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By Caroline Stamm '24
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  • PRO-DAIRY
  • Animal Science

Cornell Animal Science Dairy Youth Extension and New York State 4-H provide youth programs for those interested in livestock, pet species, animal biology and production systems. These programs are catalysts for personal growth and development, encouraging leadership, cooperation, and marketable skills for the future.

Bekah Martz '25 has been part of 4-H since she was 12 years old and participated in dairy youth extension throughout high school. We sat down with Martz to learn how these experiences led her to study at Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science.

Quick Facts

How did you first get involved in 4-H?

I grew up in Dutchess County, located in the southeast corner of New York State. I had no direct connection to agriculture. My Dad’s family owned a dairy farm until his early twenties when it shut down and my Mom is from Guam with no background in agriculture.

When I was in sixth grade, a friend invited me to a 4-H club event at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. I instantly fell in love with the program and all the animals. By seventh grade, I joined the Stissing Mountain 4-H Dairy club and later transferred to the Southern Dutchess 4-H Dairy Club.

 

What were some of your experiences in the Stissing Mountain and Southern Dutchess 4-H Dairy Clubs?

I held leadership positions throughout my time in both clubs. I made it my mission to teach the members basic dairy management skills so I organized a lot of teaching and mentoring opportunities.

Over the course of both 4-H programs, I worked with over 50 students. A highlight of my time in 4-H was when I mentored a young girl named Alice who had no background in agriculture. She ended up taking first place at the fair!

How did the Dairy Youth Extension programs influence your interest in Cornell Animal Science?

The Dairy Youth programs solidified my passion for the field and interest in Cornell Animal Science. I participated in three different dairy youth extension programs organized by Deborah Grusenmeyer, Senior Extension Associate in Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science, PRO-DAIRY.

Dairy Discovery:

My Dad encouraged me to pursue the Dairy Discovery Workshop my freshman year of high school. It was full of hands-on learning, encompassing dairy production and management principles. Dairy Discovery also included a CALS admissions workshop and seminar series where Tom Overton, chair and professor in Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science taught a nutrition lab.

Beginning DAIRY LEADERS:

My sophomore year, I participated in the Beginning DAIRY LEADERS Program. We toured several universities with competitive dairy science programs, visited dairy farms in the region, and learned about dairy management practices. Beginning DAIRY LEADERS sparked my interest in Cornell Animal Science — I appreciated the rigor of the coursework and the welcoming environment.

Junior DAIRY LEADERS:

My junior year, I was accepted into the Junior DAIRY LEADERS Program. My cohort attended the National 4-H Dairy Conference, the World Dairy Expo, and we even got to visit several large-scale dairy farms across Wisconsin in the kick-off event of our program year. It was an incredible experience! I cherish the relationships I built in this program and I’m immensely grateful for the opportunities provided by Dairy Youth Extension.

Bekah in classroom
Bekah at the world dairy expo
Junior DAIRY LEADERS cohort

What are three things you want people to know about 4-H and Dairy Youth Extension programs?

  1. They are made for everyone! You don’t need to come from an agriculture background.
  2. It’s all about what you make of it. You get out what you put in! The impacts of the programs are felt years later.
  3. It’s so much fun! There is never a dull moment and I guarantee that you will make lifelong friends.

 

Caroline Stamm is a student writer for the Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science.

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