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story.lead_photo.caption Westside Eagle Observer/SUBMITTED Paige Barrett (right) receives a Grand Champion banner from judge Brian Anderson (center) after winning the Benton County Youth Livestock show's Grand Champion Market hog award at the Benton County Fair in Bentonville Aug. 11, 2017.

DECATUR -- One vital industry serving this nation's needs involves early mornings, late nights and getting a little dirty. It is sometimes a thankless job but one that is essential for sustaining life on this planet.

Farming is one of the oldest professions in the world. The continuation of this industry depends on organizations such as Future Farmers of America which provides school-age students the training and support they need to pursue careers in this industry.

One program that is key to teaching students about agriculture is the Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE). "The SAE is a required component of a total agricultural education program and intended for every student. Through their involvement in the SAE program, students are able to consider multiple careers and occupations, learn expected workplace behavior, develop specific skills within an industry and are given opportunities to apply academic and occupational skills in the workplace or a simulated workplace environment. Through these strategies, students learn how to apply what they are learning in the classroom as they prepare to transition into the world of college and career opportunities" (

Four students from the Decatur Chapter of the Future Farmers of America actively participate in the SAE program.

Alisun Watson, who serves as the chapter president, Cayden Bingham (vice-president), Paige Barrett (reporter) and Jacy Smith have been active in the program for two years or more.

Paige Barrett has been involved in FFA since the eighth grade (two years). But her roots in the organization go back much further with ties to her older sister Lacy and her mother Lisa, who is the agriculture instructor and chapter sponsor at Decatur High School.

Barrett got involved in raising market hogs for her SAE project. Every morning she gets up early (before sunrise) to care for her animals' needs (food, water, clean bedding, grooming) and is out after sunset putting her animals to bed. She loves the work and plans on making a career in some area of the industry after graduation.

Like Barrett, Cayden Bingham has been involved with FFA and agriculture since he was a small boy working on his grandfather Larry Eaton's farm near Maysville. He started in the 4-H organization showing livestock at the age of 5 before joining the Decatur FFA in seventh grade. He likes to dabble in a little of everything from raising animals to hauling hay to fixing fences.

"I do a lot of working on the farm with cattle," said Bingham. "I raise goats and cattle, ducks, geese and pigs. I have everything at my home including chickens. I do it all and I love every bit of it."

Bingham loves the work and the many challenges that come with farm life. In fact, after graduation next year, Bingham plans on acquiring his own farm and continuing his work raising livestock.

For four years Alisun Watson has participated in FFA's SAE program. She has participated in several national shows with her sheep since joining the organization. Her travels have taken her to national sheep conventions in Anaheim, Calif., and Washington, D.C. Watson started raising sheep in 2005. But now she has taken on yet another SAE project.

In 2013, Watson started working with small animal collection and care. She raises, shows and markets four different types of rabbits for this project. She has already passed her proficiency exam in this area, which qualifies her for the national competition in which she will participate in the next few months. Watson is also working toward sheep proficiency this year.

One of the newest members of the Decatur FFA chapter is Jacy Smith, who is in her second year with the organization. Like her counterparts, Smith was raised on a family farm raising poultry with her father and mother, Kevin and Jackie Smith.

"I show goats," said Smith. "I started in 4-H in 2013. This is my second year in FFA and my fourth showing goats and I love it."

The Decatur chapter, like its sister organizations across the nation, continues to teach the integral arts that make up the agricultural industry. From raising livestock to growing crops, it is the key to the future of mankind. With dedicated sponsors like Lisa Barrett and the thousands of students across the country, the world is assured of a future of plenty for all, feeding the nation's appetite for a sustainable food source for years and even decades to come.

The list of Decatur FFA activities for the remainder of school year include:

• Feb. 5-28: Blue and Gold Sausage Sale 2½ pounds of Sausage $7, 3½ pounds of Bacon $17, 5 pounds of Chicken breaded fillets $21.

• March 2: NTI Ag Mechanics Contest at NTI.

• March 15: NW District CDE Contests at Arkansas Tech.

• April 12-13: State CDE Contests at U of A.

• April 23-25: State FFA Convention at Hot Springs.

• April 26-27: Western Regional Trap Shoot at Jacksonville.

• May 19: Benton County Fair Small Animal Check In.

Community on 02/28/2018

Print Headline: Decatur FFA students work on SAE projects

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