“I started with two ducks when I was three years old. I got into 4H when I was seven and I was so excited. I’ve always loved chickens, always loved rabbits … I just love to do it,” gushed Blake Proffit during his lunch break at Harvest Community School in Summerton.
Blake, a 9th grader at HCS, has been participating in 4-H competitions at state fairs since he was in the 7–9-year division, the Cloverbuds. Blake competes in the 4-H Pullet Chain project. In this project, youth raise day old chicks for 5 to 7 months. Project members will care for, train, and prepare their birds for show and/or final sale. Members are required to keep a book, Blake explains, that tracks expenses, bird health, growth, and just “everything to do with your chickens.”
Both keeping the book and showing the bird are where Blake excels. Members turn in their record books at the end of the project and are judged for those, as well as the judging of individual birds at state fair competitions. The book is judged on a regional level and then those winners go on to be judged at the state level. Last year, Blake was the overall winner of every division across the state for both his chicken and rabbit books.
Members need to show their animals in at least two fairs. Blake participates in the Pee Dee Region, where participation in the East Carolina Fair is required, while the second fair is chosen by the member.
Blake’s personal favorite competition happens to be the ECA fair, where he recently received Grand Champion for his division for both Rabbit and Poultry Showmanship and Reserve Champion Overall for both.
“It’s basically a health examination of the bird,” Blake expounds. “The judge ... is making sure you know what you’re talking about as you go through the examination of your bird. And then you are judged by not only how you handle the bird but how you react while you’re showing the bird. You’re getting judged on more than the bird. So, it really builds confidence levels for everything.”
Two years after Blake started 4-H, he began competing with rabbits as well as chickens. Blake shows Holland Lops and loved working with the rabbits so much that at nine years old, he started his own business. Blake’s Fin, Feather, and Farm breeds and raises show quality Holland Lops rabbits. Baby rabbits are usually available around Christmas, Easter, mid-summer, and occasionally Halloween.
This year alone, Blake has placed Reserve Grand Champion or Overall Grand Champion in both rabbits and poultry in three fairs, as well as Reserve Grand Champion in the Junior Division for rabbits and Blue Ribbon for his chicken at the State Fair. These wins more than prove that Blake raises farm animals exceedingly well and it shouldn’t be surprising that earning a leadership position in 4-H is a primary goal.
The 4-H State Teen Council is Blake’s ambition. “We actually get to plan all the events that 4-H does.”
Then the regional representative is selected from three candidates, which is a position generally held before running for 4-H President. The president is over all the divisions across the state. “Well, yeah,”
Blake quietly, but confidently, replies when asked if he has his eyes on that spot.
After graduating from Harvest, where Blake and his mother, Tina, head and sponsor the 4-H Club, Blake will pursue a career in agriculture and livestock. The route to achieving that goal is still wide open as Blake weighs attending a traditional four-year university such as Ohio State University or earning an agriculture certificate from a technical school. Blake’s end goal is to run his own chicken farm, but the dream is judging poultry.
“My dream job is to be a poultry judge and travel the country and judge poultry shows for American Poultry Breeders Association.”
Blake is a hardworking, responsible young man and a natural farmer. He lights up when speaking about 4-H, making it abundantly clear how much he’s learned since becoming a member and how much the organization means to him. From his parents to his teachers and friends, there are no doubts from those that know him that he will spend his life raising livestock. For now, however, he is still a hungry teenage boy, anxious about his future but firmly in the present, trying to end an interview so he can finish his lunch break with his friends. “You about done with me? I think we’re good here,” Blake jokes as he stands up and walks out the classroom door.