Madison Belcher

In all honesty, I donʼt marvel at the buckles; I donʼt fawn over the banners. Half the time, my family and I are running around on show day and ribbons are hastily thrown into the showbox while we are rushing to get the next goat ready or get them all fed and cared for. At the end of the day, all those awards are for not, itʼs the experiences and memories that you make that truly define your successes.

Before I was born, my mother in 1993 learned of a goat that could substantially improve the meat goat industry and purchased one hundred embryos to be imported into the United States. She was one of the first to import Boer goats in America and from then the Belcher goat herd was established. Today, my brother Truman and I work year around helping to maintain the herd and the stock showing is the easy part.

I can remember my very first show debut before I was 8 years old that my parents took me to get my feet wet. That summer, we tried a strategy of walking your animal in behind a bad one in the hopes it will shine more standing beside a weaker one. When I was lining up to the ring at a sweltering competitive jackpot in Texas, we were looking for that weak one and as it turned out, I was the one holding the bad one and the other kids were cramming in to be the first to follow me. We went home laughing and decided we needed to work a little harder. That summer, I was handed ribbons from every spectrum of the rainbow, but it didnʼt matter to me. I was content with a green ribbon or a purple banner, I was doing my best and I was having fun. And truly, I feel the same way today.

Those moments with my family are immeasurable; every show and every place is a scrapbook chock full of memories. I have Grand Champion banners from the National Western Stock Show, the American Royal and many places in between, but my showman story is far more meaningful than a piece of fringed fabric.

We all have a story and mine has always involved agriculture in some form or another. My parents farm irrigated corn, alfalfa, wheat, cotton and operate a ranch of commercial Angus cattle. Both of their families’ parents and for as many generations back beyond them either farmed, ranched, and operated dairies.

My grandpa Joe was born in the Netherlands, and came to the United States when he was eighteen, not even able to speak English. He worked hard, learning English while milking cows and saved until he could start his own dairy. One dairy turned into several spotting the southwest. In front of all those dairies and his home, he erected a flag pole with an American flag swaying majestically in the breeze to represent his gratitude for America. He truly found his American Dream.

I will always remember sitting shotgun in his Buick as we drove down the highway and he stopped in front of a dairy. A sign in the front read “Nooit Gedacht,” and Grandpa turned to me and in his thick Dutch accent, he asked, “Do you know what that means? It means ʻyou never know’. Isnʼt that something? Anything can happen. Be grateful for today, each day is a new one, you never know what tomorrow brings.” In the Netherlands during the war, my great grandpas dairy farm was given that name because of the uncertainties of the times. My grandpa carried that name on from his father’s farm to America and he marvels to this day that he was fortunate enough to live his dream. Let me tell you, those two words speak volumes. At that time, I never could have imagined the places my life would take me and what surprises the Lord has for us all.

Aside from stock showing, I also judge meats in FFA. I am so grateful to my advisor Todd Pinnell introducing me to meats evaluation because from that day, the Meat Mafia was born. The Mafia entailed the team: Meathead Micah (Micah Pinnell), Sir Lance Sir Loin (Lance Myers) and me, Backribs Belcher. As strange as it may sound, judging meats was one of the highlights of my years in high school, especially having the opportunity to judge at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis last year.

Interestingly enough, meats helped me find the career path I want to follow. The study of muscle anatomy in livestock, has expanded my curiosity of studying human anatomy. Not many people understand the meat judging or the stock show industry. Early in my showing career, I can remember several animal activist expressing their misguided disgust at me for my participation in this industry. Instead of blowing them off, I realized that they needed to learn the truth of what agriculture truly is.

Atypical from most showman, I was crowned Miss New Mexicoʼs Outstanding Teen, which is a little sister program to the Miss America system. I used my title to help further promote agricultural awareness. During my year, I was able to meet and talk to people about the industry that normally donʼt interact with it past the grocery store. I spoke at fairs, radio, newspapers and schools. I organized projects in classrooms like germinating beans and reading books that show them how they can get involved with agriculture.

I also created my own project I call, Madison’s Milk Carton Minis. I recycle milk cartons from my schoolʼs cafeteria and teach young students to plant green mixes that take only a week to grow and eat. The amount of people I was able to reach truly made me realize how important it is for producers and my generation to maintain a close connection with the consumers, especially when most people are three or four generations removed from the farm.

Now, as I walk in the back door of my house every afternoon, Iʼm greeted by banners on the walls and buckles on the shelves and they serve as a reminder of all the priceless pieces of me and my story they represent. Itʼs true, I appreciate the memories attached to them far more than the awards themselves. But still, they have greatly contributed to my story, and have shaped me into who I am, along with who I will be.

My story could not be sketched without so many people for whom I am forever grateful as they are continually helping me write it. Volunteers, sale donors, judges, parents, publications like this magazine, and countless others are keeping agriculture alive by giving of themselves. I am grateful for what has been given to me and in turn, I will always do my best to pay it forward as my story continues to write itself.

This fall, I will be attending Texas Tech University in the Honors College to study Animal Science. My goal is to be accepted into medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon. The show ring awards, shiny crowns and an understanding of anything being possible gives me a great past but a more exciting future.

I esteem that as the greatest award I could possibly have in my possession. “Nooit Gedacht”