Scholarship Highlight: Mason Blinson–Seeker of Opportunity

Nothing is worse than missing an opportunity that could have changed your life.

Below is a profile of Mason Blinson, a N.C. State Fair Youth Scholarship recipient that has shown sheep, pigs and cattle at the N.C. State Fair for many years. Mason is the daughter of Beth and Bryan Blinson of Buies Creek, NC.

No one can accuse Mason Blinson of turning down a good opportunity, and because of her willingness to try new things, visit new places, and utilize the talents she’s been given, Mason has been able to experience some pretty awesome things.

Mason is a senior at Oklahoma State University where she is earning bachelors in both Plant and Soil Sciences and Animal Science. While her time in undergrad is coming to a close, Mason has packed it full of trips, activities, friends, and internships.

Last year, Mason competed on the OSU Meat Judging Team. While she had never been on a meat judging team before, she had grown up judging and showing livestock. Because of this past experience, she became interested in the team. During her meat and carcass evaluation class that all animal science majors are required to take, she approached the teacher (also the meat judging coach) and shared her interest in joining the meat judging team. Her teacher held her to it.

Although, OSU Meat Judging Team has a very good reputation in the judging world due to winning more national championships than any other university, Mason’s team still felt like the underdogs. She said that at contests they would have highs and lows. Some on the team would have a successful day while others wouldn’t.

“It was discouraging at times because we knew we had it in us to win, but we always fell short in one aspect or another,” said Mason.

Even though some contests left them discouraged, the team never gave up. They would always come back to school and pour into getting better.

“We would walk into practice, eager to see what we could get better at, what we could learn, and what we could perfect,” Mason shared. “For each practice, we wrote a quote on the board that was our motto for that day. Little words of encouragement and traditions like that are what kept us going.”

The team may have had some doubts in their abilities, but the coaches had no doubt that by the end they would be champions. That kind of faith and encouragement really gave the team all the confidence they needed—that and putting in the work during practices.

Mason said that much of their success was a combination of practicing and team bonding. They drew hundreds of ribeyes and PYGs to prepare for the yield grading section of the contest. They studied and even went on an extended practice trip where they were able to visit a beef plant, pork plant and South Dakota State University. During that trip, they not only were able see a lot of product to help them in competition, but they were also able to bond together more as a team. Leading up to the big contest, the team would share verses, devotionals, and quotes to each other to drive them throughout the weeks.

When the week of the international came, gone was the underdog team. This team was poised, confidant and ready to compete. After completing their “contest rituals” of playing the song “Champion” by Carrie Underwood while eating their Wal-Mart breakfast, they gathered together for a prayer and “brought it in” for one last “GO POKES”! Mason and her team became National Meat Judging champions that day. Not only that, but their fellow Pokes won national championships in horse judging and livestock judging too. Within three days, OSU had brought home the “triple crown,” something that the school has never achieved.

A required class, peaked Mason’s interest in meat judging, and because she chose to chase an opportunity, she is part of a team with a national championship and a story that made history. Yet, Mason’s decision to chase opportunity didn’t stop there.

This year, Mason took the opportunity to fly to Spain for a study abroad trip. She was able to learn about the agriculture there and was not shy about trying food. While in Seville, the group learned that Seville’s economy originated from livestock and crops.

“Hearing the history at the winery about how it used to be a holding place and passageway for livestock and getting some insight into what all went into consideration at the olive grove in terms of competition crops, ground cover, and insects were extremely fascinating to this ag girl,” Mason explained.

Willing to try new things and go to more obscure places, Mason was able to indulge in the most buttery and heavenly fried fish she’d ever had in a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant with a grand total of three things on the menu. She also visited the market, a modern take on a farmer’s market.

“Vendors piled in elbow to elbow with their restaurants serving everything from croquetas and Iberian ham to mojitos and macaroons. I have no shame when I say I went here three times because each visit was a brand-new experience,” shared Mason.

While it is still up in the air whether or not Mason can add tour guide to her resume, it is certain that her time in Spain was filled with some great opportunities that allowed her to experience the agriculture, food, and culture of another country.

After finishing out her junior year at OSU this spring, Mason embarked on yet another opportunity/adventure for #OneNobleSummer. As a 2019 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture, Mason was able to combine her interest in cattle and forages through an internship with the Noble Research Institute. Mason’s project looked at prescribed burning. She researched when during the growing season is best to burn native range in Oklahoma in order to improve forage quality and yield for grazing in the dormant season.

Mason spent the summer in Oklahoma at the Coffey Ranch in Love County, researching, learning, burning, and networking. Prescribed burning was new to Mason, but she learned the benefits it has and how she can use it in her future career. Working with professionals like livestock consultant Ryon Walker, Ph.D., and wildlife and fisheries consultant Steven Smith, Mason was able to develop connections, visit with producers, learn a great deal, and even travel throughout Oklahoma and Texas to partake in prescribed burn events and workshops. She was also able to interact and help other scholars with their projects like virtual fencing, mob grazing, and collecting forage analysis. You can read more about Mason’s time at the Noble Research Institute by clicking here and here.

The opportunities Mason had while with the Noble Research Institute sound absolutely amazing, but the photos really tell the story. Don’t you agree?

From national meat judging champion to prescribed fires in Oklahoma with a bit of Spain in between, Mason has had her plate full. That hasn’t stopped her from chasing after even more opportunities and pursuing another passion—art.

She wanted to decorate her dorm room without spending an arm and a leg, so she painted a very colorful cow and pig. Those paintings started it all. She began getting requests for her artwork, and now she has her own Facebook page (Masons’ Creations) where she sells her drawings and paintings. Her art has even been featured on t-shirts at Twisted Horn Boutique!

Photo from Twisted Horn Boutique
Photo from Twisted Horn Boutique

Although, Mason has found success in art, her first commissioned piece is still her favorite. The charcoal drawing features two of Mason’s Hereford heifers with a close family friend.

“I had never done a realistic charcoal drawing before, so I would not let him pay me until I was done and proud of my work. This picture remains my favorite drawing. It was my first, I spent the most time on it, and it was cattle of my own and someone like a sister to me,” said Mason.

Taking the opportunity of blank dorm walls, and building on the creative genes of her mom, Nana, and grandpa, Mason explored just what artistic abilities she had. Now it’s a business that she hopes to continue as a side hustle in the future.

As Mason enters her senior year at OSU, she is feeling excited! She plans to transition from an active member in campus events to an executive and give back to the organizations that have given her an amazing 3 years! She is also looking forward to her classes where she can translate her knowledge gained from internships and research into everyday class.

While Mason doesn’t have all the details panned out, she does intend to go to grad school and eventually pursue a PhD. Whatever ends up happening, it is probably a safe bet that Mason will take advantage of any opportunity that comes her way.

From Buies Creek, NC to Stillwater, Oklahoma, Mason has been learning, networking, making memories, and going on adventures. And, what would this OSU senior tell her freshman self? Well, the words are quite fitting for the story of Mason Blinson. It speaks of opportunity and wisdom.

“When wanting to get involved, do what you enjoy and what will lead you to a prosperous future in a career you are good at. Be realistic with yourself knowing your strengths and weaknesses. This applies to everything whether you are applying for a position, studying for an exam, or meeting new people.”

—Mason Blinson

If you’re given a great opportunity, take it. Opportunity doesn’t knock twice.

May we all be as courageous and adventurous as Mason to take opportunity when it knocks.

About Marisa Linton See

Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock in NC. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for 15 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.

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