Becoming leaders through agriculture

Article by Jennifer Nesslar can be found at 


When Alyssa Stewart was young, she and her mother would go to the West Orange Dog Park on Marshall Farms Road.

There, Stewart looked over and saw the cows being raised by West Orange High School’s FFA program. When she asked her mother why the cows were there, she learned about FFA.

As an aspiring veterinarian, Stewart decided she would join FFA in high school.

Julian Poillion, a student at Ocoee High School, with a chicken. Now, as a senior at West Orange High School, Stewart has been a member of FFA for four years. Like many of her peers, the responsibility of FFA is preparing her for her career. Recently, some sheep she raised got time in a Fingerhut commercial.

“There’s a lot of responsibility,” said Mattie Crabtree, president of FFA at West Orange High School. “It really forces to you to grow up and take charge of your own life. With your school work, with a job and animals, you have to be out here twice a day to feed them every single day.”


Life as an FFA student is busy.

For students who raise animals to show at competitions, the responsibility is greater than merely feeding the animals, which must be done twice a day, even on weekends and holidays. The students have to prepare the animals to be shown at competitions and even administer basic shots and nurse animals that are sick.

Students who raise animals show them at fairs and jackpot shows. The FFA chapters at Ocoee and West Orange high schools often attend the Central Florida Fair to show animals. Animals are judged by set of standards, and some animals are even sold.

This experience teaches students not only how to raise animals but also makes them aware of the business side of the field, a part of the profession that particularly interests Shayla Chastain, a sophomore at Ocoee High School.

“You’re learning how to deal with money with the animal,” Chastain said. “You keep track of feed costs, how much you’re feeding, and all the costs that you’ve ever put into that pig.”

FFA members attend Career Development Events not only to develop their knowledge of agriculture but also career skills to prepare for future jobs and future situations. Some events include job interviews, public speaking and even driving a tractor.

At meetings, FFA leaders practice parliamentary procedures and learn about opening and closing ceremonies.

In an extemporaneous speaking competition, Ocoee FFA president Hannah Wagner had 30 minutes to write a five-minute speech about an agricultural question. She then gave the speech about sustainability and answered questions about it.

In April, FFA students competed in an ornamental horticulture competition that featured a variery of categories such as landscaping, marketing and production.


FFA isn’t limited to high school students. Students at SunRidge Middle School also participate in the program, and several are headed to a state competition in ornamental horticulture.

At the Orange County competition, SunRidge students Hendrix Paterson and Sean Lewis placed first for the organic fertilizer they created using household products.

The school has a small area where the students raise chicken and other plants, and they are also able to raise rabbits indoors.

“Being in FFA is a great way to make new friends and network with other people,” said Ashley Redditt, the president of the chapter at SunRidge.

Redditt and Paterson both have family ties to FFA, so that was what initially led them to join the program. They both see it as a way to help them achieve their career goals, and even help them get into competitive programs in college.

But it’s also just a lot of fun.

“It’s been amazing. I’ve loved it. I’m a little addicted to it,” Paterson said.


From Watermark: Out & About night returns to Central Florida Fair for second year

12719280_10208683755996040_7001220418367547630_oAt the Central Florida Fair, we love when we’re featured in the news! Read below or click the link to check out this article from Watermark: Out & About at the Fair

The 104th annual Central Florida Fair runs through March 13, but LGBT families might want to save the date for March 2, the second annual Out & About Nightfrom 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

“Last year was our first year hosting Out & About and we found an increase in attendance of about 1000 people,” says Central Florida Fair Sponsorship Coordinator Frances Rivera.

Orlando’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce (MBA) will be hosting a networking mixer at the same time. “We’re looking forward to the addition of the professional environment offered by the Metropolitan Business Association. Every year we want to build on the previous one, and Out & About is here to stay,” says Rivera.

Admission to Out & About night is free with a Watermark flier. Watermark Publishing Group sponsors the event.

The Central Florida Fair is a non-profit organization awarding $280,000 annually in local scholarships.

The fairgrounds will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Daily admissions to regular fair days are $10 for adults and $6 for children, with unlimited ride wristbands ranging from $25 to $30.


Photo credit: Chris Stephenson

From Orlando Sentinel: Central Florida Fair expands focus on live music


At the Central Florida Fair, we love when we’re featured in the news! Read this article below from Orlando Sentinel’s James Tutten, or click here:

Get ready to grab a sugar-encrusted funnel cake, hop on the Ferris wheel and try your best to win that oversize teddy bear for your sweetheart. With entertainment ranging from special musical performances, midway rides, creative arts and pig races, the 104th Central Florida Fair is underway.

_MG_0195For the first time in its 104-year history, the fair will encompass three weekends and offer more concerts and live entertainment than ever before. In the past the fair ran 11 consecutive days. Now it spans 14 days but will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. “Every weekend will feel like a slightly different fair,” said Frances Rivera, coordinator for Central Florida Fairgrounds, the event’s home. “Because we’re a longer fair we brought in more entertainment.” Each week will feature a different concert, starting this Sunday with R&B duo K-Ci & JoJo at 7:30 p.m. and continuing with rock band Pop Evil at 7:30 p.m. March 4. Both shows are included with the $10 fair admission.

The Orlando Amphitheatre is set to open next month. Reggaeton artist Jory Boy will perform on March 11 but concertgoers must pay $20 in advance for admission, which includes the concert and fair. A final event on March 13 will cost $25 and feature a celebration of Latin American culture highlighted by Mexican group Los Indomables de Cedral. New entertainment is also on tap. Acts will include the motorcycle stunt show “Vortex of Doom,” a white tiger exhibit, shark encounter and more. Through this Sunday fairgoers can see “A Grizzly Experience,” a high-diving show and pig races.

All the classic midway rides you would expect will be featured this year such as Yo Yo, Zipper, Typhoon and the G-force-inducing Gravitron. Thrill rides — like the new Super Cyclone — will have height requirements so fair organizers have a Kiddie Land section devoted to young fans.

Originally called the “Sub-Tropical Mid-Winter Exposition,” the fair started in 1910 and was held in downtown Orlando near what is now the Bob Carr Theater. In the late 1970s it moved to the Central Florida Fairgrounds near Pine Hills. There’s a serious side to the fair: A portion of its profits each year goes to support local agricultural programs and student scholarships. Organizers say the fair averages around 250,000 visitors each year. Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days, with 25,000-40,000 guests each day.

The increased focus on live entertainment reflects an overall shift for the site on East Colonial Drive to become more of a concert venue and community-based convention center, said Wil Price, the director of marketing and operations for the Central Florida Fairgrounds. What does that mean for the fair? “Next year we look to expand with even more concerts,” said Price.