to promote the Red Angus breed and the industry as a whole while supporting a young person wanting to get started,” said Cory Johnson. “We want to keep this legacy going and get kids interested in Red Angus, so donating a heifer to this scholarship program seemed like a great way to do just that.”
The heifer was hand-picked from the top end of Gran’s replacement heifer pen. She’s sired by McPhee Trophy 36, and Johnson says she’s from a great cow family that has top production numbers.
“This heifer is one of the top two that Larry had in his pen; she’s a high-performance heifer — not just a show heifer — who should be a great opportunity for a young person getting started,” said Johnson.
Knoll will be awarded the heifer during the 2018 Black Hills Stock Show. In her application, she not only had to write an essay and be interviewed about why she wanted to be part of the Cattlemen’s Family Legacy, but she also had to submit a letter of recommendation from a third party who could vouch that she had the facilities and capabilities to care for and raise a heifer in a proper setting.
The Gran Red Angus heifer will soon call Knoll Land and Cattle in Platte home, and Knoll is excited to get her bred and show her in the Futurity Show at the Western Junior Livestock Show, as well as 4-H and jackpot shows across the state in the upcoming year. She will be required to submit to the Central States Fair a progress report on the heifer twice within the first year.
“I’ve always loved showing cattle — halter breaking, working on hair, fitting and clipping, and competing against other heifers in the ring,” she said. “I’m excited to have this opportunity with another heifer, and I hope to make the donors proud of what we can accomplish together.”
Knoll competed against other students ages 8-17 to win this scholarship award.
In her spare time, she participates in youth trap leagues and the South Dakota Junior Points Show Association. She has three older brothers, Duke, Davey and Dylan, and she says growing up on a ranch has instilled in her a hard work ethic and a passion for the industry.
“I would love to be an advocate for agriculture one day,” said the 18-year old. “I fell in love with this industry when I was eight years old and won grand champion beef showmanship at my first show. Since then, being around cattle and meeting so many great people has really inspired me to stay involved in this industry.”
Traditionally, the recipient and the donor don’t connect until BHSS, and both Knoll and the Gran/Johnson families are excited to meet.
“We are excited to meet the scholarship winner at BHSS and show her the heifer we chose out of the replacement pen,” said Johnson. “This is such a great way to support area youth, and we hope the recipient has great luck with this heifer.”
“Winning this is such a huge honor, and to actually receive a heifer is just so exciting,” added Knoll. “I went out on a limb when I applied, so I was extremely surprised and thankful the committee chose me to win. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and look forward to growing my herd with this heifer.”