HARLINGEN — Andrew Anderson washed down the hog he will present at the livestock show in a few days.
“It’s looking as good as last year,” said Andrew, a senior at Harlingen High School.
Andrew and his fellow ag science students were working their animals at the HCISD Ag Farm. Excitement simmered in the air in preparation for the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo. The event in Mercedes takes place March 8 through 19.
Students moved in and out of the heavy stalls, leaning over slightly, conveying the power of their focus as they worked their animals. One student walked briskly behind a pig, its head bobbing quickly as it trotted down the aisle.
The faint, sweet smell of manure and wet concrete was everywhere, paired with the thunderous echoes from students and pigs knocking against metal stalls, the sound bouncing from the ceiling of the pavilion.
Todd Cash, ag science teacher at HHS, said preparations were progressing very well.
“We’re adjusting the feed of the animal according to its size and weight,” he said. “We are conditioning the skin so the exhibitors will be able to present their animals well. We are exercising the animals daily so they will be in shape.”
His students are showing rabbits, steers, heifers and goats as well as pigs.
The students are members of the Future Farmers of America. While many FFA students have been in the program for many years, others decided to give it a shot only recently.
“This is my third year,” said Emilee Cordero, 17, a senior.
“I just love being with animals,” she said as she hosed down her pig.
She became interested in FFA after seeing how thoroughly her friends were involved. After her third year, she seemed to have gained a great deal of confidence herself.
“I just feed her and walk her and see that she makes weight,” she said.
Her friend Kristina Perrill, 16, was just beginning her involvement in FFA.
“One of my friends got me involved,” said Kristina, a junior at HHS.
“I have a heifer,” she said. “It’s going pretty good. I have learned a lot.”
Meanwhile, Andrew was feeling pretty optimistic about the upcoming show.
“I made first in class last year,” he said.
This year’s pig probably wouldn’t be as heavy as the one he showed last year, which is a good thing. The lower weight classes have less competition.
Andrew is also a relative newcomer to FFA and livestock shows, this being his third year.
“It’s an incredible experience, there’s nothing like it,” said Andrew, who plans to study agriculture at Texas A&M-San Antonio after high school.
New arrivals seemed ready to fill in the vacancies left by those moving on. Trista Gilbert, 8, watched Andrew closely as he worked his pig. She had a couple of hogs herself.
“So far it’s going good,” she said.
By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD
HARLINGEN — Raising livestock is just one of many ways Future Farmers of America seeks to instill qualities in youths to secure their futures.
“FFA prepares the youth of today to be leaders of tomorrow,” said Kennedy Boykin, student advisor for the Harlingen FFA.
In order to accomplish this preparation, FFA offers various activities such as career development events and speaking activities, said Boykin, a senior at Harlingen High School. Supervised projects such as livestock and horticulture teach them agriculture, hard work and dedication.
“In order to be in the FFA organization you must complete semesters in an agricultural class such as small animal management, floral design, horticulture, wildlife and fisheries, ag mechanics and so forth,” Boykin said.
Students can also earn degrees through their animal, shop and other projects.
“FFA also allows students to build their character by teaching them that you can’t win everything,” Boykin said. “Yes, winning feels good, but that’s not all there is to it. It’s about what you learn, the memories you make and people you meet on your road to success.”
By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD
HARLINGEN — There’s more to the livestock show than just livestock.
Shop projects, horticulture and photography are also submitted by students to the scrutiny of judges at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show. These contest entries reflect the various programs of Future Farmers of America.
“We have picnic tables, barbecue pits,” said Todd Cash, an ag science teacher at Harlingen High School.
“We have students building deer blinds,” he said. “Some others are building boot racks. We are very diverse.”