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Farm girl on her way to greatness

Larry McDermott

Life on the farm

C.J. Higgins is a rarity in today’s teenage world. At 13, she has her eyes on the prize, and it’s not a selfie.

The Rutherfordton farm girl already has established herself as a winner. She has taken many ribbons and prizes competitively showing some of her dairy cows from her family’s C-Saw Hill Farm.

At the age of 2, she won a ribbon showing her dairy goat “Annabelle.” As she stood next to the goat in the show ring, her chin barely parallel with the doe’s back, the judge examined the animal and quizzed C.J. Looking the judge squarely in the eye, she answered his questions.

Today at 13, she looks her questioner straight in the eye, holding the look without glancing away at distractions.

“I’m going to Clemson and major in agribusiness, because that will give me more options,” she said. That’s one prize. Clemson and future options.

Consider this: She used money she had earned to purchase one Swiss and one Jersey dairy cow. Since then, both have had three calves. The farm has a herd because of her.

Last year, she won Grand Champion Jersey at the Mountain State Fair with her “Biltmore Bold Libby,” whose barn name is “Susie.” She also won Grand Champion Swiss at the Cleveland County Fair showing “Hidden Paradise Stylin’,” barn name “Happy.”

But raising, showing and milking dairy cows isn’t the sum of her farm experience. You also can call her a beekeeper, something she learned from her recently passed grandfather, William Higgins. She also keeps chickens, both layers and meat varieties. When it’s time to process the birds to prepare them for customers’ dinner tables, she is no shrinking violet. She is in charge of scalding and running them through the plucking machine. Having had the same job on our farm, I can tell you it isn’t easy work. It requires a good sense of timing and respect for water being kept at roughly 150 degrees. One must know the perfect time to end each step and move to the next.

She can run a huge farm tractor like a pro, ride a horse, swim like Katie Ledecky, deliver a presentation about her family farm to a room packed with fellow farmers and friends of agriculture and still remember what she says her parents taught her: “good character and behavior.”

Her parents, Lisa and Brandon, are farmers. Lisa also is the lead agribusiness instructor at Isothermal Community College, and Brandon is the county soil and water conservationist. Both are smart and hardworking, and they are proud of their daughter’s accomplishments.

But it is often what others who know us say about us that matters. Ellenboro food producer and family friend Wendy Shumaker of Aunt Wendy’s Kitchen has spent many hours with her. These are the qualities she has seen:

“Generosity. Curiosity about things in life. Always showing love for everyone in the world. She is so mature for her age. She takes care of the people around her. Anytime she sees someone needing help, she is right there to lend a hand,” Wendy said.

For C.J. Higgins, the prize is greater than her personal achievements in school, on the swim team or the farm. The prize also includes being a good person, and she is well on her way.

Larry McDermott, a retired journalist, owns a 40-acre organic farm in Rutherfordton, where he grows blueberries, keeps bees and raises horses, dairy goats, and chickens. Email: hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com or see farm happenings at www.facebook.com/hardscrabblehollowfarmllc