A young agriculturalist has been working nearly his whole life for this moment.
All the early mornings and late nights outdoors amid the many faces of Kansas weather appear to have paid off for Jackson Wingert. The 18-year-old Ottawan recently learned he will be honored by the National Junior Angus Association for his work with his prize-winning heifers. Wingert is expected to officially receive the NJAA’s Bronze and Silver awards this month at a livestock show in Hutchinson.
“Not only does it credit that I’ve actually been doing something correctly, but that other people have noticed it,” Wingert said of receiving the awards. “It’s nice to be recognized.”
The two awards are a culmination of his life’s work with pure-bred Angus heifers, Wingert said. Compiling mountains of data on feeding habits, breeding, genetics and genealogy, Wingert’s eligibility for the honor has taken many years to earn.
“It’s not just showing that goes into this,” Wingert said. “It’s basically, if you’ve done all that you can do in the association.
“It’s encouraging members to participate fully and give their all.”
Nearly 6,000 members nationwide are active in NJAA, which focuses on promoting the involvement of young people in raising Angus cattle. Between 50 and 75 youths receive honors every year, Robin Ruff, NJAA director of junior activities, said. Participants must go through a lengthy application process to be eligible for the awards. The distinction is awarded based on a points system that is compiled over the entire career of the junior member. Such activities as attending livestock shows, competing in competitions and serving as an officer in a local chapter count toward a member’s total. It takes a significant amount of dedication and knowledge on the part of the participant to win awards, Ruff said. It is not an easily attained honor, she stressed.
“You have to be involved, not only in the show ring, showing cattle. You have to go to leadership conference. You have to be involved in your herd,” she said from the association’s headquarters in St. Joseph, Mo. “There’s a lot of kids that aren’t able to get it.”
Fifty-one juniors received Bronze and Silver awards in 2012. Five, including Wingert, were from Kansas.
Wingert, the son of George and Diane Wingert, has been a member of the NJAA for six years. Wingert also is a member of the Kansas Junior Angus Association, where he served as a director and currently serves as secretary. He has participated in local, state, regional and national livestock shows. At the National Junior Angus Show in Louisville, Wingert competed in the quiz bowl, livestock judging, team sales and extemporaneous and public speaking contests.
Animal husbandry is in Wingert’s blood. His background, Wingert said, is why he’s been so active in agriculture.
“Our family, many generations have been farmers and ranchers,” Wingert said. “Once I was born and my sister was born, my dad and uncle decided that we needed something that would not only teach us the value of hard work, but how to work with others and actually do something with your life instead of sitting at home playing video games.”
Learning from his father, grandfather, George Wingert Sr., and uncle, Fred Wingert, the Ottawa teenager credits getting the award to their dedication to his success. Not to be forgotten, Wingert also lauds his sister, Claire Wingert, for her help in caring for the animals while he is away at shows.
The awards should go to his whole family, Jackson Wingert said, because it took all of them working together to make it happen.
“It’s really great that I got it, but it’s not just me,” Wingert said. “Without [my sister], my dad, my mom, my grandpa and my uncle, I wouldn’t have got it.”
When he is 21, he will be eligible for the Association’s Gold Award during the final year of his eligibility as a junior member.
Wingert said he plans to attend and has been accepted to Kansas State University, where he plans to further his agriculture education in the fall.