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Salute to FFA

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A special supplement to the Daily Sun News and Sun News Shopper February 19, 2013

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2 - Daily Sun News

Salute to FFA

February 19, 2013

Hutchins’ herd up to 14 head by Laura Gjovaag

The cows are milling happily around the front yard at Katie Hutchins’ home. Hutchins, who owns 14 heifers, said she raised them all by hand. Many were bottle-fed and they crowd around Hutchins as she strides out to feed them in the morning. Three years ago Hutchins didn’t own any animals, but she’d been around them her whole life. Her father works see “Hutchins’ herd” next page

Laura Gjovaag/Daily Sun News

Katie Hutchins breaks hay off a bale for some of her cows at the family farm. Hutchins had no animals of her own three years ago but now has a herd of 14 heifers, four of them pregnant. A rooster tries to wake up the farm after Katie Hutchins and her mother arrive to feed the cattle.

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Laura Gjovaag/Daily Sun News

Two cows belonging to Sunnyside FFA member Katie Hutchins calmly enjoy breakfast as a barn cat attacks the trailing hay.

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February 19, 2013

Salute to FFA

Daily Sun News - 3

Hutchins’ herd

continued from page 2

in cattle breeding and as a result, Hutchins is the Sunnyside High School FFA’s local expert on the subject. Now the family farm is crowded with animals that Hutchins has raised, including the cows and some pigs. “I don’t claim the sheep,” she said. The many chickens, ducks and barn cats don’t belong to her specifically either, but all the animals are comfortable roaming around the area. Hutchins started out in 4-H, but once she was in FFA she started to raise her own animals and became interested in more than just keeping them alive. She said that FFA can be extremely rewarding. “It depends on how involved you are,” she said. For Hutchins, the learning has gone far beyond what teacher Ryan Kannely is able to provide. “She knows more about cows than I do,” he admits. “But part of FFA is sharing that knowledge. When someone has a cow problem, Katie has learned how to help them with it.” Hutchins’ knowledge includes testing the DNA of her animals through hair samples. She also has used artificial insemination to get some of her cows pregnant. “She’s the only high school girl I know who has semen,” jokes Kannely as Hutchins rolls her eyes.

Grow, theme of 2013 FFA week

Laura Gjovaag/Daily Sun News

The cows at the Hutchins’ farm are very tame, following visitors around the yard and leaning over fences to check out strangers. Hutchins said four of her cows are confirmed pregnant at the moment. She expects to have milk in July. Hutchins is no stranger to showing animals. She was able to show a cow in Kentucky last year and has attended many

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shows through FFA. She said she’ll probably show a cow and pig this year at local fairs. ‑ Laura Gjovaag can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email

The Lower Yakima Valley is joining in to celebrate National FFA Week, Feb. 16-23, 2013. Grow is the theme this year and more than half a million members around the nation will participate in National FFA Week activities at the local and state levels. FFA Week gives members a chance to educate the public about agriculture. During the week, chapters host teacher appreciation breakfasts, conduct “Ag Olympics” competitions, speak to the public about agriculture, volunteer for community service projects and more. The week of George Washington’s birthday was designated as National FFA Week in 1947 at a National FFA Board of Directors meeting. FFA Week always runs from Saturday to Saturday, and encompasses Feb. 22, Washington’s birthday.

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4 - Daily Sun News

Salute to FFA

February 19, 2013

Grandview sophomore making plans for ‘Barbecue’ by Jennie McGhan

GRANDVIEW – Although she admits to becoming a little emotionally attached to her pig, Grandview FFA chapter member Lecie Owens says she is realistic about raising Barbecue, aka “Barbie.” This is the second year as a member of FFA for the sophomore, who aspires to one day become a large animal veterinarian. Owens said she wanted to improve her communication skills and obtain experience with a breed of animal she may one day be treating. “There are a lot of communications activities in FFA,” said Owens, who said public

speaking has not always been easy for her. Working with animals, however, is easier for her. She said she enjoys getting to know her swine. Barbie, said Owens, will be sold this coming summer. Owens knows Barbie will most likely end up on someone’s breakfast or dinner plate. But, she said working with animals with different dispositions will be valuable to her as a veterinarian. Owens said Barbie is not as stubborn as the pig she raised last year, but this year’s swine has a reputation for being mean. “Unlike some of the other pigs being raised by other FFA members she was not

Jennie McGhan/Daily Sun News

Grandview High School sophomore Lecie Owens picked her pig, Barbecue, because of the pig’s potential for doing well in the show ring.

