MILFORD — Madelyn Zimmerman, Milford, began her 4-H story in the third grade with a limited agriculture background. Now, 12 years later, Zimmerman is the 2021 4-H Youth in Action Pillar Award for Agriculture winner, Indiana’s first, and a passionate advocate for agriculture education and inclusion.
“That first year of 4-H, I immediately fell in love with the people, the opportunities and the cute, fluffy cows,” Zimmerman reflected.
On average, she completed 15 projects each year, ranging from cooking and sewing to photography and pigs. Her real passion was in her established cattle business. Zimmerman raised cattle to sell to other 4-H’ers to show at fairs or to customers for consumption. In 2013 and only in the sixth grade, Zimmerman faced a devastating disease in the herd, forcing her to cull most of the herd.
“This was a difficult period for me at home and school. I was the only agriculture kid at school and I felt like I didn’t fit in because no one understood what I was going through. However, it pushed me to reach out to others at school that needed someone and eventually I invited them to my house to learn about agriculture and encouraged them to join 4-H.”
Zimmerman persevered through her experience to find a new passion, educating others about agriculture. She started her own animal leasing business where she taught other youth how to care for an animal from choosing one at birth to everyday feeding. Kids would join her after school to take care of the animal and then go on to show the animal at the county fair.
She also was one of the first members to join Poss-ABILITIES, a Purdue Extension Kosciusko County 4-H start-up program that partners 4-H members with youth with disabilities, making it possible for all youth to show livestock.
“The three words that describe my 4-H experience are dedication, perseverance and adaptability. Because of 4-H, I learned how to adapt from experiences, good and bad. Through the bad ones, I learned how to take that experience, adapt and change it so I don’t feel bad next time and then share that lesson with others. I wouldn’t know how to do that without 4-H.”
Looking forward, Zimmerman is excited to share her story and connect with youth nationwide through her new role as a 4-H Youth in Action Award winner, sponsored by Bayer. Additionally, she continues to share her 4-H story with those in her Indiana community by encouraging involvement in 4-H and Extension leadership programs.
“Purdue Extension and Indiana 4-H are focused on bringing their programs to the next generations. I remember at the start of my 4-H career, the barns were full of livestock. By my 10th year, the barns were emptier, but the robotics, Legos and healthy living projects had taken over.”
“One of the many reasons I love 4-H is the community. In 4-H, there is a place for everyone — all ages and all backgrounds,” said Zimmerman.