Stories

My 4-H Story: Shawn Koehler

Joining 4-H was my first professional step towards a career in agriculture. Even at a young age, I was introduced to leadership, project management, record keeping, and career development. This is what ultimately led me to a college degree in agronomy and then, my career with Bayer.

 

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Growing up in Iowa, I had always envisioned showing livestock at the North Iowa Fair in Mason City. As an 8-year old growing up there, this was a huge deal. And that was how I got involved with my local 4-H chapter. I didn't realize how many different sides there were to the 4-H program until I joined. It was hard to choose what I wanted to focus on, but I decided to invest my time in livestock activities, electronics, music, photography, and conservation.


Not only did the program help me to better myself, but it opened my eyes as I began to appreciate the talents of other people. There were children from different backgrounds and many of them developed amazing projects, each with a personal spin. We were taught the importance of focus and time management, which is not always easy to do at such a young age.


A lasting memory that I have from my time in 4-H was the first year we picked out feeder pigs from our family's operation. We went through the weigh-ins, fed them separately to increase their rate of gain, and swept the county show, with red ribbons - the worst ribbons possible. This was disappointing for me, as I had devoted a lot of time to this endeavor and had expectations to be successful.

 

Over time, though, I eventually purchased show quality gilts, learned about artificial insemination to bring in more competitive genetics, and built a herd that was competing for trophies at not only the county but the state level. Eventually, I was selling some of my pigs at a premium price to children in the area. With hard work and dedication, I turned failure into a success story and that is a feeling that I will never forget.


The five years that I spent with 4-H gave me a great appreciation for agriculture and expanded my interest areas. 4-H helped me in my development and led me to cultivate a feeling of obligation when others relied on me. This fostered my leadership role, as I eventually became the president of our club, my FFA chapter, and in many other leadership roles since then. It doesn't matter if I am cultivating my leadership role at Bayer, as a father, or as president of volunteer offices - my sense of pride and obligation all started with 4-H.

 

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Shawn, Age 15, featuring his purebred Yorkshire breeding gilt, a class winner, at the Iowa State Fair.

 

In addition to my interests in agriculture, I also have a passion for electronics. Some of my past projects involved 9V batteries, solder, wires, primitive solar cells, and speakers. These projects took time to build, but when I spent the time to sit down and read the instructions, I was able to create solar-powered oscillators, rain sensors, remote control cars, and other items.

 

Currently, this skill has been very useful for my alternate role as the family handyman, offering me the know-how to quickly repair anything my kids may break around the house. I owe this skill to my involvement in multiple STEM-based projects at a younger age.


When I found out that Bayer was partnering with 4-H, I was enthusiastic to learn how I could get involved. I love that Bayer is investing in the development of youth by engaging with an organization that is so heavily focused on bringing STEM education and opportunities to urban, suburban and rural youth. I also have two children in 4-H and two that are in Clover Kids, a program for kids in kindergarten through third-grade in Iowa. Seeing these worthwhile investments in action makes me extremely excited for their future.

 

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Shawn’s daughter McKenna Koehler (Age 12) shows her champion Hereford heifer Autumn. She was the reserve champion in Junior Showmanship at the Mills County Fair in Iowa.

 

By: Shawn Koehler

Manager, District Sales - Plains District U.S.