By Arynn Tomson—
Taylor Williams, a nursing student at Tarleton State University, was one out of six students from Tarleton, nationwide who won an Agricultural Proficiency award at the 89th annual Future Farmers of America [FFA] National Convention and Expo. Williams attended the event this October in Indianapolis, Ind. and received the award for his successful business and research in Small Animal and Production and Care.
A proficiency award recognizes FFA members who excel as agriculture entrepreneurs, employees or volunteers who have gained hands-on career experience. This competition requires students to complete extensive research, succeed in his or her own business, and display a knowledge of animal marketing.
Williams calls his experience a “prestigious honor” and says he is “tremendously grateful for the opportunity.”
“Winning a National FFA award [is] an incredible opportunity that very few people have the chance to experience,” he said. “I feel I positively represented both Tarleton and my high school chapter as I entered the competition as prepared as possible and determined to do my best.”
Williams is a former member of the Dawson High School FFA chapter and has been involved with the agricultural program since junior high school. His mother and uncle were the first in his family to raise show rabbits when they were FFA members. William’s grandfather, recognizing their success in show, developed a production operation of the rabbits, which was passed down to Williams when he began high school.
Williams explained how competitors have to maintain accurate records in their production, and complete the necessary application for their award category. The applications are judged on the district, area and state levels. Williams’s application and records won first in each level. After four finalists from each category are selected, they are interviewed and judged on topics related to their application before advancing to achieve the national title.
Williams had to evaluate his own performance as an entrepreneur by answering multiple questions about his work with rabbits and providing documentation of his work. “My journey to achieving this award has been an ongoing process for five years now. My overall experience has been very rewarding and at the same time challenging. I have had to maintain my operation while away here at school with the assistance of my two younger brothers and my grandfather. During high school, I was faced with the dilemma of meeting customer needs as well as my own; such as retaining stock for my own exhibits and expanding my operation. Countless hours were spent throughout keeping records on these animals as well as completing the award application,” Williams said.
Williams also attended the FFA training session at Tarleton before the convention. Williams said Dr. Ted Ford, Dr. David Frazier, Instructor and Coordinator of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences Michelle Demreau and his high school agriculture teacher Michelle Sammon all helped him prepare for the competition.
“[One of] the reasons I chose to attend Tarleton [was] because I competed in several FFA events here during high school and, in doing so, became exposed to the southern hospitality on campus and it automatically assured me that this is where I belong,” Williams added. “Just about any student here at Tarleton will tell you that the FFA roots here run deep. With that being said, the exposure to others who have been very involved in the FFA with similar backgrounds [have] encouraged me to go farther in my FFA journey.”
Along with his Proficiency award, Williams won a trip to Ireland next June. “My trip will consist of having the opportunity to evaluate agriculture production in Europe. I will be applying my knowledge of agriculture in discussions there in real world situations. By doing so, I hope I can use this amazing educational excursion to gain an Applied Learning Experience,” Williams said.
Williams said he plans to hand down the operation to his middle brother when he enters high school, and hopes his sibling will continue and gain the same values in animal production that Williams himself was fortunate to obtain.