Freshmen FFA group after receiving their green hand degrees
WEST POINT – At the ripe old age of 27, Ethan Lake has come full circle, well, at least for now. Lake, who is a graduate of West Point High School, is now living his dream of teaching and sharing his passion – farming. He brings to the next generation a rich heritage in agriculture, being the fourth generation of his family to farm here.
Lake started showing and judging cattle in 4-H competitions at the age of 9. He will admit that when he was young he often cried like a baby when the calf he had spent so much time with was taken to the sale barn. “It’s the circle of life,” he said philosophically. “It actually makes you appreciate what you are eating more – having raised it over a year- and teaches you that this is not just another piece of meat.”
Ethan attended Hutchinson Community College on a livestock judging scholarship, then went on to study agri-science education at Auburn University where he earned his degree. He was a member of the livestock judging team while at Auburn.
He hopes to impart his enthusiasm for farming and for raising cattle and other livestock to his students. He has been the agri-science instructor and FFA advisor at West Point for a year. The program at WP includes forestry and land judging teams, and livestock teams which involve horses and cattle, and maybe even sheep this summer. There are also teams for agricultural mechanics, small engine and public speaking teams. They will enter into competitions this April.
“We have a really energetic livestock judging team,” said Lake, “and we hope to have four girls raising and showing sheep later this summer.”
The teams and their instructor are enjoying National Future Farmers of America Week, Feb. 18-25.
The group is selling cookie dough as a means to raise funds which will be used to pay their expenses to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, next year. “It’s really a great experience for the students,” said Lake. “There will be a rodeo, a concert and a lot of trade shows. They will learn a lot.”
The price of the cookie dough is a $20 per tub. The fundraiser will be held at Tractor Supply, Feb. 17-26. The store is taking $1 donations during FFA week that will go into a fund which provides grants for all FFA chapters in the state of Alabama, Feb. 18-25.
The National FFA provides more than $2.2 million in scholarships for seniors. The proficiency awards are for students that have supervised agricultural experience. “This is a reward system for students that are employed or studying in the agricultural industry,” Lake explained.
Kids can apply for a Discovery Degree in middle school, the Green Hand Award in the ninth grade, and the Chapter Degree in the tenth grade. Juniors and seniors are eligible for the State Degree.
“We are self-funding, so these scholarships will help to ensure the continuation of this type of program, as well as helping to fund future educational opportunities for the student winners,” Lake explained.
Lake hopes that some of his students will follow in his footsteps, and those of their parents and grandparents, who are local farming families. “All I ever wanted to do was farm, and work with cattle,” said Lake, who admits that it is somewhat nostalgic to be working at West Point where his parents, he and his brother and sister attended school.
Statistics from 2015 indicate that the average age of an American farmer is now 59. It is vitally important that young farmers be ready to step up and take their places when they retire. The farmers of 2050 will be expected to feed an estimated 9 billion people across the globe. It is in the hands of teachers like Ethan Lake, and farming families, to instill in the next generation a love of, and understanding, of the importance of their mission in life.
If you would like to make a donation to the FFA program at West Point, contact Ethan Lake at West Point High School. Donations can be made in honor or in memory of a friend, relative or local farmer or farm family.
The Tractor Supply FFA Week fundraiser is happening now, Feb. 18-25.
The WP cookie dough fundraiser is going on now at Tractor Supply, Feb. 17-26.
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