Seated Lizzie Ford, far left and Lukas Aylesworth, standing, Kamryn Aylesworth, at the FFA Raffle talbe at the grand Opening of the New Central Illinois Ag in Atlanta on August 1

Mount Pulaski FFA features family, farm animals and the Fair

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[August 06, 2015]   Students from around Logan County might be on summer break but for those involved with the Mount Pulaski FFA Chapter the summer is a busy time and it's about to get even busier as the Logan County Fair heats up.

"We started out the summer working on Agriscience Fair Projects," said adviser Ralph Allen. "Lizzie Ford, Skye Kretzinger, Jessica Maxheimer, Hannah Freer and Morgan Kinnard all participated. Skye and Jessica qualified for nationals and have completed the application for the next step. They will hear in the fall if they are chosen to compete in Louisville at the National FFA Convention."

The Agriscience Fair was part of the State FFA Convention held in June in Springfield at the Prairie Capital Convention Center that also gave members Elizabeth Allen, Hannah Reidle, Whitney Nichols and Brandon Hickey the opportunity to pick up their State FFA Degrees, according to Allen.

Zach Fanning, whose sister Elizabeth is the Hartsburg-Emden FFA adviser, was also recognized as an American FFA Degree recipient.

Also at the state convention cousins Lukas Aylesworth and Kamryn Aylesworth served as voting delegates while Kamryn's younger brother, Dixon Aylesworth and Hunter Sherman represented Mount Pulaski in the State FFA Band.

In addition, Emily Maus attended the state convention.

Mr. Allen noted that members Ashlyn Hickey, Lane Davis, Aaron Durchholz, Elizabeth Allen, Kamryn Aylesworth and Lukas Aylesworth also attended the Section 14 FFA Fair in Petersburg and participated by showing animals and/or crops.

Keeping ever so busy, Kamryn Aylesworth recently received a scholarship from the National FFA Organization and she was chosen to attend the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. in July. According to Mr. Allen, the senior-to-be at Mount Pulaski High School was chosen based on her involvement in FFA and he also credited the outstanding alumni that supports these students. "Our chapter is eligible for that scholarship because we have an active FFA Alumni Chapter," said Mr. Allen.

Aylesworth herself was especially grateful to MPHS Alum Patti Davis, who works in the State FFA Office, and who let her know about the scholarship opportunity. "I was one of about 50 FFA members in the state to receive the scholarship that covered the conference fee," she said. "Our local FFA chapter's alumni association covered the rest, which paid for my transportation. It was an amazing experience."

Aylesworth admits that she "enjoys everything about FFA" and that "Mr. Allen motivates me to want to always give 100 percent." Aylesworth added, "Being able to learn about different livestock has given me more confidence to enter the Master Showman contest with our county 4-H."

The horse and dog lover also mentions parents, Randy and Kelly Ayleswoth, who have always offered their support. "My parents have bent over backwards to make sure I can devote so much time to what I love to do. I wanted to be in FFA since probably 6th grade, watching my cousins Dustin and Chase Aylesworth enjoy it so much." Those older cousins have since graduated from the U of I and landed jobs in agriculture.

Meanwhile Lukas Aylesworth, younger cousin to Kamryn and brother to Dustin and Chase, is enjoying his summer on the farm with his pigs and he called the state convention "a great experience." He credits Mr. Allen with teaching him about the feeding of his treasured swine this past year in school. "This year, in particular, we learned a lot about feeding and the protein levels and the fiber levels and certain types of feed, which I believe that has helped me with my pigs. It's helped me to understand what the types of feed that we are feeding them does to certain parts of their bodies," said Aylesworth, who also serves as the Mount Pulaski FFA Chapter treasurer.

