Advocating for agriculture: Cheyenne Higginbotham named 2020 New Jersey Teen Miss Agriculture USA

Marlton 15-year-old wants to educate community members on importance of agriculture, foods they eat

Cheyenne Higginbotham was recently named 2020 New Jersey Teen Miss Agriculture USA. The 15-year-old Marlton resident, posing here on her family’s farm, is excited to raise agriculture awareness. (Kristen Dowd/The Sun)

From her earliest days as a baby toddling around a playpen behind the farmstand to more recent days running that same stand as a teenager, Cheyenne Higginbotham has truly grown up on her family’s farm. Even now, the 15-year-old can be found working at her namesake, Cheyenne’s Farm & Road Market, every Sunday.

With a smile and easygoing manner well beyond her years, Cheyenne talks produce like a pro, her excitement for agriculture, animals and farming the type of passion some people have yet to experience as adults, let alone as a teenager.

It’s really no wonder the Marlton resident was recently named 2020 New Jersey Teen Miss Agriculture USA.

“There isn’t a lot of agriculture in this state, in this town. There’s less and less every day,” Cheyenne said. “I like to teach people where their food comes from and how to properly use it.”

With Miss Agriculture, the teen now has a bigger platform to do so. And the need is certainly there – the 2017 Census of Agriculture released in the spring shows a drop across the board for farming, farmers and farmland in the United States, with farmable land declining and farms disappearing.

Miss Agriculture USA, a registered and trademarked nonprofit, is in place to raise awareness of the importance of farming. According to the organization’s website, Miss Agriculture USA’s motto is “AGvocates for Agriculture.” The Miss Agriculture nonprofit is for ages 2 and older, and the Teen division is for ages 14 to 16. The organization believes one never ages out of agriculture. As the New Jersey representative, Cheyenne will now be competing in the National Miss Agriculture USA competition in Ohio in June 2020.

Cheyenne Higginbotham has grown up on her family’s Marlton farm. From left: Cheyenne as a baby at the farmstand. A young Cheyenne cradling an armful of corn. The 15-year-old today, giving treats to her cows – Chip, Dale, Moomoo and Milkshake.

Cheyenne’s journey to the crown started – as so many things do today – on social media. Her mom, Shannon, saw an advertisement for the competition and mentioned it to her daughter. Cheyenne was “super excited” right away.

“It’s a great way for teens to become advocates for agriculture in the state,” Shannon said. “It’s really empowering our youth.”

In big part of earning the title was in answering a somewhat simple – but loaded – question: why is agriculture important to Cheyenne? While she clearly had the right answer, it’s ironic family farming nearly wasn’t in the cards for the teenager. Cheyenne’s parents – Shannon and her husband, Craig – were both pursuing other careers and didn’t plan on continuing the family’s century-old tradition of farming. But when Cheyenne was born, their course changed.

“We decided we needed to do this for the next generation,” Shannon said. “Cheyenne inspired us to continue farming.”

A love of agriculture and animals is something Cheyenne “naturally comes by,” according to her mom. Cheyenne is big on “ag education,” and she loves to share her love and knowledge of farming with others – especially kids. She has volunteered to help with many agriculture- and farming-related projects and programs at DeMasi Elementary School, and she loves to impart knowledge on Girl Scouts and other children visiting her family’s roadside market.

After finding out she won the title, Cheyenne started to research her state. One thing she found out? New Jersey really likes diners.

“We’re No. 1 in diners. We’re the diner capital of the world,” Cheyenne said. She wants to encourage more diners to use local produce for their menu. “You’re supporting your local farmers. It’s better for the community.”

While helping on the farm – not just at the produce stand, but also with the myriad of resident animals – takes much of her time, Cheyenne is also a rising sophomore at Cherokee High School. She served as the treasurer for Cherokee High Racing Association as a freshman, and she also dedicated time to Relay for Life, a community fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, after her best friend was diagnosed with cancer this past year.

Choosing a favorite school class isn’t easy for Cheyenne. For her, it’s more about the teacher than the subject. This past year, for instance, choral director Nicole Snodgrass was an influential force for the teen.

“I don’t think without Mrs. Snodgrass she would have the confidence to do this,” Shannon said, referring to the Miss Agriculture competition. “She’s going to make such an impact.”

“She brought me out of my shell,” Cheyenne said with a smile.

What does the future hold for the teenager? In the long term, Cheyenne’s planning to pursue a career as a veterinarian. In the short term? She’s going to keep working on her family’s farm and spreading her message of the importance of agriculture.

Now, she just might be doing it with a crown atop her head.

For those who would like Cheyenne to make an appearance at an event, email MissAgricultureUSA@gmail.com. To learn more about Cheyenne’s Farm & Road Market, visit www.facebook.com/CheyennesRoadMarket. To learn more about the Miss Agriculture USA organization, visit www.missagricultureusa.orgCheyenne’s Farm & Road Market is located at 4816 Church Road, Marlton.