Since she first joined 4-H in elementary school, Caldwell High School senior Paige Odenbach has learned the importance of being an advocate for agriculture.
“It is the base of our economy,” she said, from the food on people’s dinner tables to the clothes they wear and the pencils they use. “It’s all from agriculture. … If you don’t care about agriculture, then I guess you better find somewhere else for your resources.”
When she joined 4-H and FFA once she got to high school, she decided to show pigs and, this year, heifers. It turned into more than just a fun thing to do.
“I really ended up falling in love with agriculture and being around the animals,” she said. “It just became a part of my life and who I was. I loved it so much, so I was kind of glad I got to share the love of agriculture with my parents and myself, and even my grandparents.”
Her dad’s side of the family has operated a family farm in Falls County for more than 50 years.
She enjoys educating younger students about the importance of agriculture and giving them new experiences they might not otherwise get, such as letting children feed her heifer.
“They got to learn more about the cattle, while I was learning about it, too,” she said. “The smile and the joy on their face, it’s amazing to feel and see, because it’s not something everyone gets to experience, and they got to experience that at such a young age. I was just really excited to be able to share the opportunity with them.”
There is a place for everybody in the agriculture industry, she said, but she most enjoys the advocacy side.
In addition to showing animals, she has also taken on leadership roles in both organizations, this year serving as president of her Caldwell FFA chapter.
“It’s really taught me that the more leadership you have, the smarter you have to be about your decisions, because it’s not only you you’re affecting anymore. You’re affecting a whole team, and now my decisions, they affect a whole group of people,” she said.
This year, Odenbach also will serve as a member of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Junior Rodeo Committee, where she will shadow volunteers on the main HLSR committees.
Through her involvement in 4-H and FFA, she said, she has learned work ethic and responsibility.
“I’m not going to settle for just a clean pen,” she said. “I want my pen to look the absolute best it can or my animals look the absolute best they can, so I’m going to put in extra work because I don’t want to settle.”
Christine Vogler, Caldwell High School ag teacher, said Odenbach got involved in FFA right away as a freshman and is always looking for the next thing she can do.
“I feel like she is really motivated,” she said. “She’ll come to us with an idea, and then she’ll be the one to talk it up and get it done; she’ll take on the work herself to do it. I feel like she’s a really good leader. She’s very strong, and I think some of that does come from that she’s outgoing. … Being just friendly and dedicated and motivated, I think those things just have got her to where she is now.”
Her drive to help people was there even before entering middle school, Vogler said.
She recalled an instance in 2014 when Odenbach was in fifth grade at Caldwell Intermediate School. School counselor Karla Devin’s husband and daughter were killed during a home invasion, and Odenbach designed T-shirts to honor their memories and sold them to raise money for an endowed scholarship at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Devin’s daughter’s name.
“[Odenbach] is a compassionate person that is always looking for ways to contribute,” Vogler said. “Even at a young age, she went to great lengths to accomplish her goal, and she still exhibits these traits. As our chapter president, she is a selfless leader who looks for ways to serve her community.”
Odenbach said her experience as president has led her to explore a path toward agribusiness. After graduating from Caldwell High School, she will attend the University of St. Thomas in Houston on a softball scholarship and study business and marketing.
If she is selected to receive the Ag Student of the Week scholarship, she said, she would be speechless at the continued support of the ag community.
“Words can’t describe the support that the ag community shows, and this is just one example,” she said. “There are many others out there, and it’s just an amazing amount of support that this community provides, and I’m so thankful for it.”