First person: Living the ag life

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Austin Graham, 18, has shown horses since he was 7 years old.

As the president of the New Mexico state 4-H club during the last school year, Austin Graham, 18, said he missed a lot of school, never got enough sleep and was always busy. A month after his term ended, he said he already misses it.

In the beginning: I was the president of the New Horizons 4-H club when it was begun when I was in fourth grade. My dad said we should start a 4-H. We were like ‘OK. We don’t know what it was but OK.’ And they needed a president and I was it. It was the first time I tried on the shoes of leadership. I guess you could say I didn’t know what I was doing then.

Road to the top: I held a county office, then became county president. I jumped up to state level. I counted one time, I missed like 100 days of school. When I decided to run for state, I wrote my speech in two hours. It was stressful.

Hangin’ with the big boys: The state officers and I went to Santa Fe for Ag Fest (in February). All the legislators get together and we get to lobby for money for 4-Hs and FFAs. It was cool. We got to meet all the state legislators except for the governor.

State conference: At state, you get little sleep. You’d be in bed at 2 a.m. You don’t have any choice. Then you’d be up at 4 a.m., but you can’t look tired. And each night we had a theme. One night was pop. It was really embarrassing because I did this Backstreet Boys song. But it was fun. We had a rock night, a hip-hop night and country night.

Fitting in: At the county level, you’re dealing with country people. They all think the same. At state level, there are seven officers from seven different counties in the state. We were a diverse group of people. There were city kids, country kids, kids who lived in the middle of nowhere.

Our specialty: 4-H clubs are usually known for one particular thing. It just depends on the kids and what they like to do. Our club is known for horses and community service. I’ve been showing horses since I was 7.

Retirement blues: I just retired a month ago and I miss it already. I miss having something to plan for.

Moving on: I’m going to New Mexico State University in the fall to study pre-veterinary science. 4-H helped me get a scholarship. I want to work with big animals, hopefully here or close.

— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Liliana Castillo