Overcoming Adversity: The Power of Showing Livestock
Grand champion 4-H livestock showman shares her inspirational story
Nineteen-year-old Staci Kmetz beams a smile for the camera, standing alongside her is grand champion heavyweight market lamb, Foxtrot, who had just sold for a record-breaking sum of $30,100 at the Fayette County Fair’s 4H Livestock Auction in Pennsylvania. The fair’s previous record-highest was $90 per-pound; Foxtrot brought some $215 per-pound, with more than 180 contributors across 15 states.
The road to this snapshot was paved with both trial and triumph. Her determination, love for 4H, and the support from her livestock family and friends helped see her through to this moment, a memory which she would hold in her heart forever.
“When it comes down to my initial thoughts while Foxtrot and I were breaking the record for money per pound, all I could think is how blessed I am to have all of the love and support behind me of not only friends but also family. The livestock community truly comes together when adversity hits members,” Staci said.
This moment got even better -- when after the grand total was raised to purchase Foxtrot, he was then given back to her. Those who knew Staci were well-aware of what an incredible friend, and support system, he had become to her.
“He’s still in the barn and is my best friend,” Staci said.
“He’s more expensive than our barn,” Mother, Jacki Kmetz, laughingly said. “She spends three hours every day in the barn with Foxtrot, whether she’s doing his leg hair routine, setting him up, or just having a good talk with him.”
THERE WAS AN ACCIDENT. “Freak things happen every day. You don’t think it will hit close to home,” Jacki said.
Every year, the Kmetz family provides the lambs for Fayette County’s annual Ag Fest Days -- Staci presents for both two days of learning and ag appreciation held at the county fairgrounds for surrounding 4th grade classes.
On May 22, 2019, Staci unloaded two lambs at the fairgrounds by herself, just like any other day, the first with no problem. “I went back for the second one, and when I opened the door of the popper, the lamb lunged forward, trying to jump out of the bed of the truck. I just bear hugged it to get it down, and in the process, the lamb kicked me in the side of my temple,” Staci said. “I fell off the bed of the truck to the concrete-paved ground.”
She shook it off, like most anyone would.
“I continued my day, did my presentation to about 500 4th graders, and went home,” Staci said.
THE NEXT DAY, THINGS BECAME DIZZY. She returned to the fairgrounds for Ag Fest Days, when she started getting double, triple-vision dizziness, and a painful migraine. “The directors of the Ag Fest found me lying with one of the lambs in the pen when it was lunch time. So, my brother came and picked me up and we went to the ER. I was diagnosed with a minor concussion and was sent home -- no biggie. As the days went on, my speech started getting very slow and soft and to the point where it seemed like I was whispering, but I had no idea,” Staci recalled.
Weeks and a number of hospital visits later, Staci was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), and Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI).
FOCUS ON THE VISION, NOT THE CIRCUMSTANCE. “I do not feel from my hips down to my toes, and my legs do not hold me up; however, that does not stop me from doing much. Every day, I try to stand on my own, and I faceplant. I have faith that one day I will try to stand and my legs will hold me up as they once did. My speech had a regression in March of 2021.
I continue to fight every day to better my walking ability and speech, as I focus on my vision and not my circumstance,” said Staci.
Staci relearned everyone in her life through pictures and stories told to her, the alphabet, numbers and more. She quickly learned how to continue showing, as well, saying “To get down to the height of my lambs I show, I use my “show crutches” as we call them, because they are simply only used for the show ring.”
Her mom shared how her farm-kid tough approach, and unwavering determination, is nothing new. “She’s tough; she is a brute. When she was a senior in high school, we always called her our beast and she is -- she does a lot. If you want it, you’ll figure out how to do it, and she’s living proof of that. You have to have faith and don’t give up,” encouraged Jacki.
SHOWING LIVESTOCK HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT PART OF HER JOURNEY. “4H has taught me how to embrace myself and others while in tough situations,” Staci said.“Life will throw obstacles at you, but your positive mindset is what will get you through those lows.”
By showing lambs after the accident, Staci has been able to have responsibility, love and work in her life, and she enjoys it all with a smile on her face, she said. Staci especially looks forward to the Showmanship classes.
“When it comes to Showmanship, I brave the ring with just me and my lamb. Showmanship is about the bond and connection you have with your animal. This is where I want to show to myself and the world that my circumstance does not control my life, but indeed, I am in control of my life,” Staci said.
For others who may be facing life changes, Staci shared parting words of encouragement and staying positive.
“Life will throw obstacles at you, but your positive mindset is what will get you through those lows,” Staci said. “You may struggle daily, but keep striving forward, never give up, trust those supporting you, and always take control of your situation -- never let it control your life. Remember to trust the good Lord’s process. We may never know the reason behind the situations each of us may have, but if you give your heart to God he will provide. Never lost the faith.”
Valley Vet Supply is proud to showcase its customers’ passion and dedication to their industry. As a company, we are honored to share Staci’s unwavering determination, and passion for showing livestock, with the world.