By Isaac Gibson

For Gussie Cook, raising sheep to show at the Baker County Fair isn’t just about competition.

It’s also about love.

Cook, 17, won the champion prize Thursday in the homegrown market sheep event and was named grand champion in conformation, showing Rebel.

“I love it, I think all kids should get involved in (agriculture) because it helps them find out what they want to be,” Cook said. “Animals are the key to your heart.”

Dallas Hardesty won reserve grand champion conformation for her sheep.

For a sheep to be in the homegrown market division means that it was raised from birth on the owner’s property instead of being bought from a market.

Cook, who started raising animals as a fourth-grader, wants to continue her education in agriculture by either going into veterinary medicine or agribusiness.

She also wants to keep playing softball — she was a pitcher and a third baseman for the Baker High School squad this spring.

“I could not imagine my life without sheep or sports,” Cook said. “I want to continue raising my sheep through college mainly because the industry for them is falling off.”

The industry trend for sheep is now moving more in the favor of animals such as pigs, because they can be easier to raise and also bring in more money per pound.

“Another reason to keep raising my sheep is to come back and help the kids who buy them from me,” Cook said. “I just think that if you give back and show your support and passion for animals it might make other kids want to join 4-H or FFA.

See more in the Aug. 11, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.