By Amanda Rogers
Sophia Patterson leaned over and whispered to her shorthorn heifer “look good, feel good, do good” right before they entered the ring to compete at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo on Saturday morning.
Pizzazz, the 1-year-old strawberry roan shorthorn heifer, had been nervous, said Patterson, a sophomore at Legacy High School. It was the small-town heifer’s first time in a big city like Fort Worth.
“She kicked me three times yesterday while we were getting her ready,” Patterson said. “She’s usually really good for me. She was a little flustered.”
After Patterson’s pep talk, Pizzazz settled down and earned a third-place ribbon. After the show, the heifer settled in to the barn and started to enjoy the attention, said Patterson, who plans to show her heifer at the San Antonio and San Angelo stock shows.
Patterson is one of 68 Mansfield ISD students who will show at the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo this year. Mansfield, once known for the Kowbell Rodeo and a powerful FFA program, is on the rebound, boasting 278 active members in the FFA program, said Shaye Anne Atwood, principal at Jerry Knight STEM Academy and coordinator of agriculture leadership for the school district.
In addition to the heifers, Mansfield ISD students will show goats, steers, lambs, pigs, poultry and rabbits this year, Atwood said. Other FFA members get involved in livestock judging, horticulture and leadership.
“We’ve seen the numbers (of FFA members in Mansfield ISD) explode in the last two years,” Atwood said. “Mansfield ISD is one of the few programs in the state that has an ag program as early as kindergarten. They started ag classes at Tarver-Rendon Elementary in 2017.”
Now, the district offers agriculture classes at Tarver-Rendon, Donna Shepard Intermediate, Linda Jobe Middle School and at Ben Barber Innovation Academy and the Ron Whitson Agricultural Science Center. Students can join the FFA program as early as third grade, and the district’s junior program (third through eighth grade) accounts for half of the Mansfield FFA numbers.
“Before I started in FFA in 2016, we had maybe 75 kids and had maybe 30 to 35 that showed an animal,” Atwood said. “Now our barns are full and more kids are coming. Our district supports programs like this.
“For some kids, sports are not their thing,” said Atwood, who grew up showing pigs while her husband showed cattle. “This gives them an outlet.”
Kaden Fimbres, 12, a seventh-grader at Linda Jobe Middle School, started showing Boer goats last year, and he admits that he was in it to win it.
“Originally, I wanted to beat my sister,” he said. “She got a second. I beat her when I got a first (at the Mansfield FFA Alumni show). She was there to see it. I was kind of dangling the ribbon.”
Since then, Kaden has seen how learning to care for animals can help him.
“It really teaches you a bunch,” he said. “We have a farm and it teaches you what to do. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get them used to you. You have to work with them, spend time with them, take care of them. Every day you have to clean their stalls and give them a bath.”
That responsibility helps the young FFA members grow, Atwood said.
“The responsibility they learn caring for a living thing, it’s 24 hours, holidays and weekends,” she said. “It teaches them time management, money management. When you get a heifer, it’s a two-year project. You show the heifer, then it gets bred, then you show her and her calf, then it starts over again.
“We tell them this is a project, not a pet, but you spend so much time with them that you get attached,” Atwood said.
The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo runs through Feb. 4. To find out more, click here.
Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.