Jennie McGhan/Daily Sun News

Barbecue knows who’s in charge and Lecie Owens wants to keep it that way. The Grandview FFA chapter member said pigs that are not handled regularly can become unpredictable. LIC# ALBREWD918NJ

bottle fed,” Owens said, stating she believes Barbie is just timid around people. “She is better about getting on the scale,” Owens said of her pig, noting last year’s pig was uncooperative about the weigh-in process. Owens said she hand-picked Barbie because she believed the pig exhibited attributes that will make it a better showing swine. “She has a better ham, although she isn’t as long as some of the others,” said Owens. A pig’s temperament is challenging for Owens, who said it is important to work with your pig on a regular basis. If a person doesn’t do that, she said, the pig gains the upper hand because it has a weight advantage over its handler. “It can be scary,” said Owens, stating pigs are also known to be aggressive around other swine when they have not been properly trained. Another aspect of raising pigs that Owens is not particularly fond of is cleaning the sty. At Grandview High School the FFA chapter’s pigs are raised in the same pen. “It can get smelly, especially in the spring and summer,” Owens said, noting there are

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two more pigs this year than there were last year. “That means there’s more to clean,” she said. During the winter months, Owens said, it is important to make sure the pigs have enough water because the colder temperatures tend to freeze it. “I try to check the water at least once a day,” Owens said, noting other chapter members also check the water for the swine regularly. As for support from home, Owens said her mother, Julie Soria, believes FFA is a great way for Owens to learn responsibility and what it takes to care for another animal. “She also believes it provides me experience managing my own money,” said Owens, noting she uses the money from the sale of her pigs for future pigs and supplies like muck boots and a cane. “My mother also sees the potential skills I will have for becoming a large animal vet,” said Owens. “It’s fun, it’s challenging and I like it,” she said.

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February 19, 2013

Salute to FFA

Daily Sun News - 5

Mabton junior has ‘learned to love’ farm life by Amber Schlenker

MABTON – Just a few short years ago Jesenia Meza couldn’t stand the smell of farm life. She didn’t want to be anywhere near farm animals. And working in that environment was simply, out of the question. “But now, I love it,” the Mabton High School junior said. “I just love sitting in the stables with my animals, listening to music or reading.” Meza got involved with the FFA chapter at her school and has gone all in over the past three years. This FFA District 4 officer also hopes to earn a State officer title next year. She even began showing animals as part of FFA competition. She chose to show pigs, which she says, requires lots of time and effort. “I’ve learned the more time you spend with (the animals), the more cooperative they will be,” she added. During the competition, which begins this coming April, contestants will be judged on how they interact with the animals they show, along with the animals’ health, appearance and muscle tone. In addition, Meza says the weight of her animals plays an important role in the competition. “They need to weigh between 230 and 285 pounds,” she said. The pigs cannot weigh less than 230, or more than 285 lbs. So weeks before the com-

photo courtesy of Jesenia Meza

Jesenia Meza shows her pigs at last year’s Central Washington Junior Livestock show.

Jesenia Meza

petition, the pigs will be weighed, and if they need to, they’ll be put on a diet to either gain or lose weight. Over the past three years, Meza says she’s learned a lot about competition in the show ring and her animals. She says the most important thing, however, is time. “It’s taught me responsibility. Before I can

SCHS FFA by the numbers More than half of the students at Sunnyside Christian High School participate in their local FFA chapter. The school has an enrollment of 83 students and its FFA membership numbers 46. That number is pretty typical, says SCHS chapter President Alexandra Newhouse, noting there are about the same amount of FFA members as were at the school last year. The FFA chapter at SCHS has projects that include an entry in the Lighted Farm Implement Parade, a Farm Olympics and judging/showing animals at the Central Washington State Fair.

Celebrating the tradition and progress of FFA.

do anything else, I tell myself I have to take care of the pigs first,” she said. The time it takes to care for the animals, she says, is important in terms of doing well in the competitions, as well. Meza says the more time she spends with her pigs the more comfortable they are with her leading them around the contest arena.


