By Marie Lasater
One of the things that makes Licking great is agriculture. As you pass our green pastures, grazing cattle, enjoy fresh farm eggs and poultry, savor country-style bacon and hams from local producers, consider what would happen if we didn’t have farmers.
Farming is not an easy life, the birth of each calf is a celebration, but devastation wrought by storms and even predators can bring tears. Through it all, the farmer cares for his fields and animals, is always improving the soil, caring for his animals, protecting the environment, and providing unadulterated, healthy food for everyone else.
In 2018, many areas of the country are deemed “food deserts,” defined by the USDA as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.” We are indeed fortunate, and our strong local chapter of Future Farmers of America, led by advisor and teacher Van Kirkwood, ensures that farming will not only continue, but will improve with new knowledge and techniques.
At the 85th annual FFA banquet held April 4 at the Intercounty Auditorium, one could not help but be impressed by the wave of blue jackets and the pride shown by those wearing them. The Licking FFA Choir, including 2018 State FFA Choir inductees Evan Mitchell and James Swan, of Licking, sang the National Anthem.
The invocation was given by Spencer Grover, followed by a delicious roast beef dinner prepared by Robert Enfield and Chantil Richards – fitting for a Sunday dinner with guests at a farmer’s table.
Following dinner, the FFA Creed was read by Kyra Taylor.
Senior reflections were offered by those who will be retiring their blue jackets, as they leave high school and go on to pursue their careers, many making their mark in the agricultural field. Departing seniors Cheyenne Lewis, Adreanna Cooper, Caitlyn Richards and Kaitlyn Osman spoke to those who will be following in their footsteps, speaking with authority and confidence as they described how FFA has benefitted their lives. In keeping with the unspoken FFA tradition of having fun, a large part of the seniors’ reflections involved the change from the previous, much loved advisor Mrs. Womack, to Van Kirkwood, described as “a big scary man,” “who looked at us like science projects on the first day,” and “told us we lost State (we actually won) with that evil grin – that one there!” pointing to a smiling Mr. Kirkwood.
As senior Sean Loughridge gave his parting words, reflecting on two years as Licking’s FFA president, he related one of his first FFA trips as an awkward freshman, which included falling out of the van and hitting his head. Since that time, he has received multiple awards, and become a polished speaker, quietly oozing confidence, with no difficulty speaking to large audiences. As FFA president, he has been instrumental in coordinating FFA functions, including the annual banquet, which went off without a hitch. He spoke about what the blue jacket has meant to him, and the FFA creed, especially the first and last verses – and that often actions speak louder than words. Loughridge is very proud of the work the Licking FFA group performed in the “Food for America” program, in which members provided education on the role of agriculture by teaching elementary students where their food comes from. He attributes much of his success to Mr. Van Kirkwood, and looks on him as another father. Although, like farming, FFA involves a lot of hard work, the members also have a lot of fun along the way. He concluded by saying, “I’m prepared to take the next step in my life.”
Incoming officers for 2018-19 are president Justin Leyburn; first vice president Quinton Trout; second vice president Jayson Wallace; secretary Savannah Culley; second secretary Rae-Ann Gray; treasurer Evan Mitchell; asst. treasurer Dalton Gale; reporter Sarah Warnock; asst. reporter Allie Steiner-Gale; sentinel Tanner Enfield; asst. sentinel Dalton Ogden; co-historians Autumn Bailey and Abigale Scott; parliamentarian Kaleb Keaton; co-chaplains Spencer Grover and Colten Barton.