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Adults reward youth in livestock programs
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Some adults say youth need encouragement to be their best, but a special group of those Mississippians are preparing to put their money where their mouths are.
More than 2,000 members of 4-H and FFA programs across Mississippi will converge upon Jackson to compete in the Dixie National Junior Round-Up, Feb. 1 through 8. An elite group of winners will receive the top monetary awards following the livestock show at the Sale of Junior Champions on Feb. 8.
"The Sale of Champions is the ultimate goal for most exhibitors of market animals at the show," said Gale Chrestman, 4-H livestock specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "For the buyers of those animals, the ultimate goal is rewarding a young person for lots of dedication and hard work on their livestock project."
The sale concludes the 2000-2001 livestock season. Sale organizers have paid more than $2 million to young exhibitors over the 31 years since the sale was organized.
"The commitment of the buyers helps make the Sale of Champions the top youth livestock sale east of the Mississippi River," Chrestman said. "Animals bring considerably more than the market value because the buyers are there primarily to support quality youth."
Buyers come from many organizations, businesses and backgrounds. Last year's champion and reserve champion steers, hogs and lambs were sold to representatives from Frierson Building Supply in Jackson, Ergon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Wilson Slaughter House in Crystal Springs, McRae Foundation, and Jackson-area Ford dealers including Gray-Daniels Ford, Watson Quality Ford and East Ford Dealership.
Alton McRee, chief executive officer for the Federal Land Bank Association of South Mississippi, said they have a long tradition of supporting the Sale of Champions.
"The sale allows Federal Land Banks to support two areas we feel strongly about: youth and agriculture," McRee said. "Buyers can provide direct support to programs that develop character and produce leaders. A lot of what 4-H and FFA stand for is leadership development."
McRee, himself an alumni of the Clarke County 4-H livestock program, said many of the youth set the money aside for their college education or put it back into their livestock programs.
In recent years, the Sales Committee has provided additional $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors who took part in the livestock show but did not qualify for the sale.
David Waide, president of Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, is chairman of the Sales Promotion Committee. His committee's goal is to attract more buyers and sponsors to the sale.
"Anything we can do to keep youth involved in agriculture will benefit our state and ultimately our country," Waide said. "Sponsors help cover the costs related to the sale and fund the scholarships. Buyers and sponsors show their commitment to the community and state through their involvement."