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East County Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 1 week ago

Show time for east Bradenton FFA students

Lakewood Ranch High's FFA creates Ranch Buyers Club to promote students' projects.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

As the steer show and sale approaches at the Manatee County Fair, Madeline Fields, a junior at Lakewood Ranch High School, is getting nervous.

It’s her first time showing and marketing a steer.

“The steer show and showmanship is pretty competitive,” Fields said. “There are a lot of people that do exhibit steer, so it’s definitely intimidating. I’ve known people that have been showing since they were 10 years old or younger.” 

When Fields takes her steer to market, she might have more people bidding on her steer as a result of the new Ranch Buyers Club.

Lakewood Ranch High School’s Future Farmers of America program created the Ranch Buyers Club to help promote students’ market projects in the school’s FFA program.

The club created a catalog of profiles of the student exhibitors and their animals. Students were asked to write about their project, introduce their animals, explain what they’ve done to prepare for the fair and explain what they would do with the profits.

“People looking into the Ranch Buyers Club are able to look and see what hard work and what they’ve done and also get to see the personality of the exhibitor and their animals,” said Madison Hartwig, a junior and the FFA president.

Hartwig, along with Fields and senior Abigail Lillibridge, who are all chairs of the FFA’s economic development committee, plan to hand out the catalog of profiles at the fair, so people can get to know the exhibitors before the students show their animals.

They are also planning to send a virtual version of the catalog to businesses before the fair.

The Ranch Buyers Club helps promote awareness about the school’s FFA program and educate people on the process of buying animals at market.

Sophomore Josie Romine practices walking her pig, Chesney, in preparation for the Manatee County Fair. Courtesy photo.

“As Lakewood Ranch gets more urban, we want to make sure people know the auction is still available to them,” said McKenzie Gorski, an FFA adviser at Lakewood Ranch High School. “This year is definitely a pilot, so we’re not expecting a big turnout for buyers necessarily at this sale, but our goal is to bring awareness and hopefully have more buyers from Lakewood Ranch come together.”

Gorski said that if the program can bring more awareness about the auction to people in Lakewood Ranch, it might entice more people to purchase a project or part of a project.

“Our goal is to have a collective of Lakewood Ranch families come together, so our students can expect their animal projects to go to families in our immediate area of the school and Lakewood Ranch as a whole,” Gorski said.

More potential buyers could mean more bids on students’ projects. The price at market depends on the weight of the animal, the cost per pound and how much buyers are willing to bid.

Last year, Hartwig sold her 1,400-pound steer for $3.75 per pound.

For many students, the profits they receive in the market are put toward their next FFA project or saved for their post-secondary education plans.

Lillibridge, who moved to Florida this school year, and Fields, whose family doesn’t have an agriculture background, said the Ranch Buyers Club will give them an opportunity to connect with businesses or families interested in purchasing animals.

“It’s just nice to know there’s security there that people will know who I am and know my animals,” Lillibridge said.

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