| Harley Zoeckler: Inspiring a thirst for knowledge about beef and agriculture |
The sash may say Sweetheart, but for Harley Zoeckler, the 2013 Polk County Cattlemen’s Association Sweetheart, the title is an open door to her future goals in promoting agriculture. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
“The role of Sweetheart in my eyes is to educate the public about the cattle industry on a deeper level. It is vital to me to have the public get a better understanding of the industry and the families that keep the tradition of raising cattle in Florida alive,” she explains.
Coming from a family history in cattle ranching, Zoeckler plans to use her title to let others at her college and in her community become more familiar with the cattle industry and its benefits.
Educating the masses
Zoeckler first learned of the Sweetheart contest while attending the Florida Cattlemen’s Association convention in Marco Island one year. After learning of their importance to the state, she made it a goal to be named Sweetheart. “I thought it was the coolest thing because it’s all about telling your story and sharing your passion about the industry to others,” Zoeckler says.
Her main focus is to educate those around her who may not have the knowledge about the beef industry or agriculture in general and to show why it’s important to have in our lives. “Agriculture is not just growing things; it’s the way people live and their livelihoods.”
Zoeckler plans to contact schools, community organizations, local businesses and even area grocery stores to determine how to jointly promote the health benefits of beef to the community.
Another area she is eager to educate is her own college, Warner University, of which she is currently attending as an Ag Studies major with a minor in Education. Seeing the diversity of students on campus, from California to Brazil, Zoeckler recognizes an opportunity to further their knowledge of Florida-based agriculture.
“I hope to impact students on a deeper level so they can appreciate agriculture more, maybe one day telling their own children more about agriculture.” she continues. “I would like to start an on-campus focus group on beef, using a course that teaches you how to promote the industry.”
Past to future
Zoeckler realizes that many students haven’t come from the background she has, growing up in a cattle ranching family. She showed her first cow at age eight and continued showing cattle for eight years with the FFA, along with being involved in the 4-H Club.
She found her passion for promoting the beef industry expanded most in Junior Cattlemen, attending the state conventions and representing the group in the roles of secretary and president for Polk County (for three years). Zoeckler also was part of a second place win in the Teen Marketing program and individually finished in fifth place in Prepared Public Speaking with the organization. On the state level, she was the State Junior Cattlemen Officer and currently is an advisor to the newest generation of Junior Cattlemen.
As she prepares for the State Sweetheart competition in June, Zoeckler believes that her goals to further agriculture education will be obtained even more county-, state- and nationwide with this platform. She also hopes to become an agriculture teacher like her aunt, Brandy Padgett, to impact the knowledge of her students and lead them into a rewarding journey into agriculture.
“I like learning something every day and agriculture is the way people lived originally. It would really help to educate at the high school level, and later college level, so students can know more about where their groceries are coming from,” she concludes. “Agriculture will always be here as it is a way to feed and inspire the world.”
story by BLAIR TOWNLEY
portraits by LACY WATERS