12/21/2013 7:00 AM
By Sue Bowman Southeastern Pa. Correspondent
No one who knows 13-year-old Madison Hetrick and her family will be surprised to find her heading for the Pennsylvania Farm Show the first week of January. A 4-H’er since she was old enough to join at age 8, Madison loves to exhibit livestock and will be showing two of her yearling breeding ewes — a Southdown and a Hampshire — in the Junior Show on Friday, Jan.10. Some would say she came by her interest in showing the sheep, goats and horses she raises honestly; after all, her parents, Matt and Kelly Hetrick, first met at the Lebanon Area Fair in 1984, where Matt was exhibiting Dorset lambs, while Kelly showed a crossbred Angus-Chianina steer.
Madison and her younger brother, 9-year-old Mitch, are both members of the same three 4-H clubs: Lebanon County 4-H Livestock Club, under the direction of leader Deb Tice; Lebanon County 4-H Goat Kids Club, led by Yvonne Herr and Christopher and Jen Buck; and the Spur and Bit 4-H Club, with Bill and Sue Allison as leaders.
While Mitch is just completing his first year in 4-H, Madison’s greater experience in the show ring has already yielded her the reserve champion showman award for her Boer goats and champion Suffolk breeding ewe honors at the 2013 Lebanon Area Fair. She also advanced through county and district 4-H competitions to place seventh in the state in the Western Pleasure Pony division this past year.
Despite her young age, the Northern Lebanon School District middle-schooler has assembled quite an assortment of animals on the 25-acre East Hanover Township, Lebanon County, Pa., property that Madison, her brother and their parents call home. Once a dairy farm that is still owned by Madison’s grandparents, Dennis and Linda Hetrick, the property today houses a herd of Boer goats, several friendly quarterhorses, and 14 Suffolk, Dorset, Southdown and Hampshire sheep, which include Madison’s Suffolk ram and her herd of 10 breeding ewes.
Showing her animals has already taken Madison to the Keystone International Livestock Exposition, as well as the Columbia and Quentin Riding Clubs, among other venues. She also made her debut at the Pennsylvania Farm Show two years ago when she exhibited breeding ewes; she became the third generation of her family to show at this landmark event, following in the footsteps not only of her parents, but also of her maternal grandfather, Mark Heisey, Jr., who showed beef cattle and swine at the Farm Show in years past.
All members of Madison’s family support her trip to the Farm Show — though each has their own reasons. In Madison’s case, she decided to enter the 2014 Farm Show because, “I like showing and I didn’t only want to show these sheep once.” Her dad, Matt Hetrick, likes the fact that the Pennsylvania Farm Show, held in Harrisburg, is “close to home.” In fact, the distance from the Hetrick farm to the Farm Show Complex is a mere 18 miles. Madison’s mom, Kelly, thinks that her daughter’s trip to the Farm Show will give her two days of good experiences with other kids from all over the state. As for brother Mitch, he’s looking forward to a day off from school and enjoying some of the Farm Show’s famous milkshakes.
Although both Matt and Kelly have jobs off the farm — Matt as a human resources manager and Kelly as a medical billing personnel trainer — they have chosen to raise their family on the farm, where they grow hay on the acreage not devoted to pasture and woodland. They’ve also encouraged their children’s interest in 4-H.
Says Kelly, “4-H is valuable because it’s important for them to learn responsibility that they will carry with them into adulthood.”
Kelly also feels that 4-H participation will help Madison and Mitch mature into more well-rounded individuals and adds: “I don’t want them sitting around watching television all day. They do love their animals, though.” In fact, Madison’s love of animals is inspiring her to aim for a career as a large animal veterinarian.
Kelly speaks with the voice of experience when she looks ahead to Madison’s time at the Farm Show and said that she hopes her daughter gains experience in the show ring because, “Every time you show, you learn something.”
As for what else this mother hopes her daughter will gain, Kelly Hetrick replies simply, “Memories.”