As a teenager, Hannah Devall was devoted to 4-H, serving as a junior leader and participating in nearly every project her St. Martin Parish 4-H program offered.
To raise and show animals at livestock shows, Devall had to go the extra mile.
As the fifth of seven children, she grew up in a family with little experience in the 4-H livestock project. When she asked to buy an animal and compete in the local livestock show, her father said, “If you want to show, you’ll find a way.”
“That was kind of his way of telling me, ‘No,’ without telling me, ‘No,’” Devall said.
But Devall found a way. With money saved from babysitting jobs, she bought a lamb, and with help from a family who lived nearby that had been involved in 4-H livestock projects for several years, she started her 4-H livestock project.
Although her sheep would not win big prizes, Devall learned a great deal about livestock and showing animals.
“Coming in late to the game, I didn't know what a good sheep looked like, but I knew I wanted to get involved,” she said.
After her first experience showing “some of the poorest sheep in the barn,” Devall’s parish 4-H agent, Hope Guidry, introduced her to the Premier Exhibitor program, which recognizes 4-H'ers who have a thorough understanding of animal science and showing techniques.
“It gave me an opportunity to succeed in the livestock program without having to buy a more expensive animal,” Devall said. “It’s something I was able to control.”
Devall remembers sitting on the floor of Guidry’s office during the evening and studying about sheep and animal science, with Guidry searching the internet for answers to questions Devall raised.
As a senior in high school, her second year showing animals, Devall won the parish and district Premier Exhibitor contests and placed at the statewide contest.
Since her early days in 4-H, Devall has been fascinated by agriculture.
“I’ve always loved the system of agriculture and how everything starts and ends there,” she said. “It’s the basis for so many of humanity’s processes. We need agriculture to survive.”
At LSU she studied animal science and joined the LSU Block and Bridle Club, a community service organization that promotes animal agriculture. At a Block and Bridle rodeo, she met her husband.
“I feel like I found my people,” she said.
After graduation, Devall became the 4-H agent in East Feliciana Parish and earned a Master of Science in agricultural and extension education. Then she moved to Lafayette Parish before returning home to St. Martin Parish, where she worked alongside Guidry, her first mentor, who passed away in April 2022.
“It was always a dream to be an agent in my home parish,” she said.
Last year, Devall began a new role as the 4-H livestock specialist, which involves designing or teaching different programs. She manages Louisiana 4-H livestock and animal science programming, and she started a livestock ambassador program. In 2022 she also took over AgMagic, the AgCenter’s interactive agricultural education show in Parker Coliseum on LSU’s Baton Rouge campus.
Devall also has developed a grilling curriculum for 4-H’ers that teaches meat selection and cooking techniques along with food safety. She can be spotted driving up to a school almost anywhere in the state with 10 grills disassembled in the back of her Ford Expedition.
The one-on-one interaction with eager 4-H’ers is one of the advantages of the role. Now she helps 4-H’ers who foster the same interest in animal science she had in high school, giving support the way Guidry and her neighbors provided her help years ago.
“So many of my favorite days as a 4-H agent are now my full-time work,” she said. “I get to do all the fun things all the time.”
Kyle Peveto is the editor of Louisiana Agriculture.
This article appeared in the fall 2022 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.
Hannah Devall used her own money to show animals in 4-H livestock shows in high school. Now, as the 4-H livestock specialist, she helps 4-H’ers excel. Photo by Anna Ribbeck