Lukas also cited how learning to judge livestock his freshman year has helped him pick out his animals and enabled him to see what can be done to improve the animals. Aylesworth, who will be showing his pigs at the Logan County Fair this week, lists family as a big influence in his love for FFA and the fair as well. "My Uncle Randy (Awe) and my cousins Cole and Jessica, they have always been really big role models for me. They've always shown pigs for as long as I can remember and I always wanted to be just like them.

Lukas also mentioned his parents as being great support and his younger brother, Clay, is a big help with the pigs as well. "I'm just blessed with a good family," said the smiling brother, who is the third son of Rick and Debby Aylesworth. Mom Debby also happens to the leader of the Topper 4-H Club.

It's a family affair come Logan County Fair time when the Aylesworth family takes the camper and spends the week at the fair. "Always a good time. It's a blast," said Lukas of the camping experience at the fairgrounds.

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The sixteen-year-old even has a favorite memory from the fair that, of course, involves pigs. "I think they still do this, but there was a class where you "weighed-out" if your pigs weighed too much to show in, so they showed in a class called the Super Heavy. I always liked that. I have no idea why. I guess 'cause they're just the biggest. But I remember one year before I was old enough to show in the 4-H show I showed in that class and I won it. I was just tickled."

Another Mount Pulaski FFA member who has tons of experience and many fond memories of the Logan County Fair is Ashlyn Hickey. It's safe to say that Hickey, who is a veteran of cattle shows at only sixteen-years old, has been around agriculture her entire life. She has spent the summer competing in cattle shows, continuing her record books, washing the cows every morning and walking with them every evening.

Hickey credits Mr. Allen with teaching her hard work and always to do her best. "He has us go out of our comfort zone to do challenging events, to find out that we liked it and it rewarded us to see how well we did. Mr. Allen, as well as my dad, has taught me how to evaluate livestock and be able to point out the advantages and disadvantages of the cattle, as we all know they are not going to be perfect. He has showed me that you have to keep your head held high through the wins and the losses and to keep trying no matter what happens." Hickey continued, "I have realized that it is not all about winning, but it is about learning and having a good time and loving what you do. FFA is a huge learning experience in my life."

Like the Aylesworth family, Hickey is also blessed with a large family that supports her and has played a huge part in her success. "My dad (Charlie Hickey) used to show when he was a kid. My brother and sister (Brandon and Allison) have been there for me to look up to and teach me how to wash, blow dry, feed, set the cow up the right way and to never just do it to get it over with." Even grandma and grandpa (Hickey) are often close by. "I always look in the stands and I always see my grandma and grandpa with a smile on their face and telling me good luck and good job," she said of the couple who've dedicated their lives to family and farming.

Hickey notes that mom Stacy "is always there taking pictures of me so I don't forget the memories." Memories of the Logan County Fair that include the chicken, goat and pig scrambles. "I caught the $5 rooster, got a goat that I had for many years, and was the first one to catch a pig, and of course I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.

My family has been showing at the fair for many years, and then it was my turn and I was stoked. I showed my goat from the scramble there, my guilts and now my heifers. I have been successful throughout my showing years.
The Logan County Fair is a very fun fair to sit in the barns with your friends, ride on the rides, walk around for great food, tractor pulls, concerts and staying overnight. But you better be ready to start early in the morning and work," Hickey summed up perfectly.

Last but not least, the president of the Mount Pulaski FFA Chapter, Lizzie Ford, agrees that FFA has been a huge part of her life these last few years. "I took my first agriculture class ever my freshman year of high school and never imagined I'd become as involved as I have with such a great organization. I've been able to be a part of so many different experiences that the FFA has to offer. Many people think FFA is just crops and animals, but it is so much more than that, and there really is something for everyone to get involved in with FFA. I've been able to speak in front of many different groups of people through projects I've been a part of, and that's something I've found I love to do."

Ford's love of speaking helped to win her the 2015 title of Logan County Fair Queen on Tuesday evening. This is just another example of how FFA influences the lives young people and with the support of family proves that anything is possible.

[Teena Lowery]


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