Shayna Jeffries couldn’t imagine not living on a farm.
From her rural upbringing and officer positions in FFA, Jeffries, a once shy student, stands confidently with only a handful of Henry Countians who have earned the American FFA Degree.
Jeffries started showing cattle at 9. She now owns 28 heads of Angus and Gelviah cattle on her family’s farm off of Fallen Timber Road. Jeffries was a cheerleader until her junior year at Henry County High School and decided to quit and do something different.
“I interviewed with officers of that year for what I thought would be a small position in the chapter,” Jeffries said. “I treated it like a job interview. I dressed very proper and the officers caught me off guard at how laid back they were. I didn’t think they were going to elect me president.”
From then on, Jeffries said she had to step up her game. She was still shy and didn’t have any experience in public speaking. Jeffries credits Henry County High School’s Vocational Agriculture teacher Lindsey Davie for pushing her.
“Whenever anything was going on with our chapter, she would make me get in front the class and tell everyone what the details were,” Jeffries said. “I’ve spoken at numerous rotary meetings, regional and state events. She really helped me get up and speak and pushed me. Because of the opportunities I have had through FFA I have met people from all across the United States.”
Her father, Steve Jeffries, describes his daughter’s emerging leadership with comedy and commitment.
“When Shayna started in the sixth grade it was like the first day of first grade,” Jeffries said. “She asked me to go to school with her. Lindsey Davie helped make this happen as a mentor in helping build confidence and leadership. She has been a great influence for the FFA chapter. We used to show up at events, but now with Davie we show up to compete.”
Jeffries has been awarded scholarships from Farm Bureau, Henry County Cattlemen‘s Association, The Larry Jeffries’ Soil Conservation award. Jeffries started working for her American FFA Degree her junior year of high school. National FFA officers award 3,500 recipients the American FFA Degree every year, which equates to less than half of 1 percent of FFA’s total membership ever receive the degree, Jeffries said.
Jeffries started raising her cattle as part of her project for a supervised agriculture experience. She has shadowed, Joe Vessels Carroll County agriculture teacher and Kerwin Ewing in Shelby County. She has worked with a nutrition committee and helped package and distribute food from the food truck at the fairgrounds. Jeffries participated in a mentoring program with a young county student. The experience made an impression on her.
“I mentored a 2nd grader from New Castle and we clicked together really quick,” Jeffries said. “I knew that I had to be a role model and build up trust between each other. It was kind of heartbreaking to see that she really didn’t have much. I would buy her a toy, it really meant a lot to her or we went out to lunch and she had never been to Hometown before.”
The young student also wanted to see Jeffries cows. It is the lack of exposure to farm animals and people that have no connection to where their food comes from that surprises Jeffries.
“I’ve grown up with farming and I guess I take some of it for granted,” Jeffries said. “There were tours for inner city kids at the State Fair and they would say things like ‘look at the baby beaver,’ when they are looking at a calf and they don’t know what it is. I’m used to watching a cow lose a calf, go hunting on our own land if I want to, jump on an ATV ride in the fields and city people don’t really get to have that experience or even know where their food comes from.”
Jeffries secured help through FSA loans for her farming ambitions.
“Even you just work at Kroger and want to start farming go for it,” Jeffries said. “I started my project with only one or two cows.”
Jeffries sells calves at the stockyards, has taken artificial insemination instruction and now can confidently choose what she wants by pedigree, birth weights and manages her heifers.
“I want to be a physical therapist and work with professional bull riders,” Jeffries said. “It has cattle in it and a profession I can work to make money to manage my cattle. I love farming and living in the country. FFA and 4-H have both given me so many opportunities and taken me so many places I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I do things on my time and I am not stressed. I don’t have fast paced pressure on me, it’s a way of life.”
Jeffries will receive her award at the American FFA Degree at the eighth session ceremony in Indianapolis. Tune into to RFD-TV Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7:45 a.m. to see the ceremony.
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