SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Jenna Wheeler learned valuable life-lessons when she began raising purebred livestock at an early age and continues to appreciate those experiences during her college career.
“Involvement in the purebred livestock industry has afforded me memorable and cherished past experiences and currently is shaping my future as I begin my college career,” Wheeler wrote in her Land of Lincoln Purebred Livestock Breeder’s Association scholarship application essay.
Wheeler, daughter of Dennis of Joy Wheeler, Jacksonville, was awarded the LLPLBA $1,000 scholarship during the organization’s recent annual meeting.
The organization awards one scholarship to an applicant between 17 and 20 years old by Jan. 1 of the application year to further their education in an agricultural related field. Applicants or their family need to be members of the LLPLBA and involved in purebred livestock.
Wheeler is attending Lake Land College, Mattoon, where she studying agriculture and is a member of the livestock judging team. She plans to then transfer to either Oklahoma State University or Texas A&M.
“I desire a future in ag business and finance and to be a member of the livestock judging team at the senior college level. Additionally, I hope to continue breeding and raising purebred swine with my own family one day, offering my own children the same opportunities that I have been so fortunate to experience,” Wheeler said.
Her beginnings in the swine industry started at 5 years old. She followed in the footstep of her cousin and acquired her first purebred pigs to attend the Team Purebred’s National Junior Show at the Illinois State Fairground.
She was awarded the first-ever J.R. Beatty Memorial Award and used that buying credit toward the purchase of a Chester white gilt, the foundation female for the start of our family operation, Four Wheeler Showpigs.
“Little did I realize, at the age of 5, that my desire to raise and exhibit purebred swine would impact my youth and future as profoundly as it has. I have learned the values of hard work, responsibility, time management and integrity. I embrace the future with confidence, knowing I am armed with life skills to help me succeed,” Wheeler said.
The following year, she became a member of the National Junior Swine Association. Since 2006, she’s attended every World Pork Expo, Team Purebred Junior National and NJSA Summer Spectacular.
These events have given her the opportunity to exhibit purebred swine, participate in showmanship, judging, skillathon and public speaking activities.
“My participation in Team Purebred and the NJSA gave me an appreciation for exhibiting ‘bred and owned’ purebred swine. Since 2006, I have recorded purebred litters yearly with the Certified Pedigreed Swine Association, primarily within the Chester White breed,” Wheeler said.
“I have been honored to raise and show bred and owned champions at the national level. In 2009, I became the first junior member to offer the Chester White foundation female, whose auction proceeds benefited the Team Purebred organization.”
In 2013, Wheeler represented the Chester White breed on Hog College Row at the National Barrow Show in Austin, Minnesota, with a Chester White gilt.
Additionally, the family has had the honor of placing three Chester White boars into stud. Contributing to the genetic improvement within the Chester White breed as a recorder in the Certified Pedigreed Swine Association has been rewarding and memorable in the show ring and at home.
“My passion for purebred swine also led me to discover the opportunities and enjoyment of 4-H. I became a cloverbud member of Agri-Stars 4-H in Morgan County at the age of 8 and an active member at age 10. I have held offices within the group, including secretary, vice president and was the 2017-2018 president. My projects included swine each year, and I exhibited purebreds at both the county and state fair levels,” Wheeler said.
“I had the privilege of earning many gilt and barrow grand champion honors. My greatest accomplishments in 4-H with a swine project was in 2017, exhibiting the champion Yorkshire barrow, who was also named the reserve grand champion Land of Lincoln barrow. Sharing my passion for purebred swine in the Hall of Champions and Governor’s Sale of Champions will be a cherished memory.”
In addition to 4-H, Wheeler was a four-year member of the Jacksonville High School FFA, serving as chapter sentinel her sophomore year and vice president her senior year.
“My involvement in FFA and 4-H provided me with opportunities to become more active in my community with service initiatives including food pantry and homeless shelter donations, Adopt-a-Highway programs, Angel Tree Christmas giving and county fair improvement projects,” Wheeler said.
“My interest and growth in livestock evaluation were also influenced by my 4-H and FFA involvement. I am proud to be a member of the 2018 Illinois champion FFA livestock judging team and look forward to representing Illinois at the national FFA convention this fall.
“Additionally, I was chosen to represent Illinois 4-H this year as a member of the state 4-H livestock judging team.”