North Surry High School’s annual Destination FFA Cattle Sale is an almost perfect backdrop of solutions and issues facing farming — coming at a time when many farmers are aging out of the profession and interest in local produce and livestock is on the rise.
On one level the sale is a crucial fundraiser for the program at the school. It is scheduled for March 9 at noon at the Mount Airy Stockyards.
The registered and commercial cattle sale is a group effort sponsored by both North Surry and South Stokes chapters of the FFA.
“From the beginning, it’s been a cooperative event. This is the third year we’ve done our own sale and the fifth year we’ve been involved in cattle sales,” said North Surry FFA Sponsor Aaron Tompkins. “It is an important part of our curriculum and is a 100 percent hands-on activity for our kids. They get to learn public relations and real world scenarios and skills that they are able to apply.”
He said sales experience helped North Surry advance to national competition for the past three years.
“All of this takes a lot of money, especially with all of the different events we participate in. This sale is our major fundraiser but it also teaches lifelong skills many of these kids take with them and these skills also have the potential to lead to future career opportunities. It’s a way for many students to interact on a professional level with local cattle industry leaders who become important contacts.”
Senior Alex Nichols, who is also FFA president, has come away from three sales with insights into what it takes to manage people.
“You learn it takes a whole lot more than one person to to do something like this. It’s a whole lot of responsibility. There’s a lot of manual work but someone has to work with the money,” explained Nichols. “You get to know and work with other people. I also had to make sure everybody was where they were supposed to be. Others had to get the cattle ready by giving them shots.”
She is more than willing to share insights she has learned while learning the art of managing a group of peers.
“If people really want to help they’ll do it and they’ll work hard. A lot of us are doing something we haven’t done before in these sales. Last year, Lakin East took bids for the first time and did better than the boys. It was a new experience for her.”
Tompkins said the project has been helped by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals which donates vaccines for the livestock. Twin Oak Veterinary Clinic of Sparta has also donated their services, and the Mount Airy Stockyards have helped with advertising. He said another important benefit from the sale is students learn more than traditional ways to market animals. He said the sales are also incorporating more technology with the events being broadcast live on the Internet.
“They (Mount Airy Stockyards) put us in their calendar now,” beamed Nichols. “We’re hoping to get more of their regular customers to our sales as well.”
Tompkins said one change for this year’s sale is the students will be offering a larger group of breeding bulls. This is in line with an emphasis in the industry for improved genetics in herds. He pointed out that Nichols attended the North Carolina Beef Leadership Institute last year. This made her one of 20 youth selected every two years for the program. This means she was in the top 20 statewide for two years. The institute offers opportunities for youth to learn leadership, teamwork and public relations skills.
Nichols said the institute told participants they are the future of the industry. She was drawn to the profession after growing up in a farm family which produced both dairy and beef cattle.
“A lot of the conference participants were from the East Coast and I enjoyed meeting new people. We got really close. It’s great to get to see people that are from another part of the state as well,” said Nichols.
Freshman Addison Moser represents one of the sale participants who enjoys working with cattle as his role in the sale.
“I got really interested in this in the fall sale. I really enjoyed it,” said Moser. “I really like working with cows. It’s something I enjoy. I grew up on a family beef cattle family. I’ve gotten more interested in it since high school. I really want to make it my profession. The sale is a lot different from working a family farm. You have to learn to work with others instead of just doing what you’re told.”
The sale will offer livestock including breeding bulls form breeds such as Angus, Hereford, Charolais, Simmental and Sim-Angus, open heifers, bred heifers and cows, show prospects, bred gilts, feeder pigs, breeding gilts and cow and calf pairs. All commercial cows must be examined safe in calf or be nursing a calf and commercial cows must be sound, less than eight years old.
Persons may contact Aaron Tompkins at 336-363-4639, Addison Moser at 336-705-3005, Susan Roudabush at 276-692-8108, Jamie Watts at 336-978-5027, Jamison Nagle at 336-207-6181 and Austin Winbery at 336-480-1613 for more information.