Dripping Springs Ag Boosters empower 4-H and FFA youth
Their philosophy is simple. The best way to raise children, say the Dripping Springs Vocational Ag Boosters, is to help them raise a kid of their own—or a lamb, or a heifer, or a steer.
The experience of raising an animal to show age, the booster group claims, teaches young people life lessons that stay with them far beyond the show ring. Responsibility, dependability, effective communication, financial skills, and respect for life can all be learned through raising and showing animals with the local FFA and 4-H clubs.
“I learned the value of a dollar because I understand what it takes to feed out a calf,” says DS FFA/4-H graduate Graysen Gilbraith. “I also learned to talk to adults because I had to effectively communicate with the judges in all my competitions.” The 2016 graduate of Dripping Springs High School now attends Blinn College in Brenham, where she participates in the livestock judging team, and majors in agricultural business—or agribusiness—at Texas A&M University. She credits her experiences in FFA and 4-H at Dripping Springs High School with encouraging her to pursue a degree in agriculture.
In addition to purchasing students’ completed ag mechanic and home skills projects—which range from welded deer feeders to baked pies and home-sewn quilts—the DS Ag Boosters help youth in these programs by raising money to “buy” their grown livestock during the auction at the close of each livestock show.
Since most shows are Premium shows, where the kids keep their animal after the auction (the high bidder is essentially purchasing the ribbon), the sale money helps pay for feed and care for their animal until the next show. At Terminal stock shows later in the year, where the animals are actually sold at the auctions, the prize money helps buy new livestock and project materials for next year’s shows.
“Basically, our contributions at the auctions tell the kids, ‘Good job!'” says DS Ag Boosters president Mark Coffman. Besides supporting their projects through auctions, the Ag Boosters purchase equipment and materials to help the young people get their ag projects started.
“Their contributions make sure everybody has a chance to show, by making sure everybody gets what they need to enter,” says Kristi Dickinson, past president of 4-H and vice-president of FFA. This past spring, Kristi was awarded a $1,500 college scholarship from the Ag Boosters—one of three scholarships given out to graduating seniors involved with the local 4-H and FFA programs.
Many students who receive scholarships from the Ag Boosters enroll in agriculture-related programs at college, but not all. Kristi is studying for a double major in political science and international studies at Texas A&M; past scholarship recipient Daniel Hanson just graduated from Texas A&M with a BS in animal science and is starting veterinary school there this fall.
Daniel credits the DS Ag Boosters with encouraging him, a kid from an inner city school, to get into 4-H, FFA, and an agricultural lifestyle. “We moved from Austin to Dripping Springs my freshman year of high school,” Daniel recalls. “My first year [in 4-H and FFA] was a really big learning curve.” But a good high school ag teacher, involved 4-H leaders, support with livestock projects from the Ag Boosters, and, later, a college scholarship, moved him towards a life focused on animals and agriculture. “You don’t have to grow up in the country,” Daniel insists.
To raise the funds that make their programs possible, the DS Ag Boosters host two big shows each year: the Dripping Springs Fair and Rodeo in July and the Fall Classic livestock show, held November 19–20 at Dripping Springs Ranch Park.
Ag Booster volunteers are also found cooking hamburgers and serving sodas in the concession stand at many Dripping Springs Ranch Park events. The profits from their concessions go straight into funds for their programs.
“We also get out and beat the bushes for sponsorships,” Mark says. Individuals, businesses, ranchers, and breeders provide sponsorships by adopting a belt buckle award or cash prize at the DS Rodeo and Fall Classic livestock shows.
DS Ag Boosters began in 1983, raising around $5,000 for livestock sales, says past president Terry Polk. This year, the group will contribute more than $30,000 to auctions and scholarships, he reports. He points out that next year’s graduating 4-H and FFA group is large—with ten or more seniors in the programs—so the importance of fundraising will become even greater.
Lisa Alba, whose parents were active in DS Ag Boosters from its beginning, has chaired the Fall Classic show for several years now, alongside Terry Polk and Cindy Hanson, Daniel’s mother. “We’re a really close-knit community of families,” says Lisa. When one family needs barn space for a project animal, another family will find room in their barn, she says. They like to caravan together to big shows and stall next to each other. “Kids grow up and go off to college—but the parents just keep going in the program,” she admits with a grin.
For more information about DS Ag Boosters, visit www.dsagboosters.org.
Fall Classic Livestock Show
The DS Ag Boosters will be holding their annual Fall Classic Livestock Show November 19th and 20th from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park Event Center. For more information, visit www.dsagboosters.org.