Longtime farming program teaches leadership and life lessons
Several students from the Texas City Independent School District’s Future Farmers of America program will be in competition at this year’s Galveston County Fair & Rodeo.
Shane Baker, Javonne Pool and Shelby Lipscomb are students of Andrea “Nikki” Ashcraft, the agricultural teacher at Texas City High School. Ashcraft, who also was a member of the Texas City FFA when she attended the high school, has been teaching for 14 years and has been the agricultural teacher for the past 11 years.
Ashcraft has been working with these students since they joined the Junior FFA program in the third grade. The program has grown tremendously in the past 11 years, Ashcraft said.
The district has nearly 80 livestock entries going to the 80th annual Galveston County Fair & Rodeo, which is April 13-21 at the Galveston County Fairgrounds in Hitchcock.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, 10th-grader Shane Baker has been involved with the program since she was in the third grade.
Baker, who raises market rabbits and market lambs, has won Grand and Reserve Champion at the county fair with her rabbits. She also has exhibited rabbits at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in early March.
“I used to get nervous before my showings, but now, not so much,” Baker, 16, said. “It helps that my mom and Ms. Ashcraft have always encouraged me to do well and they always cheer me on. I try to encourage my friends, who aren’t involved, to watch me show and they see how much fun I have and then they want to join. The program is very fun and I’ve learned a lot.”
Baker also is a member of the Stingarettes Dance Team, is in the top 10 percent of her class, and plans to attend Texas A&M University to become a veterinary assistant or veterinarian, she said.
“Managing my time is the hardest thing,” Baker said. “And although I’m involved in other organizations, I always make it work. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Javonne Pool, also a sophomore, became accustomed to farm life when he would stay with his great-aunt and grandfather as a young boy. FFA was a good fit, he said.
“My mom was raised on showing animals,” Pool, 16, said. “She has definitely passed down that passion to me, and that is something I am forever grateful for.”
Pool has raised five goats, three lambs, three steers, eight heifers, two pigs and six pens of rabbits — and had an amazing time while doing so, he said. Pool will be exhibiting heifers, a lamb and rabbits at this year’s fair. He also had a breeding heifer he exhibited at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March.
Outside of FFA, Pool enjoys fishing, singing in the high school’s master chorale and show choir, and spending time with family and friends. After high school, he plans to pursue a degree in veterinary science and agricultural business, he said.
“FFA has definitely taught me life lessons I need for life after school,” Pool said. “I’ve learned to manage my time better, be responsible and, most of all, be fair in the game of life. It has been an experience of a lifetime to serve as a leader and build a bond with not just my animals, but everyone I have met through this organization.”
Serving as president of the FFA program, Shelby Lipscomb, 17, is a senior at Texas City High School, in the top 5 percent of her class, and already has been accepted to attend Texas A&M University where she will major in biomedical science.
For this year’s fair, Lipscomb is raising steers and a market lamb. She also has raised three pigs, a goat, chickens, two lambs, a heifer and three steers. She has been a part of the program since she was in the sixth grade, and has always loved animals, she said.
“FFA has allowed me to be more involved with animals and agriculture as a whole,” Lipscomb said.
Outside of FFA, Lipscomb is involved in the National Honor Society and the varsity tennis team. She also takes all Advanced Placement classes. With the help of her parents, she has learned how to balance keeping up with the hours of barn work and hours of homework and studying, she said.
“I have always encouraged others to join FFA,” Lipscomb said. “It is my hope that they realize that it is more than just farming and raising animals. FFA also teaches leadership and responsibilities, which is a good thing.”