BELOIT, Ohio – Brad Baker, class of ’89, came back to West Branch High School last week to tell current FFA students about his story of disappointment, failure, and ultimate success accomplished with a Guernsey calf.
Baker, who went from West Branch to Ohio State’s Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, describes himself as a “full-time farmer.” Baker was the guest speaker at the FFA Annual Awards Banquet April 19.
This is the second year the West Branch FFA has invited an alumnus rather than an outside speaker for their end-of-the-year ceremonies.
Baker is in a partnership with his brother. They farm 300 acres and milk 88 Holstein cows, planning to build the herd to 100.
But it was a goal Baker set for himself when he was 9 and entered his first calf in the Canfield Fair that he wanted to talk to the FFA students about.
No free ride.
“Why I’m here,” Baker said, “is to tell you that there is no such thing as a free ride. But you can accomplish any goal you have, if you only take it one small step at a time.”
With that Baker began showing slides.
They started with a picture of him at 9 with that first calf. It came in next to last at his first fair. And after that he didn’t do much better in showmanship. Then and there, he said, he set himself the double goal of having a grand champion calf at the Canfield Fair, and of coming in first in showmanship.
Six years later he did meet the second part of that goal.
“What I found out there,” he said, “is that you can do that no matter how ugly your cow is.”
Then, along came Callumlea Trumpet Henny, a Guernsey calf born on his farm from a cow he bought from a relative even though he is not breeding Guernsey.
That calf, he said, looked good from the day she was born, and in 1999 she was selected junior champion at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.
“It might not have meant so much to me if I had not done so poorly at the Canfield Fair,” he said.
But the whole story was to tell current students at his old school that no matter what their goals are, and even if there are failures and disappointments along the way, “every FFA student can meet his or her goal.”
The Honorary Chapter Farmer for West Branch FFA this year was also a West Branch alumni who is now the second agricultural arts teacher at the school.
Greg Sharp, who joined the faculty at mid-year last year and who has given generously of his time and energy, was honored with the award.
He is the son of former West Branch principal Phil Sharp and of West Branch business teacher Glenda Sharp.
Levi Bardo won the Star Greenhand Award. The award is based on grades, the amount of fruit sales, and FFA projects. Bardo came in fourth in fruit sales. His projects included swine, dairy, and home improvement.
Each candidate for greenhand at West Branch must now also memorize and be able to recite the FFA creed.
The Star Agricultural Business Award went to Erin Grimm, who has completed projects in placement, and is employed at Tim Rill Farm Drainage.
Ag Savings award.
The Ag Savings award went to Josh McDonald, who was able to save 30 percent of his earnings from his FFA employment.
Chapter awards were presented to Rudy Kiko, Kealie Citiino, and Erik Martig.
West Branch also has several livestock chains. This year the gilt chain made two presentations, with gilts going to Jessica Stiffler and Jessica Bauman. The dairy chain calf, which has continued for more than 20 years, went to Christian Shim. The beef chain calf was awarded to Jason Morgan.
Installed as FFA officers for the coming year were Rudy Kiko, president; Mark Miller, vice president; Kealie Citino, secretary; Jessica Bauman, treasurer; Drew Wartluft, reporter; Josh Bardo, sentinel; and Nick Sanor, student adviser.