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6 - Daily Sun News

Salute to FFA

February 19, 2013

You can learn a lot from a pig by John Fannin

Sunnyside Christian High School junior McKenzie Benjert has been raising pigs since she was 10 years old, first for 4-H projects and now for FFA. A third-year member of the SCHS FFA

photo courtesy McKenzie Benjert

McKenzie Benjert is pictured here when she was 10 years old showing a pig in a 4-H competition. Today the Sunnyside Christian High School student is in her third year with FFA and still showing pigs each year.

chapter, McKenzie today serves as the club’s secretary. She describes it as something of a go-fer position, a jack-of-all-trades, so to speak, that has her taking care of various errands and needs for the club. That diversity has helped her in raising McKenzie Benjert and showing pigs at fairs each year in Grandview and Toppenish, including earning a reserve champion award last year. Benjert says working with pigs over the years has helped her learn how to save money for college and gain a better appreciation for livestock. After all this time, she also has a pretty good idea what judges are looking for when it comes to evaluating pigs. “They want to see a pig that’s nice looking,” Benjert says. “They want to see a wide body without much fat on top.” She adds judges don’t just evaluate the animal, but the person handling the pig, as

photo courtesy Tammy Bangs

Sunnyside Christian junior McKenzie Benjert gently works with her pig during a showing last year. well. “They want eye contact with the owner and to see the cleanliness of the animal,” Benjert said. Benjert, who hopes to some day be an elementary school teacher, adds that judges are looking for more from FFA students than those with 4-H animals. “They expect more from us because we’ve been fitting and showing animals longer,” she says.

Besides practical lessons in finances, animal handling and showing, Benjert says raising pigs all these years has helped her acquire traits that will be useful in FFA, high school and beyond. “You have to be calm with the pigs,” she says. “Don’t worry and be patient.” - John Fannin can be reached at or at 837-4500.

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February 19, 2013

Salute to FFA

Daily Sun News - 7

‘Cow’ boy turns to swine for FFA project

We Support FFA

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GRANDVIEW - Growing up on a farm where his family raises beef cattle, Grandview FFA chapter member Nathan Trevino said he turned to raising swine for his FFA project anticipating the challenges that come with a different type of animal. “It’s pretty tough…there were two pigs (selected by Grandview FFA members) that had a vitamin deficiency…one died in spite of our efforts to nurse it back to health,” Trevino said, stating the members of the chapter selected their pigs in December. The other pig, said Trevino, survived with selenium shots. Trevino is a senior at Grandview High School and has been a member of the FFA chapter for two years. He said the various members of the chapter choose pigs from breeders in Prosser and Toppenish. “It is different from raising cattle,” he said. One of the pig breeders bottle feeds the swine when the animals are piglets, acclimating them to human contact. Jennie McGhan/Daily Sun News “That makes it a little easier to work with them,” Grandview High School senior Trevino admitted. Nathan Trevino is raising a pig Members of the GHS chapter, he said, choose to raise for his FFA project. Growing up and train pigs because there is a group effort to feeding, on a farm with beef cattle, he watering and cleaning the pig sty provided on campus. thought swine would be more “It’s a unique opportunity,” said Trevino. of a challenge. When selecting his own pig, he said he wanted a strong one and Trevino believes he chose one of the two strongest swine from the litter. “I haven’t yet named it, but I am leaning toward Al.Dean…my favorite country singer is Jason Aldean,” he joked, stating the swine’s name would be an homage to the country artist, who sings about country living. Feeding the Grandview FFA chapter’s pigs, said Trevino, isn’t as difficult as it could be. He said the chapter has a self-feeder that is filled about once a week. “Getting them water is the tough part because it tends to freeze during the winter,” said Trevino, stating it is important to ensure the swine are properly hydrated to maintain health. “I check the water twice a day,” he said. Trevino said he enjoys the ability to work with his fellow chapter members, raising the see “Swine” back page

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8 - Daily Sun News

Salute to FFA

February 19, 2013

SHS junior raises variety of animals by Laura Gjovaag

Sunnyside High School junior Matthew Crane is up before the sun to tend to cows, horses, chickens and his prize pigs at his family’s farm in Sunnyside. He said he’s been properly farming since he was in third grade and working hard in 4-H. He joined the high school’s FFA club as a freshman and teacher Ryan Kannely said he’s one of the club’s stalwart members, always reliable. He’s become the club’s secretary. Farming runs in the family. Crane’s older sister was also in FFA and his younger brother, currently in sixth grade and participating in 4-H, is looking forward to joining FFA in the future.

