By: Ryan Métivier
The bond between 4-H’er and calf is one that often grows strong,- bringing much joy. This was never more evident than during the partnership between Stormont’s Aimee Van Loon and her jersey calf, Payneside Mac N Cheese.
Loaned to Aimee for her 4-H project in 2013 by club leader Jill Robinson and her husband Doug from their family farm, the two quickly became inseparable. Aimee worked on training, clipping, feeding and showing the calf in many competitive and open 4-H shows across the province.
“Every time I went to walk her, she would come running to see me. When I put her back in the pasture she would turn around, stay at the gate and watch me leave,” says Aimee.
Jill says watching the pair together was simply amazing.
“Aimee is very dedicated to training animals and has patience and the ability to remain calm and focused even when her calf has a stubborn day,” she says. “They connected right from day one.”
“It means a lot to me because Doug and Jill saved Mac N Cheese for me to show when they could have easily sold her to some of the many people wanting to buy her,” says Aimee. “It was great that they gave me the opportunity to show Mac N Cheese at numerous shows that season.”
Despite coming from a holstein farm, Aimee has always held affection for jerseys, saying she loves their unique personality, which can make them more challenging.
And Aimee was more than up to the challenge, entering Mac N Cheese into numerous competitions and having huge success. Overall, they attended nine 4-H events that summer and fall. At their first show, which was the Eastern Ontario Junior Show, Mac N Cheese won Grand Champion, despite Aimee being in new territory, having never been in the champion class before.
As a typically quiet member who got involved with 4-H because her family was involved—and because she enjoyed showing cattle—Aimee found this experience helped her develop many new skills.
Being in 4-H has allowed her to become more confident in public speaking, leadership and working with others, as well as teaching her new skills like cooking, sewing, plowing and showing beef cattle. Watching senior classes gave her a chance to learn new tips for showmanship, fitting and clipping skills.
“During this time we could see Aimee gaining more confidence in her own abilities,” says Jill. “Her showmanship skills got better and better due to the time spent working with Mac N Cheese… Aimee was thrilled when we put a
set of clippers in her hands and said ‘Mac N Cheese is your project.’”
Aimee’s hard work culminated 18 months later into a world record when Payneside Mac N Cheese sold at an auction in the United States for $267,000 on April 2.
Jill says she and Doug are thrilled and that they knew there was something special about Mac N Cheese from Day 1 as a young calf, but never imagined this.
“As a 4-H member Doug always dreamed of having the perfect calf, and although he was not on the halter of Mac N Cheese he still got to see his dream come true through Aimee.”
Aimee looks back fondly on her time with Mac N Cheese.
“It feels incredible. It’s awesome how much I hear people talking about Mac N Cheese and I’m so proud of her,” she says. “It feels like a dream come true. I always knew that someday Mac N Cheese was going to be famous.”
Now 14 years old, Aimee plans on completing her years in 4-H, while continuing to show jerseys and hopefully achieving her goal of once again competing in the Royal Agriculture Winter Fair. Also on the horizon is joining new clubs and camps, becoming a Youth Leader, and becoming a volunteer leader once her years of membership in 4-H are complete.