My name is Kaitlyn Smith and I am a senior from Comal County. I began my career in 4-H just four short years ago but oh what an amazing four years it has been. I have participated in a multitude of projects from tractor restoration to food and nutrition and everything in between. I have had the privilege of serving my community through workshops at a local horse rescue facility and volunteering at the Kitchen Pantry Food Bank. Through volunteering, I have come to realize that one person can truly make a difference. My leadership experiences in 4-H has taught me that being a leader is about teaching others to lead, that self-confidence, determination and hard work is what makes a person the best they can be, and that education and advocacy is the key to a better tomorrow.
If you had told anyone just a few short years ago that I was destined for a life in the agriculture field they would have laughed in your face. But the truth is my desire to know everything there was to know about agriculture was formed as I walked the fields with my grandfather many years earlier. From a young age I can remember being amazed by my Grandfather’s ability to walk through the pasture and recognize each cow without any record book in hand. He held his love for ranching in his heart. Knowing every tree and grass was his super power and I hung on his every word. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away in 2014 after lengthy complications from a massive stroke. I had feared I had missed my chance to learn from the best. But that is where the Agrilife Extension Service and the amazing Ambassador programs stepped in to pick up where his teaching had left off.
I decided to apply for a spot as an Equine Ambassador, combining two of my favorite things; horses and talking. I still remember the night I found out that I had made the cut and had been chosen for the Equine Ambassador program. Ironically, it was while I was at Texas A&M for state roundup. My grandfather (Micheal L. Smith), an alumni of Texas A&M, would be so very proud. During the 2014-2015 year the Equine Ambassador program gave me the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most knowledgeable leaders in the Equine Industry. Dr. Dennis Sigler and Dr. Billy Zanolini made each workshop and hands on activity a memorable experience. Little did I know, that the Equine Ambassador program was just the start of my amazing leadership adventure. As I approached my senior year in high school, my mind was set on majoring in Agriculture with a specialization in Equine Science but there was still a voice inside my head that doubted I would ever be a Rancher like my Grandfather. In 2015, I was given the opportunity join the Equine and Livestock Advocacy Academy. As I sat and listened to Dr. Charles R. Long, I saw the same passion in his eyes that I had always seen in my Grandfather’s. I knew I had found the right place to further my education. The passion for agriculture that was started so many years ago had come full circle. I now know without a shadow of a doubt I was born to be a Rancher. My Grandfather had lit a spark in my soul so many years ago and the Ambassador programs had fueled the fire. I now understand that being a Rancher in today’s age is more than getting up by day break and spending hours in the pasture. It is being a scientist who is an expert in grass and soil science as well as anatomy and genetics. It is respecting the land around you and advocating for a future in ranching. And of course it is educating tomorrows Ranchers and giving them the confidence they need to succeed.