Udderly adorable

FFA students prepare cows for livestock judging

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Udderly adorable

Senior Grace Carver, Vice President of  FFA, shows off one of her cows, Daisy outside of the LISD Agriculture barn in Lewisville. Carver goes to the barn everyday to feed, wash and train her animals.

Senior Grace Carver, Vice President of FFA, shows off one of her cows, Daisy outside of the LISD Agriculture barn in Lewisville. Carver goes to the barn everyday to feed, wash and train her animals.

Maya Hernandez

Senior Grace Carver, Vice President of FFA, shows off one of her cows, Daisy outside of the LISD Agriculture barn in Lewisville. Carver goes to the barn everyday to feed, wash and train her animals.

Maya Hernandez

Maya Hernandez

Senior Grace Carver, Vice President of FFA, shows off one of her cows, Daisy outside of the LISD Agriculture barn in Lewisville. Carver goes to the barn everyday to feed, wash and train her animals.

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Grace Carver

Beams of the early morning sunlight streamed into the barn as senior Grace Carver worked for hours to make her Charolais heifer, or female cow that has never had a calf, look flawless for her judging competition. From scrubbing whitening shampoo all over her to blow drying her white hair to perfection, getting ready for this type of competition was hard work. For Carver and many other members of the National FFA Organization, previously known as Future Farmers of America, this has become a part of their daily life.

“I have to go to the barn every day after school to feed them, walk them and take care of them,” Carver said. “It’s not hard because I love it, and that makes it better.”

As a freshman, Carver, like many of her classmates, wasn’t sure about her high school path. After taking advice from friends, she signed up for an agriculture class and immediately liked it. Over the past four years she has invested the majority of her time in the organization and her animals, which led to becoming the Vice President of FFA.

In addition to being FFA vice president, Carver owns three animals—a first-year heifer called Daisy, a cow named Ellie and her calf named May that was born over the summer. Carver said that acquiring an animal is different for everyone. In her case, she built a relationship with a breeder and has worked closely with him to show the same cow two years in a row, the second time with a calf by her side.

Many members of FFA who are raising cattle give up their summers to raise and bond with the animals that they are competing with the next year. This past summer, Carver was at the barn every day for the first few weeks after her calf was born. Through spending so much time with her animals, she has developed close relationships with them.

According to Carver, each of her animals has a distinct personality. May is spunky and curious, just like a little kid. Daisy is more laidback and Ellie is strong-willed. Although it is difficult to put in so much time and effort with these animals, seeing them do well in competitions makes it all worth it to the FFA members.

“The most rewarding part is seeing all of our hard work pay off,” Carver said.

FFA advisor, Melissa Barnett, says she loves seeing her students be competitive and has noticed how much the seniors have grown over the past four years. She was also heavily involved with FFA when she was a student at Marcus so she understands the ins and outs of the organization and has worked closely with students to help them succeed.

“I’ve seen the seniors take on so much more responsibility, dedication and leadership,” Barnett said. “All of our kids are so hardworking and passionate about what they do and they really care about the legacy that they leave behind.”

While taking care of animals is a big part of FFA, for Carver, the best part of being involved with the organization is the friendships that she has gained. The group is often at the barn at the same time and travel together for competitions which has given them a sense of community.

“I’ve grown so close with all of my friends in FFA,” Carver said. “We are all there for a common purpose which is to work with these animals and make them the best that they can be.”

Grant Golden

Panic struck senior Grant Golden as he received a call from his FFA advisor telling him that he needed to be in Prosper in 30 minutes for an interview to become the next FFA district President. He rushed to get in his dress clothes and sped down the highway as the clock kept ticking. After a stressful car ride, he arrived on time for the interview, surprisingly calm.

Maya Hernandez
Senior Grant Golden, President of FFA, laughs in the field with his steer, Cinch. At his last FFA show, Golden won Showmanship with Cinch.

The interview went well and his next task was to prepare a speech. The cards were, once again, not in his favor. Golden was out of town all weekend which left him with little time to prepare. He worked closely with his advisor—and his speech worked. He was elected FFA president for the district covering all of Collin and part of Denton county.

“I was completely shocked and overjoyed with excitement because throughout my years in FFA, I have always looked up to the district officers, and knowing that I could make an impact on others across our district was a surreal experience,” Golden said.

Being involved with FFA has been a part of Golden’s roots for as long as he can remember. Both his parents and grandparents were members, and they all even have the same FFA jacket. Once Golden reached eighth grade, there was no question that he wanted to continue his family’s legacy by showing an animal for Jr. FFA which is for elementary and middle schoolers.

Golden did theatre throughout middle school and enjoyed public speaking, which led him to be interested in that aspect of FFA. The organization has many leadership events that involve giving speeches and being able to answer questions from judges.

“FFA was appealing when I reached Marcus because I could practice leadership skills and not just work ethic,” Golden said.

Unlike most people, when Golden started showing his first animal, a goat, there was nothing unusual or shocking about the experience. He was used to seeing his cousins in West Texas take care of livestock, so he was prepared to take on the challenge himself. He says that there are only a few key differences between caring for a domestic pet and livestock.

These animals are often scared of humans because of traumatic experiences they’ve had with them in the past. Golden says that it is important to make the animal familiar with you to slowly start gaining their trust.

“With a puppy, they already trust you but with these animals, you have to break down barriers and make them familiar with you,” Golden said.

Currently, Golden is showing a lamb and a steer, which is a male cow that has been castrated. His day starts earlier than most at 4:45 a.m., when he goes to the barn to wash and feed his animals, which takes about an hour. Afterwards, he brushes them and puts oils in their hair.
After school, he goes back to feed and wash them again but this time he works on training them. He’ll walk them with a halter and work on building up their muscles by exercising them on an animal treadmill. All of his hard work paid off at his last show, Winter Buckle Holiday Classic, where he won Grand Champion with his lamb for having the best market lamb at the show and Showmanship with his steer.

As district and chapter president, Golden has a lot of responsibilities. One of his main goals was to initiate more community outreach projects. Over the holidays, FFA worked on a project that focused on providing food, cleaning supplies, towels, blankets and more for local animal shelters.

“In FFA, we have the motto ‘learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve’ and a lot of people forget the living to serve part,” Golden said. “As president, I’ve been able to influence a lot of community outreach and service, which is cool.”

FFA advisor Melissa Barnett expresses how well the officer team has been working together this year. Barnett said it is really easy to get burned out because FFA is year round, but the leaders are passionate and that is reflected upon the whole group.

“I love seeing our kids be successful in whatever their passion is through FFA,” Barnett said. “Just seeing that progress of them becoming leaders and being able to talk about it with other people is really rewarding.”

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