Crane said that 4-H prepared him for some of what he’s experienced in FFA, but he’s learned quite a bit since joining. “FFA is a different level of knowledge,” Crane said. “You learn more about genetics, about the quality of the animals and how to raise better quality animals.” Kannely said FFA is all about agriculture and responsibility. Students learn to show up and take care of their animals. And they learn how to work well with one another. Crane is a good mentor for his fellow students, according to Kannely. “He’s quiet, but he knows his stuff,” said Kannely. “He’s always willing to help someone else out.” For his part, Crane recommends FFA to his fellow students, even those who don’t live on a farm. “It’s a lot of fun,” said Crane. “And you learn a lot if you’ve not been around animals much.”

Laura Gjovaag/Daily Sun News

Matthew Crane is used to being around a variety of animals on the family farm, including the pigs he is raising to show for FFA. He also owns chickens, a cow and a calf that he hopes to be able to show next year. Matthew Crane demonstrates the proper way to hold chickens while doing his morning chores. Crane is the secretary for the Sunnyside High School FFA Club.

‑ Laura Gjovaag can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email

Laura Gjovaag/Daily Sun News

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Laura Gjovaag/Daily Sun News

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February 19, 2013

Salute to FFA

Daily Sun News - 9

Quality time matters when raising animals for showing by Amber Schlenker

MABTON – Becoming one with his animals is what may very well take Joshua Rodriguez to the top. With four years under his belt in 4-H, Rodriguez knows the name of the game in showing and raising animals. But this year, as a freshman at Mabton High School, he’ll be competing against FFA students. The contests, however, are relatively the same, as contestants are being judged on the animals’ appearance, muscle mass and how well it responds to the handler. When Rodriguez first began showing steers, he began with just one animal. “It was hard at first; getting them to follow me took a long time,” he said. He has since graduated to raising two animals each year for competition, and has learned the do’s and don’ts of animal raising. Rodriguez says he learned that spending quality time with his animals is what will get them comfortable and responsive. Part of the competition that will take place at the Central Washington Junior Livestock Show in April requires participants to lead their animals around the arena, to show off its cleanliness and healthy stature. To lead an animal around an arena, the student must be able to obtain control of that animal. “I learned that scratching their backs and petting them gets them more comfortable with me,” he added. Rodriguez says he’s learned to spend more time with his animals. Busy with sports, FFA and a full-time student schedule, it’s hard to carve out time to lead the animals around the arena in his back yard. This youngster says once the weather turns warmer, he’ll be out with the two steers he’s showing this year at least 10 hours a week. ‑ Amber Schlenker can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email

Amber Schlenker/Daily Sun News

Joshua Rodriguez ties up his steer after working with it in preparation for a competition this spring.

Amber Schlenker/Daily Sun News

Joshua Rodriguez shows a steer around, getting it used to following his lead.



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10 - Daily Sun News

Salute to FFA

February 19, 2013

FFA teacher’s duties include checking students’ animals by Laura Gjovaag

Sunnyside High School FFA teacher Ryan Kannely greets a sleepy Amanda Bestebreur at the door to her home one Saturday, conducting his rounds to check on students’ animals. Kannely explains that while it’s the students’ jobs to raise the animals, part of his job is to visit and check on the animals at least once or twice during the year to give advice and encouragement. Bestebreur, the president of the Sunnyside High School FFA chapter, has pygmy goats, sheep, rabbits and pigs and shows the lodgings for her animals to Kannely. During the visit she decides two of the sheep need to be moved to an outdoor pen from the space in a heated shed they’d been sharing with rabbits. “They keep knocking down the walls,” she said. Putting the animals on leashes for the first time in their lives, Kannely and Bestebreur walk the sheep to their new home while discussing how to harness train the animals and whether or not they will get along with the pygmy goats. As the FFA teacher, Kannely said his job is to give advice whenever possible and to

encourage students to learn more. “I don’t know everything about every animal,” he said. “But I have the resources to find out what we need to know. They students will go beyond my level, that’s part of the goal.” On this trip he visits another student’s pigs and describes what judges are looking for in a pig. “See the muscling, on the top of the back from the shoulder to hip,” he points to one of the animals. “Judges are looking for pigs that grow fast, efficiently and with high quality.” At another visit he checks out a student’s cows, noting that the milk from a cow and the anatomy that goes to producing the milk is what judges are looking at. “Milk from a cow is like muscle on a pig,” he explains. Kannely said FFA gives students more opportunities to learn and grow. “It’s not just confined to raising animals,” he said. “Anything at all to do with agriculture is the focus of the club. We have welding projects in our club, along with raising animals.” FFA also opens the possibility of meeting other people and learning more about other fields of agriculture at conventions and fairs. “There really is no limit to what you can learn,” said Kannely. ‑ Laura Gjovaag can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email

Laura Gjovaag/Daily Sun News

Amanda Bestebreur, president of the Sunnyside High School FFA chapter, stands in a heated shed where she raises rabbits and sheep.

