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Growing Leaders: FFA Students Shine at State Competition
Growing Leaders: FFA Students Shine at State Competition
Posted on 12/18/2019
BCS' agriculture and Future Farmers of America programs are yielding some of the most talented students in the state.By: Benjamin Rickert, BCS Communications

Buncombe County Schools' agriculture and Future Farmers of America (FFA) programs are yielding some of the most talented students in the state.

North Buncombe students practiced hard to develop their livestock evaluation skills.On Nov. 26, eight North Buncombe High School students travelled to Raleigh to compete in the North Carolina Livestock Evaluation Career Development Event, taking home first place in the experienced Senior division, and fifth in the Junior division. Three Blackhawks ranked individually in the Senior division top ten, including Shelby Candler (3rd), Silver Hyatt (6th), and Cole Gillespie (9th). The winning Senior team qualified for the upcoming national FFA competition.

In the Middle Grades division, Clyde A. Erwin Middle earned a third place finish. Two Warriors placed in the state’s top ten for this division, including Jackson Reeves (8th) and Reagan Gillespie (9th).

“Our program emphasizes a lot of the hands-on and application of the knowledge. And when kids see that application, it makes the curriculum come alive,” said North Buncombe agriculture and FFA teacher Mr. Justin Gillespie.

November’s state competition was the largest on record with over 900 competitors, Gillespie explained. During the livestock judging event, students competed individually, putting to the test their abilities to evaluate livestock like the pros. Students evaluated beef cattle, swine, meat goats, and sheep, ranking each according to industry standard criteria. Fifteen minutes after ranking the animals, they stood before a panel of judges and defended their decisions. The team score for each school was calculated using the individual scores of its members. The highest ranked teams therefore had the most talented and prepared students.

“We worked super, super hard and it has paid off for us,” said North Buncombe sophomore Silver Hyatt. “I think that will be true of other things in the future.”

Erwin Middle students placed third in the state in the Middle Grades division.Gillespie credits his students’ hard work - in and out of class - for their success. Their preparation started far before the state competition. Several of North Buncombe’s members were also part of the school’s livestock show team, and they used show events to practice their evaluation skills. Starting in October, students met with Gillespie two days each week before school to study livestock progeny differences, and analyze the data and statistics they would need to make professional evaluations. Gillespie used these sessions to help students understand that a proper evaluation involved both what they see in the moment and their knowledge of relevant statistics.

“We put in a lot of hard work and dedication to get here,” said North Buncombe freshman Shelby Candler. “It showed me that I can be successful in my future!”

“Our kids were there at 7 a.m. before school and it showed,” Mr. Gillespie said. “It’s opening doors for their future careers.”

Seniors Team (1st in State)
North Buncombe High, Instructor: Mr. Gillespie
Trent Deweese
Silver Hyatt
Cole Gillespie
Shelby Candler

Juniors Team (5th in State)
North Buncombe High, Instructor: Mr. Gillespie
Rebekah Rice
Clara Hale
Jacob Phillips
Ryan Bartlett

Middle Grades Team (3rd in State)
Clyde A. Erwin Middle, Instructor: Mr. Elijah Frisby
Jackson Reeves
Reagan Gillespie
Bailey Clark
Brieley Gleason

View the full photo album on Facebook.

View the full results and rankings of the 2019 FFA Livestock Evaluation event, including students from North Buncombe High, Clyde A. Erwin Middle, and Clyde A. Erwin High.


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