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A family of 4-Hers

Lane Jorgensen, 18, left, and his brother Clay, 16, of Mount Vernon, have both won John Jorgensen Memorial Awards — which is named for their late uncle — for their market steers. Lane won in 2016 and Clay won this year with his steer Otis, pictured. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 4
John Jorgensen died on Nov. 6, 1991 in a crash. Two years later, his twin brother Jim, organized a memorial award in his name for the Davison County 4-H. (Submitted photo)2 / 4
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The "most sought-out" award at Davison County 4-H Achievement Days holds special meaning for the Jorgensen family.

The John Jorgensen Memorial Award is in its 24th year of existence at the annual 4-H competition, but in the past two summers the winner has shared the same family name.

On Nov. 6, 1991, John Jorgensen was driving a truck hauling cattle on Interstate 90 near Alexandria when another larger truck struck his vehicle from behind. John was killed in the crash.

Two years later, in 1993, John's twin brother, Jim, decided to create a memorial award in his name honoring his active involvement in Davison County 4-H. And in 2016 and 2017, Jim's two sons, Lane and Clay, won the award — and Jim couldn't be happier.

"They weren't around yet when John passed away, so they never knew him but still I think it's an honor," Jim said. " ... It's a memorial to John and it's an honor to give that award. I've had several 4-H members over the years come up to me afterward and thank us for doing it. Several of them say this is a highlight. It combines the performance and visual appearance."

The John Jorgensen Memorial Award is in the market beef section of Achievement Days, and is a combination of the animal's rate of gain and visual appearance. Winners of this award have to show a calf that looks good, as well as is high-quality beef, and according to Lane, that's difficult to find.

"You need a good calf to win the award," Lane said. "You could have a calf that's nice to look at and gets grand champion steer, but you can't have a calf that's easy to look at but won't gain anything."

It's a "complete award," according to Jim, and one he thinks John would be proud of. John was very active in 4-H, Jim said, being involved as a child and then volunteering for years afterward, helping area 4-Hers with their calves.

"It's just an honor to win it," Clay said of his late-uncle's award. "I know I didn't meet him, but it's still special."

Outpouring of support for 4-H

Lane and Clay are the fourth-generation of farmers in the Jorgensen family, who live just north of Mount Vernon.

Both attend Mitchell High School, and Lane will be taking classes at Mitchell Technical Institute during his senior year.

While school takes up a majority of their time, 4-H remains a top priority, and the boys will spend the entire year gearing up for Achievement Days, grooming and preparing their calves for showing.

Each memorial winner has their name added to the large plaque located at the Davison County Fairgrounds, and Clay is now the 24th name to be added.

Amanda Nolz — now Amanda Radke — is listed twice on the plaque, earning the John Jorgensen Memorial Award in 2003 and 2004.

And it's an award she was proud to win.

"It was really always the most sought-out award I thought in our county because it was the culmination of not just how your calf looked, but how your steer performed as well," Radke said. "It was just a feather in your cap winning that because it meant you excelled in all areas of the competition."

Radke was too young to remember John, but she knows the rest of the Jorgensen family, and she and her husband help with their showing, supporting the family now as Jim did when she was younger.

"To see it all come full circle, it's awesome and they continue to sponsor this award to honor their family member but also continue to support the area 4-H kids," Radke said.

A decline in Davison

Both Jim and Radke have noticed "fewer and fewer" children becoming active in 4-H.

It may be because of the amount of work the organization demands, which could be months or even a full of year of preparation, Radke said.

And they both believe it's worth the work.

"It really teaches kids a lot of responsibility and hard work. The Jorgensen award teaches kids that the beef of this steer matters," Radke said. "It reminds kids of the business of raising beef really is."

Radke has two children, ages 1 and 3, who will eventually become involved in 4-H when they are older.

It's several young families like Radke's that Jim said are showing "a lot of promise" for the upcoming years of 4-H, which Jim describes as an "outstanding program." And through it all, the John Jorgensen Memorial Award will remain.

"I guess one thing with this award is that the 4-H motto is to make the best better," Jim said. "And if this award can encourage someone in the livestock end of it to make the best better, I feel very honored and the mission is accomplished."

Past winners

Barclay Kreth — 1993

Dustin Schnabel — 1994

Dustin Schnabel — 1995

Kevin Deinert — 1996

Dustin Schnabel — 1997

Sydney Geppert — 1998

Mike Deinert — 1999

Weston Geppert — 2000

Kevin Deinert — 2001

Weston Geppert — 2002

Amanda Nolz — 2003

Amanda Nolz — 2004

Abby Repenning — 2005

Courtney Nolz — 2006

Abby Repenning — 2007

Morgen Hines — 2008

Courtney Nolz — 2009

Dani Stoltz — 2010

Kaley Nolz — 2011

Dani Stoltz — 2012

Sonja Wells — 2013

Dani Stoltz — 2014

Josy Thompson — 2015

Lane Jorgensen — 2016

Clay Jorgensen — 2017

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