4-H’er, family leave their mark on program

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Kylie Giesler works with Lexi, a cross-bred gilt, at her family's farm in Ferdinand on Thursday. In the Dubois County Virtual 4-H Fair, Kylie showed two cattle, three swine and three sheep.


FERDINAND — Kylie Giesler marks the end of a long line.

Her mother, uncle and aunt all showed livestock through the Dubois County 4-H program, as did her two older sisters, and the organization has been a constant in the family for years.

On Thursday, Giesler — who has been a 4-H’er for a decade — reflected on the growth she has experienced through the group, and she also spoke on what will stick with her as she prepares to move on to the next chapter of her life.

“It’s honestly kind of bittersweet,” she said of the end of her 4-H career, “that I’m the last one from our family that’s going to be in 4-H for a while. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

Giesler has kept a full plate during her time in the Country Guys and Gals 4-H Club. She began showing livestock at about the age of 5, even before she joined 4-H, and has raised and shown cattle, lambs, goats and pigs at 4-H events throughout the past 10 years.

Dedication is key, she said. Her recent routines include waking up around 5:30 a.m. to tend to and feed her animals. Her lengthy, daylong checklist then includes rinsing the livestock, blowing their hair out and working on showmanship with her cattle, lambs and pigs. After exercising her lambs, she feeds all the animals again and lets them wind down in the evening.

“If you don’t put the work in, you’re not going to get the results you want,” Giesler said. “Sometimes, it can get really hard. But you just have to keep pushing yourself through it. Because if you want to win, you’ve got to put in the work.”

Kylie Giesler washes her Sim-Solution heifers, Jill and Tina, at her family's farm in Ferdinand on Thursday.

She continued: “And that’s with anything in life. If you want something, you’ve got to put in work for it.”

Giesler grew up in barns. She loves playing sports, too, but working with her animals provides a different kind of satisfaction when all her hard work comes to fruition at livestock competitions. She explained how she and the animals basically “become best friends” during the year or so that they spend together, and said breaking those bonds isn’t easy.

“It’s sad,” she said of how she feels when the livestock is sent to market. “But at the same time, I understand it’s part of life. And, I mean, it’s giving everyone food, and part of the food chain.”

When she thinks back on her time in the 4-H program, she remembers all the friendships she’s made and all the lessons she’s learned from working with her animals. Travel has been a highlight of her livestock showing career as well — and not just travel in the Hoosier state.

Not long after her interview with The Herald last week, she headed out to South Dakota for a national show.

“This will be a show where I’ll get to see a lot of my friends that I never get to see,” she said of her far-reaching network. “From different states. And so that’s exciting.”

She recalled being upset that the 4-H fair moved to a virtual format. Because this marked her 10th and final year in the program, she put an extra emphasis on her animals, only for the novel coronavirus to yank away the opportunity to show them off.

Kylie Giesler works with Kevin the sheep at her family's farm in Ferdinand on Thursday.

“It’s like all that work I put in felt like it was being crushed,” Giesler said. “But, at the same time, I understood where they were coming from, with just protecting everyone that was out there.”

Giesler has still been able to get out and show her livestock in other places this summer. In addition to the South Dakota trip, she’s also shown in neighboring county animal shows and at the 2020 Dubois County Youth Open Show, which was organized by a local nonprofit. She’s been to about 10 shows total in the past year.

The young woman might mark the end of a long line of Giesler 4-H’ers. But she’s also part of an enduring legacy.

Giesler is the daughter of Paul and Jamie Giesler of Ferdinand. She will attend Vincennes University to major in agribusiness and minor in animal science, and hopes to transfer to Purdue University.

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