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Advocates of Agriculture


Today’s 4-H and FFA students are carrying on a tradition of excellence


By Gail Banzet-Ellis A


Nowata County 4-H’er Kyla Taylor will exhibit her goat, “Gilbert,” at livestock shows this spring.Photos by Gail Banzet-Ellis


Oologah High School agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor Josh Blair (middle) assists agricultural education students Leland Turnage (left) and Bailey Estep (right) as they cut square metal tubing for a project in the FFA shop.


Nowata County 4-H’er Kyla Taylor will exhibit her goat, “Gilbert,” at livestock shows this spring. Photos by Gail Ellis


s parents, one of the greatest life accomplishments for Justin and Brenda Taylor is watching their children grow up in the country and follow in their footsteps. These Verdigris Valley Electric Cooperative (VVEC) members spent their younger years showing livestock and competing in other agricultural leadership activities. Now, they’re passing on the torch.


“Once I entered the workforce, I realized the most beneficial thing I ever did was join 4-H and FFA,” Brenda says. “We gained confidence in ourselves while learning the value of hard work—these are the things Justin and I want for our kids. There isn’t any other place we want to be than on the farm.” The Taylors are a prime example of Oklahoma’s many devoted farm families


who believe in the value of promoting student leadership and rural values. Together with their three kids, Truitt, Ty and Kyla, they live on an acreage just outside of South Coffeyville, where they are active in school activities, sports, Nowata County 4-H and Oklahoma Union FFA. Most mornings, the children are up around 5:45 a.m., feeding livestock and helping with other chores before heading off to school. They spend the winter preparing for a busy spring season of livestock shows and agricultural competitions. Truitt, a freshman at Oklahoma Union High School will show a market steer, hogs and lambs this year, but he also has found success in the competitive field of judging. In 2013, he won first place in his division at the American Quarter Horse Association World Show. “I like giving reasons at the contests, especially livestock judging,” Truitt says. “I want to pursue a livestock or horse judging scholarship at a junior college after I graduate.”


Although his sights already are set on the future, Truitt is looking forward to all of the memories yet to be made over the next three years of his FFA career. Ty, an eighth-grader and the other member of the “Taylor Brothers” duo, also stepped into the arena at a young age and can’t imagine his life without 4-H and FFA projects.


“I just like being at the show in that environment—everybody hanging around and getting ready,” he says. But beyond the fun camaraderie of other students and families, Ty and his siblings are well aware of the work required to compete. “We walk our animals as much as possible on the weekends and have learned how to change up their feeding rations closer to a show. In the summer, we’re up early to wash our animals and make sure they’re in the shade,” Ty says. Justin and Brenda say the chores are lessons in responsibility and will give their


From left to right: Truitt, Kyla and Ty Taylor enjoy life on their parents’ farm near South Coffeyville. They participate in Nowata County 4-H and Oklahoma Union FFA activities.


children an advantage later in life. “They’re learning to get up and work hard at their jobs,” Justin says. “It’s good to start them young.” Little sister Kyla has just started participating in livestock judging and cattle grading, but this season she also plans to show all three species along with a feisty goat named “Gilbert.” She may be the youngest, but she’s just as competitive,


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