At 16, Lakota Roberson has a lot of responsibility. The high school sophomore works two jobs, runs her own business, handles a full course load of classes and cares for 54 animals that she considers to be her children. By senior year she hopes to grow her animal family to 100.
Lakota, who starts her days off at 5:30 a.m. on weekends and 6 a.m. on weekdays admits, “I don’t have much down time, but when I do, I sleep.” Her first chore of the day, of course, is to take care of her animals. They consist of 40 ewes, 10 goats and four rams.
“It started out as a hobby, now it’s my job,” said Lakota. “But I love it.”
Lakota began raising livestock at age 10 with her family in Eads, Colo. The youngest of four, she grew up loving animals and watching her parents volunteer with 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America (FFA). She helped her older brother and sisters raise sheep and cattle as part of their FFA projects. So when it was her turn, she didn’t hold back.
“She lives, eats and breathes animals,” said Chad Roberson, Lakota’s father. “One night her friends called her on the phone and wanted her to hang out. She said ‘no, if you want to hang out with me you can call me 4 o’clock in the morning and help with the chores.’”
Those chores keep her animals fed, cleaned and trained for proper showing. But her eye is on a much larger goal. “Most of my friends don’t have jobs or play sports. All they do cruise up and down Main Street, but my main focus is on FFA and 4-H.”
That focus is paying off as she has gained attention from owners of large sheep and goat operations who have noticed Lakota’s talent for fitting (preparing an animal for show) and showing, so much so that they have hired her to fit and show their animals.
The love of the business encouraged Lakota to get involved with USDA’s Farm Service Agency and secure a Youth Loan to help build her business as part of her Future Farmers of America (FFA) project. The loan allowed her to purchase 10 ewes and purchase feed and other supplies. FSA makes loans to individual youths to establish and operate income-producing projects in connection with their participation in 4-H Clubs, FFA and similar organizations. The project must be planned and operated with the help of the organization adviser and produce sufficient income to repay the loan.
“She reminds me a lot of myself” said Natalie Bond, Farm Loan Manager in the Kiowa County FSA office. “I had that same love for animals just like she does. I understand her and when I met her I thought she was awesome.”
Lakota has won multiple awards at county and state fairs and has started a breeding business with her sheep. In her spare time, she and her father are working to develop a low-cholesterol feed to produce healthier animals.
Her goal is to attend college in Texas and become an animal scientist or veterinary technician.
Who will care for the animals when she is off to college? “My parents. They are the only people I can trust with my animals,” said Lakota.
Dad agrees. “It’s a family effort,” he said.