Manar, Sullivan, Taylorville FFA stress importance of ag education

Manar TvilleFFA 03192019SPRINGFIELD – The Taylorville FFA students who are Scotland-bound after acing a national competition this winter are a shining example of what comes from investing in agriculture education in Illinois schools, State Senator Andy Manar said Tuesday.

The five students who comprise the Taylorville FFA Livestock Judging Team won the National Western Roundup in Denver in January. Their victory earned them a trip to Scotland for the international livestock tour this summer, during which they will have a chance to compete again and judge breeds that are less familiar to them.


The students joined Manar and Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan in Springfield, which is Agricultural Legislative Day at the Capitol. The team includes Layne Lebshier, Tanner Mickey, Eric Schafer and Jett Vickery, all of whom are juniors, and alternate Lizzie Schafer, who is a freshman.

For the competition in Denver, students had to evaluate 12 classes of livestock – such as cattle, sheep, swine and goats – by ranking the animals, making cuts and offering successive reasons to an official for why they ranked them the way they did. The competition is intense and requires a depth of knowledge about livestock, as well as skills in reasoning, problem solving, preparation, public speaking and thinking on their feet.

“Agriculture opens all kinds of doors. It opens doors to leadership, to new career paths and to the world. These students are evidence of that. This is why it’s vital that we continue to invest in ag education in Illinois schools,” Manar said. “Because of their efforts and the support of Taylorville High School, these students will enjoy an international perspective on agriculture that few high school students get to experience.”

Sullivan said he is proud of the students and their achievements.

“The accomplishments of these students are amazing. Each has demonstrated an extraordinary understanding of agriculture and the livestock industry and highlights the importance of ag education,” he said. “The skills learned – hard work, communicating as a team and understanding the ever-changing consumer demands – will provide each of them a career path to success in the ag industry.”

The students offered their insight into the experience and what it took to get there.

“After many months of practice we were able to achieve great things in Denver,” Tanner Mickey said. “I feel like what allowed us such great success was the many months of preparation we had in the classroom with the help from our advisers Sue Schafer and Katie King.”

Lizzie Schafer said she is looking forward to the trip to Scotland.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “We will be able to see agriculture in a different country and have the chance to learn about different farming practices that effect global markets.”

Jett Vickery said the agriculture program at his school was instrumental in the team’s success.

“Coming from a non-livestock background, it means a lot that I was able to make it this far,” he said. “I believe that it was all possible from the agriculture program at Taylorville High School.”

Photo: Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan addresses the media during a news conference with the nationally recognized Taylorville High School FFA Livestock Judging Team during a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. From left to right: State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill); Lizzie Schafer, freshman; Layne Lebshier, junior; Sullivan; Eric Schafer, junior; and Tanner Mickey, junior.

Sen. Andy Manar

Sen. Andy Manar

48th Senate District

Years served:2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture; Appropriations I; Appropriations II (Chairperson); Education; Executive Appointments (Vice-Chairperson); Subcommittee on Capital (AP) (Sub-Chairperson); Subcommittee on Special Issues (ED); Labor; Opioid Crisis Abatement Spec. Com..

Biography: Born November 15, 1975, in Bunker Hill; B.A. in History, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; past chairman of Macoupin County Board; married (wife, Trista), has three children.

Associated Representatives:
Avery Bourne
Sue Scherer