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Servant leader

Armed with eight years of skills, knowledge, and experiences through 4-H, Andersonville’s Savannah Jones confidently prepares for a future in ag poli
Story by: Sarah Geyer Photos by Glen Liford 4/24/2020


Savannah Jones’s outgoing and enthusiastic personality coupled with skills developed from a long and successful 4-H career are helping the young leader prepare for a career in agriculture. The member of Union County High School’s Class of 2020 plans to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in the fall.
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As the 2019-20 school year nears the end, Savannah Jones’s emotions are understandably seesawing between nostalgia for the past and anticipation for the future. Like most soon-to-be graduates, the Union County High School senior is both reflecting on the last 12 years and also excitedly preparing for college and beyond.

She plans to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, major in agriculture business, and then pursue a career in ag policy. It’s an interest she discovered during her service as a Tennessee 4-H All Star and member of the state’s Tennessee 4-H State Council. The organization, she says, has played a significant role in the development of her leadership skills and servant attitude.

“I had been told my whole life that when you get to fourth grade you’re going to join 4-H,” says the 18 year old, who lives with her parents, Trevor and Melissa, and her 12-year-old brother, Trent, on the family’s Andersonville farm. “I wasn’t really sure what it was at that point. Daddy just said it was a club for kids who lived on farms, and I thought ‘that sounds cool.’ I obviously know now that is not what it is; we have so much more, but that was enough to get fourth-grade me interested.”

Savannah says the chick chain was a good first project for her since she “was a rather small kid and was scared to death of every single animal larger than me.”

By the time she reached seventh grade, however, Savannah was ready for the show ring. She began by raising and showing pigs and added cattle the following year.

“I learned a lot through showing and judging livestock,” she says. “While small pigs are not my favorite, I’m glad I did that to get me started.”

During the transition from middle school to high school, Savannah found a way to expand on her show projects. Inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of her father, who started his own dairy at 18 by milking a few head in a rented barn, she decided to start her own business and sell her pork and beef at local farmers’ markets. However, making Jones and Co. Meat Sales a reality meant lots of research for Savannah. The next step was to earn her USDA meat licensure and then implement the necessary state requirements and USDA guidelines, which meant purchasing a special freezer, passing inspections, and meeting packing and labeling standards.

“I credit my experiences in 4-H up to that point for getting me started in business,” she says. “I would never have done all this if it hadn’t been for raising animals for my show projects.”

That same year, Savannah acheived Tennessee 4-H All Stars status, a recognition level available to members of the state’s 4-H Honor Club that focuses on community service and leadership.

“As All Stars, we live by one motto, and it is literally ‘service,’” she says. “Through these service projects I’ve realized how fortunate I am not only to have what I have but also to be able to help other people.”

As an All Star member, Savannah has had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the state and visit other states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is currently serving her second term on the Tennessee 4-H State Council, first as State 4-H All Star Deputy Chief and this year as State 4-H All Star Chief.

“I’ve been able to meet the Secretary of Agriculture, I volunteered at the Governor’s inauguration, and I’ve met a lot of our representatives; all things that I never would have been able to do [if not for the organization],” she says. “Looking back, I know for a fact that without 4-H I would not be able to talk to people, I wouldn’t be able to speak in public, I wouldn’t know as much about the ag industry across the world or in Tennessee, and I wouldn’t have made these connections at such a young age. There’s no other organization out there that could provide me with these kinds of opportunities, and I’m thankful for that.”

From a small-for-her-age 10-year-old caring for her first flock of chicks to a high school honors student who has embraced her role as a servant leader, Savannah ends her time as a 4-H member with not only skills and knowledge but also cherished memories and lifelong friends.

“The biggest, most lasting impression that 4-H has left on me is that once you get where you’re going, it’s important to turn around and help the next person in line because somebody did that for you.”

2020 4-H Congress

The 73rd Annual Tennessee 4-H Congress, which was originally slated for March 22-24, has been rescheduled for Aug. 9-12. Themed “A Place to Call Home,” this year’s event will be held at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro. Designed specifically for ninth and 10th grade 4-H members, 4-H Congress helps develop a better understanding of citizenship, stimulate leadership experiences for 4-Hers, and create leaders on a statewide basis. Throughout the three-day event, students will attend campaign rallies, deliver speeches, and prepare for the election of new Congress officers. Participants typically take part in legislative visits and tour the Tennessee State Capitol and Legislative Plaza in Nashville. They also participate in a mock legislative session in the House and Senate, which gives them the opportunity to sit in the seat of their elected representative or senator and elect their own Governor and Speaker of the House and Senate on official voting machines.

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