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Berkland reflects on 4-H career at Osceola County Fair

Jill Berkland rides her horse, Ernie, in competition Wednesday morning at the Osceola County Fair in Sibley, Iowa. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)1 / 3
Jill Berkland is exhibiting in her final year as an Osceola County 4-H'er at this week's fair. She is exhibiting two horses, one dog, four pigs, eight beef and 10 dairy goats, as well as two non-livestock projects. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)2 / 3
Jill Berkland rides her horse, Ernie, in competition during the Osceola County Fair's 4-H Horse Show Wednesday morning in Sibley, Iowa. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)3 / 3

SIBLEY, Iowa — The Berkland family has been synonymous with Osceola County 4-H for more than 30 years, so when the youngest of Drs. Dan and Loretta’s four children, Jill, competes for her last time in the show ring this week, there may be a few tears shed.

Jill Berkland was on the verge of tears as she reflected on her 4-H career in between competitions at the Osceola County Fair’s 4-H Horse Show Wednesday morning in Sibley. The teen graduated from Sibley-Ocheyedan High School this spring and will attend Iowa State University this fall to major in animal science. Her goal is to ultimately work in canine and equine rehabilitation, doing physical therapy for dogs and horses.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Birkland has been a long-time exhibitor in both the 4-H dog and horse shows at not only the county fair, but at the Iowa State Fair as well. Next month, she intends to compete with her horse, Ernie, and her dog, Louie — a German shorthair pointer  — at the state fair in Des Moines.

The dog and horse are just part of the menagerie of animals that will keep Berkland in the show ring through Friday at the fair. After Wednesday’s horse and dog shows, Berland will start the day Thursday with the 4-H Swine Show, where she will exhibit four pigs. Then she will show 10 dairy goats in the goat show and follow that with another horse show — this time competing in events such as barrels and poles. The last show of the day will be the 4-H cow-calf pairs, with Berkland exhibiting three pairs.

“The beef show is Friday morning and I’ll show my lead steer and feeder calves and breeding heifer calves,” she said. In all, she has eight beef animals at the fair.

With all of the livestock, it’s easy to see how Birkland has spent her summer days since high school.

“I wake up in the morning and do chores and then I start working with my animals,” she admitted, though she also made time for summer softball league. Leading up to the fair, she attended weekly practice sessions with her horses and met with 4-H dog exhibitors every Saturday and Monday night for training.

Each of the haltered animals had to be trained to lead through a show ring, while Birkland had a special trick for her pigs.

“We feed them little wafer cookies because they love those and it just makes them more friendly,” she said. “They are like dogs — I can scratch their bellies and they’ll let me do anything.”

Aside from the 25 animals she trained and readied for the show arena, Birkland also exhibited in two non-livestock project areas — foods and nutrition and communications.

“I’ve shown tons and tons of non-livestock projects,” Birkland said, adding that in her younger 4-H years she’d often have 15 to 16 projects in the 4-H exhibit hall. With her senior year of high school and other demands on her time, she trimmed her list to two projects. She wrote a persuasive speech for the communications contest and made baguettes for foods and nutrition.

While the county fair is the one thing Birkland said she will miss most about being in 4-H, she has had key leadership roles at both the club and county level. She is finishing up her term as past president of the Westerners: Those Crazy Kids 4-H Club, and has been involved in recent years on the Osceola County 4-H Council.

“4-H is a great program and it’s great for young kids,” Birkland said. “It’s really helped me grow into the person I am today — being able to help others and being able to communicate and show that leadership.

“I’m going to miss the fair and showing with all of my friends and all of the younger kids,” she added.

Birkland earned scholarships through the Osceola County 4-H Foundation and the Iowa 4-H Foundation to help fund her college education. Her parents serve as veterinarians for the county fair, and Loretta, the county’s 4-H Horse Superintendent, will wrap up more than 30 years as a volunteer leader this year.

The Osceola County Fair offers a variety of livestock shows, grandstand events and activities through Saturday in Sibley, with release of livestock and exhibits at noon Sunday.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at farmbleat.areavoices.com.

(507) 376-7330
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