Organization Offers Education, Opportunity and Support for Community
by HEATHER MACHOVINA
The need for an organization that provides great educational opportunities and project support to kids in the Polk County community through agriculture has been a popular conversation topic over the past few years.
“A lot of the kids come from agricultural families, so they have that knowledge base and resources to rely on,” explains Andy Mason, treasurer of Central Florida Youth in Agriculture (CFYIA), “but there are many kids that don’t have those resources available, so the original intent of the group was to be that resource for everyone.” The first interest meeting for CFYIA was in February 2020 and has been growing since.
After COVID hit, many agricultural shows in the country and state were being canceled, and that’s when CFYIA stepped in to start the CFYIA Showcase and Sale. Historically, quite a few of the larger shows existing in the Polk county area have ceased to exist.
“So, when there used to be a lot of local options, those don’t necessarily exist anymore,” Mason says. Rather than try to duplicate efforts of other events, it became all about providing a new form, a new opportunity, and really expanding to get new exhibitors and new supporters in the door that haven’t previously been involved.
“With many other local and state fairs, exhibitors have to be tied to 4-H or an FFA organization or chapter,” details Morgan Carlton, a Swine Committee member and CFYIA supporter. CFYIA doesn’t require any affiliation, allowing more youth to be involved. Their goal is to provide new opportunities to the youth in Polk County and the surrounding communities and to focus mainly on the educational piece of it all.
The CFYIA livestock showcase and sale will happen over a three-day period, starting March 25 and ending with the sale day on March 27. Exhibitors are not required to sell their animals, and there are no minimum weight requirements. It’s also not a terminal sale, meaning that animals sold do not have to go to slaughter, but can be sold for breeding use. There will be a slaughterhouse onsite if needed, but breeders are encouraged to come out as well to purchase gilts for their herd. CFYIA looks forward to building on this breeding aspect in the future.
Through the pandemic, the need for technology and alternative ways for people to purchase has been quickly realized and adopted by CFYIA. It’s been an important factor for them to see how many people are excited about Cattle in Motion and how many have used QGIV to support others, which are two things not currently being utilized in our industry locally.
Cattle in Motion is a livestock auction service, so the live sale will be simultaneously broadcast through the Cattle in Motion website and app on March 27. This gives buyers who can’t attend in person a way to participate in the sale and bid on livestock at the same time as the live audience. QGIV is a charitable giving platform based here in Lakeland. CFYIA has been utilizing this as an opportunity for sponsorships and add-ons to the exhibitors.
Leading up to the showcase and sale, anyone can access the exhibitors and animal profiles and start bidding, if interested, beginning March 15. The goal is to give everyone more exposure to the Cattle in Motion website or app, learn about the animals, and support youth in their education and projects.
“It’s been really great to see the interest the community has when an organization like this really comes together truly for the kids,” says Kateland Raney, secretary of CFYIA. Reaching out to different organizations to discuss how CFYIA is trying to educate kids and support the local agricultural community has brought a lot of outstanding support from local businesses and organizations.
Right now the focus for CFYIA is on swine and cattle, how to communicate the importance of this industry to people who just relocated here, and the value in the educational and learning experiences the kids get by way of doing their CFYIA projects.
“Less than 5% of businesses in the area are privy to what happens at a livestock show or have ever supported one or know what these kids are doing,” says Mason. CFYIA has a tremendous opportunity to loop them in and get them to see the value of what these kids are doing. It’s less about the livestock and more about what the kids are learning, the skills that they’re gaining, and the value they will add back into the community as they grow up, continue to live here and raise their families.
Carlton, Mason, and Raney all grew up in the agriculture industry showing animals, so they know the value of these skills and how to continue to use those skills and values today.
Carlton explains. “The three of us don’t even have children in the show, but we’re so passionate about what this can do for those kids, and I think you’ll find that’s the common interest among this group.”