All’s fair in love and 4-H cattle judging

It wasn’t a typical courtship. When Jennifer DeVoe and Kirk Damon first noticed each other, it was all about cows.

The girl from the Arlington farm and the boy from the Skagit County dairy would see each other at fairs. They’d compete in fitting and showing, a test of skills in grooming and handling their dairy cows. They’d face off in type judging, where an animal’s quality and appearance is sized up.

Damon admitted DeVoe often got the best of him when the time came to hand out ribbons.

“I think the judges like the girls better,” he joked.

Eight years to the day after they started dating, they will be married Aug. 7 on the farm outside Arlington where DeVoe grew up.

“That summer of ‘96, we were both 14 and just getting to know each other,” said DeVoe, 22. “We’d spent time together at fairs and had something in common, a farming background. It grew over time, and we became a pair.”

In 1999, The Herald had a youth section called Edge. The two were featured that August in an article about 4-H. Damon was pictured showing a cow at the Silvana Fair. DeVoe was shown feeding cows at her home near Arlington.

DeVoe, a 2000 graduate of Arlington High School, remembers those long days.

“My senior year in high school, I’d get up at 5 a.m. to milk five or six cows. I’d be in class from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” she said. “I played basketball, so in winter I’d have practice from 3 to 5 p.m. I’d come home, eat dinner, go out to milk cows, and then do homework.”

That work ethic continued through college. DeVoe just graduated from Washington State University with a bachelor’s degree in animal science. She has a job at a Skagit County dairy farm.

Her fiance works for a potato farmer in Skagit County, and they bought a house in Sedro-Woolley. His parents, Mike and Londa Damon, live near Bow, where he was raised. They no longer are dairy farmers.

“My ultimate goal would have been to stay on the family farm, but dairy farming is hardly here anymore,” Damon said. He’s seen harsh realities, growth, high land prices and little profit from farming.

Still, the couple hope to build a life much like what they knew as kids. “Agriculture is what I grew up with, what I enjoy,” Damon said.

Annette DeVoe, Jennifer DeVoe’s mother, is busy with wedding preparations on the 85-acre farm she shares with her husband, Edward. They raised four children, all of whom participated in 4-H. Their youngest, 15-year-old Kenny, shows dairy goats.

“To me, 4-H is a tremendous place to raise a kid. They all made sacrifices for what they were doing,” Annette DeVoe said. “Something about 4-H allows you to go back 40 years in time; it’s like raising kids in a 1950s or 1960s environment.”

Traveling from fair to fair was a great way to get to know her daughter’s future husband. “I met Kirk when he was 15. He’d sleep in a tent outside our trailer,” she said.

The wedding, Annette DeVoe said, “will be kind of 4-H-style. It’s like decorating for the fair.”

She is pleased that her children have held on to their youthful interests. One daughter hopes to become a horse trainer. And Jennifer DeVoe, her mother said, will judge cattle at the Adams County Fair. “Jennifer’s heart is with dairy cattle,” she added.

It goes without saying, but Jennifer DeVoe’s heart is also with the guy she first spotted showing cows. These days, he’s not too focused on blue ribbons.

“We’re going to Tahoe,” Damon said when asked about a honeymoon. This time, cows aren’t invited.

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