Destiny McCauley is only 18 years old, but her resume is already seven pages long.
It's not filled with work experience yet, but rather a lengthy list of accomplishments and awards, mostly from ag-related events by organizations such as FFA, 4-H and the Angus Association. Her ribbons, plaques and trophies take up a whole room in the house. Even the ones from just the past year fill a table.
"It's not about the ribbons and awards," said her mother, Nell McCauley, who works at Peace River Electric Cooperative. She said Destiny spends three hours a day or more caring for the steers and heifers she shows. "It's just fun," Nell said.
Destiny, a spunky blond in boots and a long-sleeved shirt, smiled and giggled like any other teenage girl as she talked about her animals and joked with her dad, Tim McCauley. Both her parents come from Kentucky ranching and farming families, and they now own McCauley Angus and Cattle Service in Hardee County. As a result, Destiny has been riding horses since she was 2 and showing calves since she was 6.
This past spring the teen was crowned Junior Angus Queen by the Florida Angus Association. She won Angus Princess last year. But being a cattle queen is different from typical beauty pageants. "You have to go to work" working in the ring, helping to move cows, handing out ribbons, assisting kids in the ring, said Destiny.
"I was getting shoved into panels while the other queens were hiding," she grinned.
And there's more evidence that this girl doesn't mind getting dirty. She won first place at the county and regional science fairs two years in a row, fifth place at state level last year and third place at state level this year with projects on using cow manure as an alternative energy source.
It's called "cow power."
"I collected manure samples after feeding cattle different feed additives and measured the methane emissions given off," Destiny explained.
She did this by creating a mini anaerobic digester and heating a mixture of 75 ml of manure with 25 ml of water in a corked flask. A pipet filled with blue water was inserted through the cork. As the heated mixture produced gases, the water would be forced out of the pipet. Destiny measured the water displacement at one minute, five minute and 10-minute intervals and recorded her results.
Her conclusion - corn as an additive worked best for methane production. And fresh manure samples produced better results.
Destiny won the county and district Florida Farm Bureau speech contest talking about "cow power" in 2010 and went on to state. Using the 100 million cows in the U.S., we could power over 350 billion 13-watt compact fluorescent light bulbs a year, she stated.
Of all of her awards, she's most proud of placing third at the Junior Angus nationals with a heifer bred on the farm. "That's extremely hard to do out of 1,300 head of cattle," Destiny said. Her winning heifer, Queen of Hearts, is still out in the pasture, she said, gesturing.
Destiny has also won many more awards for showing cattle, livestock judging and photography. With all of her accomplishments, Destiny said the best part has been the people she's met and the relationships she's built.
Now in her senior year at Hardee High School, Destiny is making plans for her future. She is currently in the top 10 percent of her class, and by taking dual enrollment classes at South Florida State College while still in high school, she'll graduate with an associate's degree already under her belt buckle.
While she's not exactly sure about a future career path, Destiny plans to double major in agribusiness and animal science. She still has to decide on a school.
"She's getting a lot of packets," said her mom.
Outside of so-called work, Destiny's not that different from any other Hardee County teen. Her favorite singers are Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean, and her favorite movie is Grand Champion with Bruce Willis.
"She can throw a football," added her dad proudly.
Destiny also has a little brother, 7-year-old Adam. "She's very sweet to everybody," said Nell. "She's a nice kid."