Caledonia Community Schools, MI —
It looks like big things are on the horizon for sophomore and Future Farmers of America member Shannon Good.
Shannon is really no "future" farmer; she's already milking cows, driving tractors and cleaning stalls at her family's small dairy and alfalfa farm in Caledonia. Along with agriculture, she's learning to be business savvy. Beginning in May, the milk that her cows produce will be sold to Horizon Organic, a Colorado-based company that supplies organic milk.
"Ever since I was born my parents have been dairy farmers. It's always been something I wanted to do. It's stuck with me over the years," she said.
Shannon recently was awarded a $1,000 grant from the California Certified Organic Farmers Foundation to help operate the business. The grants are given to high school students interested in conducting organic Supervised Agricultural Experience projects. Shannon plans to spend the money on a perimeter fence, feed and to repair a hay rake used for baling hay.
Two years ago, her family lost a large farm they rented when owners sold the land. "When we lost our farm, I really realized how much it meant to me and I realized how much I want to keep doing this and what it means to me," Shannon said
The family is in the process of becoming a certified organic farm. Shannon tends 100 red and white Holstein cows ––50 of which are milking cows––with her parents Jim and Tara Good.
At school, Shannon's been involved in the Caledonia FFA Chapter since eighth grade. John Schut, high school agriscience teacher and FFA co-advisor, said she's a student leader who brings her experience from the farm to the classroom and program.
In FFA, Shannon has served as president of the "conduct of meeting" team, been engaged in public speaking and completed research and projects on agriculture. She is current president of the parliamentary procedure team, which prepares students to participate effectively in business meetings. She has earned awards including state runner-up in public speaking, first in dairy judging, fourth place in conduct of meetings and was named Star Greenhand.
She's also involved in 4-H, and was named Supreme Showman for Dairy at the Kent County Fair, among other awards and titles.
"(4-H) really teaches leadership skills and how how to work with people," she said, noting that running a farm requires cooperation.
Schut, who also teaches Shannon in veterinary science class, said her work on the farm and with animals complements what she's learning at school and prepares her well for a career in agriscience. "When you start looking at the health side of things and anatomy, she has a better understanding and grasping of the material because she's doing it at home," he said.
A Day on the Farm
While her parents operate the dairy and alfalfa farm when Shannon's at school, she spends her weekends milking twice a day in the 16-stall milking parlor, driving a tractor, feeding the animals, cleaning their stalls and changing bedding. She also has three horses and many dogs and cats.
"On our smaller farm, you really get to know each cow," Shannon said, describing their personalities as pushy, timid and funny. She gives her cows names like Cupcake, Vanilla, Spartan, Cowgirl, Rosie, Rosebud, Snowball and Snow Flurry.
"They are basically part of the family."
Shannon plans to major in animal science at Michigan State University and then return to work on the family farm.
California Certified Organic