ST. PAUL — “We really push the mentorship.” Speaking is Claudine Goodrich, coordinator of the Minnesota Youth Beef Experience Program event at Minnesota Beef Expo. The Expo took place Oct 18-20 at the Warner Rose Coliseum, located on the grounds of the Minnesota State Fair.

And what an amazing program for ‘jump-starting’ selected young people into the Minnesota cattle industry. Explained Goodrich, “Learning from the best in the industry is the heart and soul of MYBEP.  Thanks to some generous beef breeders, since 2004 we have now provided 155 selected heifers — including 11 at this year’s Expo.  Each year, a fortunate few young people are recipients of one of these donated heifers. And the special beauty is that the donor also provides year-long mentoring services to this lucky individual.”

The Minnesota Beef Expo is always focused on youth. That’s primarily because the Minnesota State Fair has developed such a huge 4-H and FFA youth program with housing facilities for students and cattle facilities for their livestock. And the Minnesota Beef Council early on recognized that a strong youth program at the Beef Expo is vital to the continued growth of the beef industry.

“We need passionate people in agriculture to keep our industry alive. Next year we can provide a detailed impact of MYBEP on the lives and ambitions of the young people that have received their special gift heifer,” said Goodrich.  A photo wall at the Beef Expo illustrated via a time line the impacts already on many MYBEP recipients.

Katie Moller, a 2011 recipient of a heifer through the MYBEP program, had this message on the wall: “MYBEP completely changed our lives. It introduced us to showing cattle and raising registered quality. It gave us connections with mentors in the beef industry. It has given us ambitions about roles we can play in the beef industry.”

Each recipient prepares a photo journal of their experiences since receiving their donor heifer. Said Goodrich, “These heifers become very important in their lives. There is indeed a special bonding. Entering their heifers into county fairs and other beef shows does indeed add a new dimension to their lives.”

Indeed, the young people who received their free heifer a year ago bring their animal to the Beef Expo to show their critter in open competition against the other recipients. “Plus, while in the show ring, three judges will do interviews with each to ascertain their overall knowledge about showmanship, the strengths of their particular breed of animal, and their thoughts about the U.S. beef industry and what’s ahead.  Winner of this event gets a $1,000 grand prize,” added Goodrich.

Yes, the Minnesota Beef Expo is a great adventure for anyone. And for the growing number of MYBEP recipients, it’s an incredible yearly ‘homecoming’ reunion.