White hoping to end her showing career on top
HARTLY, Del. — Erika White has one last opportunity to demonstrate her skills in showing animals as a junior at the Delaware State Fair.
Now 21, she is “aging out.”
Daughter of Chris and Cherie White, she has shown horses for four years, and showed the Grand Champion Paint horse last year. Erika also won Grand Champion Market Steer as well as the Betty Palmer Award with her Angus crossbred steer in 2017.
The reserve was shown by Dylan Nickerson of Hartly, who happens to be Erika’s boyfriend.
The judge said their two steers were “closest to perfect” in “an exceptional group of animals” which looked almost identical to an untrained eye.
Again this year, Erika is keeping her steer, named Dallas, at the Nickerson family farm in Hartly, with that of Dylan and his sister Lauren. This is also Dylan’s last year as an exhibitor.
The year after the couple started dating, he arranged for her to get a steer to show also. The young steers come from out West.
Erika likes mixing feed and rinsing her steer. She said that growing up, she was more into sports and didn’t get into 4-H or FFA, or develop an interest in agriculture until she met Dylan.
Erika did not grow up on a farm, although the family has a hay farm in Roxanna. She grew up in Hartly, attended Dover Middle School and then Polytech.
Graduating from Del Tech in 2015, she is now enrolled in Wilmington University, pursing a degree in elementary education and special education. Already she is substitute teaching. As with showing animals, teaching special ed will be a challenge, but she says she is “up for it.”
She also works at the Nickersons’ Sudlersville Meat Locker where many of the animals sold at the Junior Livestock Auction at the state fair are brought for processing. A couple from Chaptico, in Southern Maryland, purchased her grand champion last year. Schiff Farms in Harrington bought Dylan’s.
“We cut them for free,” volunteered Lauren. “That way we get to see the end result. We start with a calf, watch it grow and like to see satisfied customers.”
The problem with watching a calf — or any farm animal — grow to market size is that you can get too attached to it. Erika had that problem last year and said she’s attached to Dallas, too. However, an animal sold in the fair’s auction can bring a sizable figure.
“We do our homework before the fair,” Lauren said. “We are lucky to have the customers we have.” Regular customers of Sudlersville Meat Locker are often willing to bid on a prize animal.
Erika hopes that with their winnings, she and Dylan will someday be able to buy a farm of their own.
Dylan is a meat cutter at Sudlersville Meat Locker and for D&J Butcher Shop, which processes deer for hunters on the home farm. He started when he was in high school and now works at it full time. The family plan is for him and his sister to take over the operation someday.
During the fair, the exhibitors work to make sure their animals are well-cared for and comfortable.
They use fans and misters to keep them cool and give them plenty of water. They’re also rinsed two or three times a day.