By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — While Carrie Rhoades may look like your typical high-schooler, she is anything but. This busy senior splits her weekdays between Ansonia High School and Edison State, where she is a College Credit Plus student, but spends her weekends traveling the country. You see, Carrie Rhoades recently became royalty.
Like so many in Darke County and beyond, Rhoades comes from a long line of farmers. Dairy cattle are not only a big part of Rhoades’s life, but they are truly a passion.
“I’m seventh generation on the same farm that my family has always been at.,” she said. “Our name is Buckeye Knoll [Farm]. It is kind of like a family affair now. All of my siblings are involved in it. We help each other with chores, and then just the connection you make with the cows. It’s weird to say, but they become like your best friend. I had this cow named Sure Shot, and she passed away a couple months ago. She was four years old and she was my baby. It always gave me something to look forward to, walking out to the barn and you find your special cow and pet and love on them — just to have that connection with the cow itself.”
It seems fitting that someone so devoted to cows should be their queen, and this summer, Rhoades was named the 2021-2022 National Milking Shorthorn Queen in addition to also being named the Ohio Brown Swiss Queen. Rhoades is the youngest of her siblings, with two older sisters and an older brother who also showed dairy cows. When asked how their journey began, Rhoades explained her father bought a milking shorthorn from another farm that was selling out. That cow had a heifer Carrie’s older sister took to show at the Great Darke County Fair. After winning county, they went on to the Ohio State Fair and won that too.
Rhoades explained, “Before this, we had never shown at a national show, and someone at state fair said we had one of the best milking shorthorn heifers he had ever seen in his entire life and that we needed to take her to the national shows. We thought he was crazy and that we didn’t have THAT good of cows. We then met Cindy Climer, [former Ohio Milking Shorthorn President and national board member for the American Milking Shorthorn Society] from Chillicothe, Ohio, and went with her to the All American Dairy Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and ended up winning Junior Champion in the milking shorthorn show there.”
“We proceeded from there to go to the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, and also won Junior Champion there. The same heifer won the same title the following year and a full sister to her won the champion title the third year. So, for three years in a row, we had a world champion,” remarked Rhoades. “Before that, we had never got past the Ohio State Fair. We got really big into the milking shorthorn breed that way,” Rhoades recalled.
In response to their becoming overnight stars in the milking shorthorn arena, Rhoades chuckled, “We made a lot of enemies really quick of people who were like, ‘Who are THEY coming in here—?!’ [but] we [also] met a lot of great friends. We have really good friends in Minnesota and Arkansas. Our friend from Minnesota married our friend from Arkansas that we met showing [cattle], and my siblings were in their wedding. We flew out for that this summer. The connections that we made were unlike any other of anybody that I’ve ever met from around here.”
Consecutive world Junior Championships weren’t a stopping point for Rhoades, but were just the beginning. “We got really big into the association in general, and I applied for other awards. I’ve also been the Junior and Senior Progressive Breeder and then there’s the Rachel Surridge Leadership Award, which is the highest award that a milking shorthorn junior can earn, and I was also awarded that this year.”
Her list of accomplishments rolls easily off her tongue, but what Rhoades has accomplished is no small feat. The Rachel Surridge competition is based on a well-rounded experience in leadership, breed activities, and dairy husbandry. The applications are sent to a judging committee, and each contestant must appear before three judges for a twenty-minute interview at the National Convention. The winner then receives the Rachel Surridge Leadership Award at the annual awards banquet.
After cinching the Surridge award, Rhoades explains, “I decided to run for queen to help be an advocate and a role model for the younger kids in the breed and help get them involved the same way that I was. It was kind cool, two days ago, right before the show, I went and changed in the bathroom and got in my dress, my crown, and sash, and I walk out. The first person I see is this little girl, and she looks up at me and smiles and goes, ‘I wanna be a dairy princess one day too!’ That just made it all worth it.”
Rhoades is quick to shine the spotlight on others, such as her parents, siblings, and special friends who have helped support and guide her, “Cindy Climer, the one that got us involved, she actually passed away from cancer a few years after we met her. Having someone who left that big of an impact on us and the entire milking shorthorn breed, and just being able to know people like that [has been] so influential in my life.”
As a member of FFA, 4H, Darke County Junior Fair Board, 4.12 Student Ministry, National Honor Society, and Varsity Golf, cattle are only one part of this young lady’s life, but it is a part of her life where she shows tremendous commitment. “I brought nine cows to fair this year. It was very, very hectic! I was also on Fair Court, so trying to juggle between going to all those events and then getting back to my shows on time — I was almost late to a couple of my [show] classes, but I had my siblings back at the barn, prepping the cows, and they would run them to me. We’d do a quick exchange and hand them off, and then I’d run back into the ring. I was in like every other class… there was a time I was in three classes in a row. But, we had a really good year; we did really well. I was the overall showman for dairy.”
Rhoades plans to continue her work with animals by attending Oklahoma State University or the University of Tennessee to major in animal science with a pre-veterinary focus. One can bet that whatever path she takes will be a successful one as she has already demonstrated fierce determination when it comes to cattle.
Rhoades remains very down-to-earth and humble about her family’s and her success with milking shorthorns, “It was an accident — we were not trying to breed a world champion, and we did it three times!”
Contact Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.