A Heart for Creating Opportunities in Agriculture

By Kelly Visser

Iowa Miss Agriculture Advocacy Ambassador has a heart for creating opportunities in agriculture for people with disabilities.

Codi Holdeman took her 4-H pledge seriously.

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
And my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

While her days in 4-H are over, the tenets of the iconic, green four-leaf clover – Head, Heart, Hands and Health – are the driving force behind Holdeman’s leadership in agriculture.

“Agriculture is close to my heart and will always be the foundation of all I do,” says the Reasnor native who is currently studying human services at Des Moines Area Community College. “But my biggest passion is creating opportunities for people with disabilities.”

Studies suggest the average non-disabled person has 150 people in their various social circles. However, individuals living with significant disabilities have just around 15 people in their social circles. Holdeman is inspired to change this statistic.

“When it comes to agriculture, there aren’t a lot of programs for people with disabilities, which limits the opportunities to expand their social circles,” she notes.

In July 2019, Holdeman organized the first-ever Friendship Show at the Jasper County Fair. The livestock show is specifically designed to give 10- to 21-year-olds with disabilities the chance to experience the thrill and reward of the show ring. It pairs individuals with disabilities with youth volunteers from 4-H or FFA who have experience raising and showing livestock.

Throughout the summer, youth volunteers mentor their partners on the basics of showing pigs and sheep, giving them hands-on experiences caring for livestock. They work side-by-side to prepare for the big show day.

“The show was incredible. The participants were beaming with huge smiles, and everyone was overcome with emotion,” she recalls. “My heart was overflowing.”

Throughout the experience, it was clear the inclusion is not only a benefit to those with disabilities, but for everyone involved. “I think the youth volunteers got the most out of the experience; they made new friends,” she says.

All nine participants plan to compete in the Friendship Show again in 2020. Since the show, county fairs across the state have reached out to Holdeman for ideas on how to start a Friendship Show in their own communities.

Building on her leadership in agriculture, Holdeman was selected as Iowa Miss Agriculture Advocacy Ambassador in December 2019. The title was awarded based on her community involvement, volunteering, and my high level of advocating for Miss United States Agriculture. 

The state and national pageants combine glitz and glam with an opportunity to teach, inspire and advocate for agriculture. Title winners are challenged to build agricultural awareness in their states by volunteering at community events and serving as spokeswomen.

And most importantly for Holdeman, the pageant experience has given her a platform to continue advocating for people with disabilities in agriculture.

Holdeman is looking forward to competing for the 2020 National Miss United States Agriculture title in June. Regardless of the outcome, she hopes to be a leader in the Iowa Chapter, helping to grow involvement and reach of the program.