A barn raising for a great cause

It was a brisk January morning and Morgan, 15, needed to bathe his lamb for the first stock show of the season. The sun was shining down as he propped his 85-pound sheep up on the grooming stanchion, which was sitting directly outside the FFA barn. After putting the halter on the lamb’s head, Morgan pulled out a garden hose and began to soak his FFA project. 

Morgan moved about, spraying it and rubbing soap deep into the wool. It wasn’t clear who was more wet, Morgan or the lamb. He took the lamb off the rack and together, they hustled inside the barn. It’s not a heated barn, but it was warmer than being outdoors.

“It would be so much better if we could do this inside,” Morgan said. “Better for me, and for the animal. But we do what we can with what we have, and we don’t let it stop us.”

As Jordan,16, maneuvered his market pig to the back of the small, dimly lit barn, attempting to start training it for the show ring, he knows he needs a bigger area. His only option is to go outside. He and his hog headed toward the back door of the barn. All it took was the sight of an open gate and the porker bolted and ran. Jordan followed the pig as it joyfully romped and twisted its way across a half-acre space. 

Pig and boy both exhausted from the chase, Jordan managed to coax his hog back on a fence line and back into the barn. 

“Well, that was a workout I wasn’t planning on doing today,” Jordan joked, sweat running from his cheeks.

Morgan, Jordan and most of their peers who are in Boys Ranch FFA, know how inadequate the current FFA barn is in terms of size and features. And, they aren’t the only ones to notice. Alumni who participated in FFA have known of this need for years. 

When the leadership at Boys Ranch looked seriously at the most pressing needs for the organization in the next few years, a new FFA barn was at the top of the list. 

“FFA has been hugely popular at Boys Ranch for decades,” said Rodney Ruthart, Chairman of the Cal Farley Boys Ranch Foundation Board of Directors. A Boys Ranch alumnus himself, Ruthart also was an FFA member. 

“It is a growing and highly influential program known for successfully helping turn young people into responsible citizens and future leaders and we want to continue to offer it to the children we serve through a high-quality program,” Ruthart said. 

Ruthart is certain donors will support this capital project because it represents something so needed and has an impact beyond our youths’ time at Boys Ranch. 

“I’d love to visit with anyone who has an interest in knowing more about or helping to fund this project,” Ruthart said. 

Scotty Wright, vocational agriculture teacher for Boys Ranch Independent School District and FFA adviser, is excited about a new building, and has been actively involved in the planning for its construction. 

The Boys Ranch FFA Chapter averages 55 members per year, far more than can efficiently be served in the current facility.

“We have space for 18 to 20 animals in the current barn, and we easily have 30 or more members wanting to have an animal project,” Wright said, adding, “It is disheartening each year to have to tell half the kids ‘maybe next year.’” 

Wright said the FFA projects are effective in teaching a young person responsibility, time and money management, dedication and confidence. 

“And, then, there is the therapeutic aspect of interacting with an animal, of having something else rely upon you for their care, cleaning and nurturing, of being needed daily,” Wright said, adding, “expanding our facilities will make our program more effective and accessible to the young people we serve.”

Wright foresees the new barn as 60 x 160 foot in size. He hopes to have 32 pig and eight sheep and goat pens — a total of 40 pens, measuring 5 x 14 feet each. 

“The barn will have vertical bar pens, which are safer for the animals and the kids,” Wright said. “It will have two wash bays and fold-out bleachers, where we will be able to host our Boys Ranch show. We will more than double our capacity for kids who may have animal projects. The entire barn will have a concert floor with ventilation fans, ample storage and a 32-foot x 32-foot walking arena indoors.”

Having an indoor walking arena will be extra helpful, as show training may be done daily. Currently, the animals are loaded and transported across campus each January to an indoor facility large enough for the annual Boys Ranch Stock Show. This new FFA barn will allow all activities to occur in one location. 

To speak with a gift officer about this or the many other exciting projects for our youth, call 800-687-3722 or email info@calfarley.org.

A barn raising for a great cause

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