Newton County's Future Farmers of America Club have had a busy school year already. The Georgia National Fair is a 20 year long tradition that takes place each October in Perry at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter.
Students from all over the state come to the fair to showcase their hard work over the past several months. Some students prepare educational display boards, some work hard on woodworking projects and others haul trailers full of equipment and livestock to groom and show throughout the week.
Thousands of visitors come each year to experience the fair food, carnival rides and fun shows. The Fair is an excellent opportunity for Newton County to show the state what students have to offer.
Ten students, their families and three agriculture teachers from the Newton and Eastside high school FFA organizations have worked since April to prepare for the fair. Each student who is enrolled in an Agricultural Education course in high school is required to complete a Supervised Agricultural Experience.
Students may choose to grow flowers in the school greenhouse, plant a garden at home, get a job working in a feed store or anything having to do with the field of agriculture.
"The fair is a wonderful opportunity to see the students at their best," said Abbey Brown, Eastside High School agricultural educator. "These kids and their families are dedicated to this project, and they work hard to do well."
These ten students - Kayla Sinnemon, Aleah Hill, Jenna Lawson, Kelly Hardy, Ben Richardson, Casey Simonton, Andrew Terrell, Gary Jones, Lacy Powell and Kaley Dial - chose to raise, train and care for beef cattle. In the spring, they purchase either a steer or heifer, teach it to walk on a halter and feed and care for it properly each day to ensure that it is happy and healthy. About once or twice a month, these animals are loaded onto the school's livestock trailer and taken to a show.
"To some people these are just cows and it's just a fun project, but when you spend time with these kids you realize that they are developing lifelong skills such as responsibility, character, problem solving and sportsmanship," Brown said. "No class in school can teach the same skills they learn by participating in showing livestock."
In preparation for this event the students spent a lot of time working with their steers and heifers. They come to the school each morning and afternoon to feed their animals, learned how to properly groom the animals and practiced for countless hours each week so that they would be able to walk smoothly into the show-ring with their steer or heifer and exhibit the animal to its full potential.
"Caring for livestock teaches me to be responsible for something other than myself," said FFA student Lacy Powell.
The team spent a total of four days at the fair together, and each of the students worked very hard as a part of the team. The Newton County FFA Livestock Show Team was awarded fourth place overall for their efforts. Students also placed between tenth and first places in competitions.
"It is great to see our students do so well at the Georgia National Fair," said Ryan Talton, Newton High School Agricultural Educator. "These students have prepared so hard for this event. It is good to see their efforts pay off."