It’s a passion from heart and home; Nicole Harder’s interest in the livestock industry grew out of her experience on the family ranch. Now, the Lacrosse FFA Chapter member from Kahlotus, Wash., is an American Star in Agricultural Placement finalist after pursuing various opportunities to learn more about livestock and meat production.
In addition to Harder’s work on the Harder Hereford Ranch—managed by her mother, Terri—she has also trained ranch horses at Running O Horsemanship and worked with livestock at the Davenport Sale Yard. In her first year at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Ore., Harder had the opportunity to continue her placement-based experiences in the college’s meat lab.
“My second year there I got appointed to the student manager of the meat lab, and while I was in there I pretty much just helped bring in animals and take them through the whole process from slaughter to cutting them up and wrapping them and boxing them and getting them out to the person who bought it,” Harder said.
Though Harder is particularly interested in livestock, she said her FFA advisor, Lisa Baker, helped her overcome shyness as a new student at LaCrosse High School by getting her involved with every FFA contest. The most influential one: public speaking.
“I can walk up to anyone in the cattle industry because of [Lisa] and have a conversation about anything I want and learn new things or very possibly tell them an idea that we do that they’ve never heard of,” Harder said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the public speaking.”
In the future, Harder plans on returning to the family ranch full time with her mother. In the meantime, she said she wants to keep learning about the livestock industry through hands-on work experience.
“I plan on working a couple of other places in the next couple of years and seeing if I can learn something new about different cattle ranches and how they run cattle.”