Every year, the Georgia National Fair provides for members of the agricultural community to spotlight the very best in livestock and farming. These opportunities showcase cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, horses, rabbits, llamas, and more, offering fairgoers an honest view of where the industry begins and the attention required for it to thrive. Since 2018, the Livestock Ambassadors program has annually chosen 10 high school students from FFA and 4-H organizations around the state to assist at the fairgrounds while promoting agriculture in schools or events all year long. Livestock Ambassadors share their stories, demonstrate their skills, and work to ensure Georgia’s agricultural future through competition, exhibition, and education.
“Being a livestock ambassador for the Georgia National Fairgrounds has been an eye-opening opportunity for me as it has really shown me all of the logistics of the fairgrounds as well as why they do what they do,” says Jesse Cronic, a junior at Jackson County High School in Jefferson, GA, and this year’s ambassador chairman.
Cronic’s family has been in livestock for generations and currently concentrates on raising purebred Angus cattle.
“I’ve been involved in livestock nearly since the day I was born,” says Cronic, who is planning on pursuing law after graduation, possibly specializing in agribusiness and food. “Like my father and grandfather, I knew that showing cattle was the route that was meant for me.”
Tift County senior Erynn Allison is the ambassador’s social media chairperson and the state FFA officer for 2021. Allison plans to pursue a career in agriculture education and credits her youth pastor for introducing her to livestock shows.
“My youth pastor allowed me to show some of his lambs through middle school until I was old enough to purchase my own,” remembers Allison. “He suggested that I visit a livestock show to confirm that I was interested. I attended the Tift County Fall Livestock Show and knew from the moment that I entered the barn that I was interested in getting involved. One month later I selected Spotsy, my first show lamb!”
Tanner Foster, a senior at Banks County High in Homer, GA is the ambassador’s vice chairman and also comes from a tradition of farming.
“My mother’s side of the family has farmed for over 50 years at our home in Northeast Georgia,” says Foster. “The farm currently consists of seed stock cattle and poultry houses. Over the years my grandpa has dealt with many different breeds of cattle including Beefmaster, Limousine, Brangus, and Hereford cattle.”
Foster hopes to continue in the family business by becoming a certified cattle embryologist.
“The ambassador program along with the National FFA Organization have taught me so many valuable life skills,” says Foster. “Showing livestock is no easy task in itself. The kids involved with animals have been taught how to be responsible along with having good sportsmanship. And this ambassador program has taught us the communication skills needed to be successful in the world.”
To become a Livestock Ambassador, prospects complete an application and present a short video detailing their interests and why they should be chosen to represent the Georgia National Fair. Other Livestock Ambassadors for 2021 include Carson Lynn (Bainbridge), Colleen Barker (Manor), Jiles Coble (Waynesboro), Kate Day (Ambrose), Margie Knapek (Perry), Peyton Cooper (Statham), and Rachel Hayes (Brinson).
Jesse Cronic sites the group camaraderie as his favorite part of the ambassador’s experience.
“It didn’t take long for my team to get close. I am proud to say that they are some of my best friends. There is hardly a day we all go without talking,” says Cronic. He also looks forward to interacting with visitors who may not have taken advantage of the fair’s agricultural features. “When talking to someone who may only pay a visit to the Georgia National Fair for entertainment, I would tell them to not take for granted the knowledge they can learn from the agriculture-based areas of the fair. The fairground is a wonderful place for people living in suburban and urban areas to learn about the many components of Georgia agriculture [and] learn how that relates to their life, which not only strengthens their knowledge, but it strengthens their trust in us, which is vital for agriculturalists.”
Tanner Foster echoes the sentiment on friendship but also enjoys the greater intricacies behind the scenes.
“We get to be a part of something that most people don’t realize go on to make a show run smoothly,” says Foster. “We are very fortunate this year for the fair to be open to full capacity. Aside from the livestock shows, my favorite part of the fair is all the events happening at the Georgia Grown building. There are so many vendors to represent the Georgia Grown program, and for some, this is their most profitable event. However, the Baby Barn takes the top spot for me.”
The Georgia Grown Baby Barn will feature live births and a newborn animal nursery for visitors to appreciate.
“The Baby Barn was built to get the public involved and to get educated on the livestock industry. It was specifically designed to house pregnant pigs and dairy cattle for the public to be able to view them giving birth,” says Foster. “The Department of Ag and Georgia Grown teamed up with farmers to make it possible to have a calf born every day of the fair. They even get the public involved by letting them name the calves born every day. That by far is my favorite part of the fair!”
“The ambassador program and my experiences with the National FFA Organization have allowed me to share my passion for agriculture with others, leading me to want to help others find their passion for agriculture,” says Erynn Allison. “Agriculture is the backbone of America– and what better way to experience it than with students who are passionate about it? It will only take a second of your time to see something that over 2,000 students in Georgia spend every day working on. Students like myself would love the opportunity to share their experience in livestock production with you!”
This year, make plans to join the Livestock Ambassadors and experience all that the Georgia National Fair has to offer October 7-17!
“Anywhere you look in any livestock barn I can guarantee you’ll see families working hard and enjoying every second of it,” says Tanner Foster. “Even if you can’t make it to the barns, visit all the Georgia Grown producers and their locally grown products. I can promise the quality and passion will be unmatched. So if you make the trip to Perry, GA this year, take the time to visit the state’s number one industry. I promise you won’t regret it!”