Flagler County, FL – Parents and students have navigated what has been a challenging school year, keeping up with class work and home work.
Adding to their responsibility, students in the Future Farmers of America and 4H Clubs have continued to maintain their livestock projects throughout the year in preparation for the upcoming Flagler County FFA & 4H Livestock Show & Sale this week, and eagerly took part in the pre-show work day on Saturday.
Flagler Palm Coast High School senior Carley Koehler has been a part of the program since the age of five when she started showing chickens. Now in her tenth year of showing hogs, she’s proud to be following in the footsteps of her mother and her grandmother, who were both part of the programs as well.
“I’m extremely excited. FFA and Flagler County Fair has done so much for me,” she said.
“They’ve really taught me to come out of my shell and be a leader,” said Koehler, bound for the University of North Florida to study pediatric nursing this fall.
Citing responsibility and time management as key leadership qualities she’s learned as a member of both the Bunnell FFA Chapter and the 4H Club, she put both to good use as a dual enrolled student and will graduate with her Associate’s Degree from Daytona State College and her high school diploma, as part of the Class of 2021.
“It’s amazing. I can’t thank Flagler County schools enough for having that program because I’ll go into a university with a degree,” she said.
Also building on the skills he’s learning as a five year participant, middle school student Drew Medearis is a member of both the Buddy Taylor Middle School FFA and Haw Creek 4H clubs. This year he’s presenting multiple livestock projects during the youth show, including pullets, a heifer and a pig.
“It’s taught me responsibility and that it’s important to take care of animals, feed them, clean them,” he said.
Koehler and Medearis are joined by fellow participants like Flagler Palm Coast (FPC) High School junior John Williford who in addition to his academic and robotics work is showing a pig and a goat, FPC freshman Gracie Jankowski who is showing a steer and a pig, and eighth grade homeschool student and future contractor Madison Myers, set to show a pig and Rhode Island red chickens.
“In 4H I’ve learned to care for animals and I’ve learned to be responsible with budget and time management,” said Myers, showing for her third year.
Sixth grade 4H’ers Eva Robinson and Ava Hatten teamed up to scrub the equipment as 35 or so other students helped assemble cages, set up tables and prepare holding pens and stalls at the Flagler County Fairgrounds.
“You learn so many responsibilities and benefits from doing it,” said Hatten, who said she was inspired to join 4H after seeing a youth show at the fair four years ago. “You have to feed it, come out and work with it 24/7, clean the pen, and do a lot of things. Every single day.”
Hatten anticipates her pig named Roxy, who loves belly rubs, will come in at about 265 pounds by the time the show opens on April 7.
“She’s 248 but we have a week left,” she said.
Robinson, a future homicide detective, said she’s enjoying the relationships she’s built with classmates over the past three years.
“I wanted to join because I saw my friend Gracie doing it and my parents said it would be fun, so I tried it out,” she said. “You’re outside a lot, having to do your animal and not on the internet, so it brings us together more than sitting on our phones and our computers.”
Completing a required two hour work day ahead of the show’s opening, team leader Sterling Westbrook was pleased the show would go on this year to help students raise money for their future endeavors.
Starting in 4H at the age of five, it’s helped propel her to return home and teach the next generation of students about agriculture.
“I know these kids need all the help they can get, especially with going to college and furthering their education,” she said.
“I’m really proud of our fair board and community for helping to pull this off on such a short notice and also for raising the amount of funds that we have for these kids and their scholarships for this year,” said Westbrook.
“I’m very proud of all the kids that we have in our fair. They have not let COVID get in between them or their projects,” she said. “They have all maintained great routines with their projects and done a great job raising them.”
Featured Photo: Flagler Palm Coast High School senior Carley Koehler and freshman Gracie Jankowski help prepare for the upcoming Flagler County FFA & 4H Livestock Show & Sale, set for April 7-9, 2021 at the Flagler County Fairgrounds.