Each year, the N.C. State Fair Livestock Scholarship program awards a number of college students $2,000 for higher education expenses. Another student, or in this case two students, receives a $2,500 scholarship from the Farm Credit Association of North Carolina. These scholarships are open to students who have previously competed in the livestock shows at the N.C. State Fair, regardless of final show placement. The 2022 winners will be recognized during the Got To Be N.C. Festival, taking place May 20th through the 22nd at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, including this year’s Farm Credit Association scholarship winners, twin sisters, Mattie and Marcie Harward.
Mattie and Marcie grew up surrounded by agriculture and livestock, specifically cattle, on their families farm in Richfield. “Agriculture is all that we have ever know,” said Marcie. “Our dad started out by raising cattle so we have always been around them. In fact, we started showing them ourselves around five or six years of age.” The twin sisters are the youngest of five. Their older sisters, Brooke, Catherine and LeAnn, also showed livestock growing up, giving Mattie and Marcie an excellent example to follow in the arena. “We loved showing livestock at a young age,” Mattie said. “We have always had a passion for agriculture and what it stands for, which has only grown throughout our time and experience in the industry.”
Although the Harward Sisters grew up showing livestock together, according to Mattie and Marcie, they usually tried to show different breeds of pure bred cattle so that they were not competing against one another. “It’s fun to do shows alongside one another,” Mattie and Marcie said, “and thankfully our farm raises a variety of cattle so most of the time we weren’t in competition with each other but could cheer one another on.” In addition to cattle, Mattie and Marcie have shown goats, lambs and pigs. “The first animal we ever took into the arena was a goat and, funny enough, that is the only one we have ever shown,” Marcie said. “Recently, though, we have become really interested in showing pigs due to their different personalities that give us more of a variety and challenge in the show arena.” Even though they prefer not to compete against one another, Mattie and Marcie have occasionally enjoyed tripping out the judges by showing the same breed and color of animal in the same show outfit. “It’s always fun to watch them do a double take with a confused look on their face until they realize we are not the same kid, but are indeed twin sisters,” Mattie laughed.
As you can imagine, Mattie and Marcie have participated in a variety of livestock shows since the age of five years old, including multiple shows at the N.C. State Fair each year. Marcie enjoys many aspects of showing around the state, but her favorite part is creating connections with other agriculture individuals across the state. “From travelling to shows around the country to working in the barn at home, preparing for and being a part of livestock shows not only creates deeper relationships with my family and loved ones, but it allows me to meet a variety of other people involved with this industry,” she said. “It’s like one big family and you never know when those connections will come in handy.” Mattie, however, enjoys the plethora of opportunities presented to her through livestock shows. “When you participate in a livestock show, it’s so much more than showing up and parading your animal around the arena,” she said. “These shows include many competitions that teach a variety of skills, including communications, public speaking, networking, marketing and more.”
This year, Mattie and Marcie were fortunate enough to each be awarded a $2,500 livestock scholarship from the Farm Credit Association of North Carolina. Both girls are currently Agriculture Business Management majors at N.C. State University. “Being awarded these scholarships meant a lot to both of us, not only because they helped ease the financial burden of university costs, but also because they were a reward for all the years of hard work we have put into livestock shows throughout the years,” Mattie said. “It’s an honor to have been chosen among the other applicants and be recognized for our passion and dedication to the industry.”
In the future, Mattie and Marcie both plan to continue pursuing their passions within the agriculture industry. Marcie is planning to attend grad school and obtain a Master’s degree in reproductive animal science. Mattie is focused more on the marketing and sales side of agriculture as well as utilizing her talents at home on the family farm, Harward Sisters Cattle Company. Both girls, however, have dreams of providing educational outlets and opportunities for individuals across the community to learn about agriculture and get involved with livestock shows. “We would one day like to be in the business of breeding pure bred cattle on our family farm and selling them to kids in the area or across the state to help them get involved with livestock shows,” Mattie said. “We encourage getting started as early as possible because showing livestock teaches so many different and valuable skills, like a hard work ethic and how to build connections with both people and animals, that no matter if you stay in it for the rest of your life or only for a couple years, those skills will follow and benefit you throughout your career.”
In addition, the girls dream of one day opening up a facility in the community where they can offer fresh produce, meats and specialty made products as well as teach customers about agriculture and the importance of farming. “Growing up, we were one of two families in our school that was raised on a farm, involved in agriculture and showed livestock,” Marcie said. “Our parents always told us that if we have the opportunity to better ourselves or the community to go for it. This is one way that we aim to do that by changing the statistic and teaching the community about the importance of agriculture in our state and helping people get involved.”
When they are not showing livestock, Mattie and Marcie are heavily involved in our state’s agriculture industry in a variety of other ways, including the family farming operation. Marcie is currently serving her first term on the National Junior Angus Association Board of Directors and Mattie is serving on the American International Junior Charolais Association Board of Directors as the Area 8 Director. Through their positions on each board, the girls are able to attend leadership conferences and expand their network of agriculture industry professionals as well as educate people across the state and beyond about N.C. Agriculture. We are proud of all their hard work and look forward to seeing where the future takes them!