The Gray’s Creek chapter of Future Farmers of America was recently recognized at the Cumberland County Fair for having the best booth put together by an educational group or organization.
Tara King, who has been the FFA advisor at Gray’s Creek since the school opened in 2003, said students with the Gray’s Creek FFA chapter began working on their entry over the summer.
“(The judges) just want your students to interpret the theme for this year’s fair,’’ King said. This year’s theme was “Thrills, Squeals and Ferris Wheels.’’
King said the Gray’s Creek FFA chapter used their booth to tell the story of the various projects their group is working on.
“It gives us exposure,’’ King said. “There are thousands of people who walk past that booth. Any chance we can get for that message, we’re all about doing.’’
One of the biggest parts of the FFA program at Gray’s Creek is the raising of sheep and goats, which is part of the school’s animal science curriculum, King said.
Students actually raise the livestock at Gray’s Creek, working all summer to prepare them for show at the county fair.
The booth at the fair displayed pictures taken over the summer of the students working with their animals.
King said an animal may be on public display at the fair for about five minutes, but it took up to 50 hours of preparation time for those few minutes.
“If people take a few minutes in the booth to read the descriptions, they walk away with a better understanding of what it takes to get an animal ready for that kind of show,’’ she said. “It’s not as simple as putting a halter on them and walking them around the ring.’’
At one time, King said, Gray’s Creek had upwards of 40 sheep and goats at the school. The students were in charge of raising and breeding them, monitoring the progress of pregnant ewes and eventually helping with the birthing of their offspring and giving them vaccinations.
Fairs are a longstanding tradition with FFA students, King said. “I think it’s a place for people at the end of the growing season, the end of the summer, where they are bringing out the best they’ve gotten,’’ she said. “It’s a celebration in a way.’’
She feels the fair is a teachable moment both for the students and the general public.
For the students, especially, King likes that it’s an opportunity to understand the importance of getting organized, putting a plan together and carrying it out.