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Laura Gjovaag/Daily Sun News

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February 19, 2013

Salute to FFA

Daily Sun News - 11

First-year FFA’er enjoying the ride by John Fannin

Sunnyside Christian High School senior John Newhouse is no stranger to agriculture, his family operates Upland Vineyards in Outlook. But his personal experience with farming has been limited, save for some summer work on the family farm. It wasn’t until this year that he finally decided to take the FFA plunge. “It’s my senior year, so I decided to try new experiences,” says Newhouse, sentinel for the SCHS chapter. He says the experience has taught him

there’s a good amount of planning needed to pull off the chapter’s many activities. They include a Lighted Farm Implement Parade float entry, livestock showing/judging and organizing a Farm Olympics each spring for elJohn Newhouse ementary school students. Lessons on the importance of planning and getting organized have been helpful for Newhouse, as he is working on a massive project in the SCHS vocational building. “It’s a boat!” he laughs. Actually, it’s a 1962 Chevy Impala that belonged to his father. Though technically a car, the Impala hails from an era of heavy chrome and behemoth-esque dimensions. Getting the car to run well is a labor of love. Under the supervision of teacher Wayne Sylling,

John Fannin/Daily Sun News

SCHS senior and FFA member John Newhouse is enjoying the lessons learned from fine-tuning a 50-year-old Chevy Impala. Newhouse since September has taken the Impala’s motor apart, cleaned it and put it back together. It’s a challenge not just because the Impala is 50 years old, but also because it sat idle for seven years. When Newhouse started working on it, the car belched smoke out the back and had a touchy gas pedal – “a dead spot,” he calls it - that caused the Impala to stall. In the process of picking the car engine apart and putting it back together, Newhouse learned the culprit to the car’s balkiness - a rocker assembly that was somehow out of place. Through it all, Newhouse is learning other

things, as well. “I’m not sure what I want to do after high school, but working on the car every day has got me interested in being an auto mechanic,” says Newhouse, who is considering enrolling in a technical school after he leaves SCHS. As a first-year FFA student in his last year of high school, Newhouse says the lessons learned through his chapter could help others. “Don’t be afraid to try new things,” he says. “You can learn a lot.” - John Fannin can be reached at or at 837-4500.

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It’s a work in progress for SCHS senior John Newhouse, who is working on a family car.

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pigs. He said each member is assigned specific responsibilities and working as a team develops a sense of camaraderie. “The real work, though, starts when we set up the show arena,” he said, stating once an arena is set up each member will need to work individually with their pigs. Trevino said the pigs and their handlers will become better acquainted with one another and the chapter Jennie McGhan/Daily Sun News members will need to teach Nathan Trevino gets chummy with his pig, Al.Dean. The the pigs how to behave in name, he said, isn’t completely decided, but he is a fan preparation for showings. of country artist Jason Aldean and believes the name “Right now everyone has would be a good tribute to the singer. pig duty, though,” he said. “Most of the pigs are pretty friendly com- exhibited by their human handlers. “You must have control of your pig,” pared to last year’s litter,” Trevino said, stating he believes this year’s litter will be Trevino said. As for goals he has set, he said he wants easier to manage. “Last year’s pigs were rank…they’d run to grow his pig to weigh in at approximately away from you and weren’t friendly,” he 280 lbs. because the maximum allowable weight for showing is 285 lbs. said. Trevino said he enjoys the FFA project Trevino said the pigs, however, aren’t the only animals that learn from the process of and is working toward saving some of the feeding, cleaning and training. Their human money raised from selling Al.Dean for his future at Perry Technical Institute, where he handlers, he said, learn to be more patient. “Showing a pig takes discipline,” said hopes to earn certification as an electrician, welder or mechanic. Trevino. “I haven’t decided yet.” He said judges will be watching for calm, relaxed pigs and the swine only learn to ‑ Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, show those attributes because of the patience or email

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