Though the annual Ellis County Youth Expo has come to a close, the memories and life lessons the experience of raising, showing and, for the lucky ones, selling an animal are still quite fresh.
For the seniors, it is also now a time to reflect on their four-plus years showing and what the future might hold.
For instance, take Waxahachie High School senior Madison Salazar, who sold her first-place market swine for a whopping $7,500. She has shown her entire high school career and shared how the FFA program has helped her grow as a person and showman.
“That expo will be my last show so it’s kind of sad, even though I went out with a bang in the county show,” Salazar said.
Her showing season hasn’t ended though just quite yet. She will show in the World Pork Expo in Iowa before walking the stage. She also plans to attend Tarleton State University to study animal science and further her education at Texas A&M University.
Another Waxahachie senior, Whitney Johnson, will show at the expo in Iowa as well. Her Yorkshire placed first in its class and sold for $2,400. Johnson has an extensive background in raising and showing animals, as she has participated in the FFA and 4-H since the fourth grade.
Johnson showed sheep and goats in her younger years but transitioned to hogs in high school. As she reflected on her last year showing in high school, Johnson said, “I’m pretty sad this is my last year, I still have a show at the World Pork Expo in Iowa. But it’ still pretty emotional going there for the last time.”
Hallie Walker participated in FFA all four years of high school, showing only goats. The Waxahachie senior's two Boer goats placed fourth and seventh. Though both goats technically qualified for the sale, she could only take one into the ring. She sold her goat for $2,900.
Walker said the only reason she stuck with showing goats was because “Their attitude is just so spunky and I’m a spunky person, so we get along really well.”
Walker plans to attend Baylor University to pursue a nursing degree.
“I would promote the FFA as much as possible. I’ve learned so much and the memories made are awesome. I think everyone should experience that," added Walker, who said her number one takeaway from the FFA is the character it has built.
There was also Waxahachie senior Kyle Hernandez, who usually shows lambs but took a chance on a Yorkshire hog at the 2018 expo. After he placed third and netting $3,000 for his market swine, Hernandez mentioned how working with a different animal was an “eye-opening experience.”
Hernandez made the transition from lambs to pigs to gain a more extensive background in livestock. He will attend Tarleton State University in the fall to pursue a degree in agriculture education.
His number on takeaway from the FFA program was, “There are a lot of role models and looking up to our ag teachers — that’s why I wanted to become an ag teacher because of all the endless opportunities they’ve given us and I want to open opportunities for others.”
Jeanette Middleton, a longtime Waxahachie High FFA advisor, said roughly Waxahachie students raised 70 percent of the hogs sold at the Ellis County Youth Expo this year. She added that WHS students also raised about 50 percent of all goats, lambs and market rabbits sold, and every Waxahachie-raised steer was sold.
“Every year I am amazed by the kids and their work ethic,” Middleton expressed. “It never ceases to amaze me the long hours and dedication that they show. If we are at the barn at two in the morning, they are right there alongside us, asking what they can do, how can they help. It warms your heart and makes you think how great these future generations in our future are.”
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450