Houston High School senior Logan Taylor, who last week earned

the title of Missouri FFA Area 13 Star Farmer, stands with his show heifer, whose official name is LTA Royal Queen 0008.

For the first time in a decade, a Houston High School student has earned the area’s top FFA award, as senior Logan Taylor was last week named Missouri FFA Area 13 Star Farmer.

During an event hosted Feb. 7 at Houston High School, Taylor was chosen from among FFA participants in 26 south-central Missouri school districts that comprise Area 13, ranging from the Arkansas border to Waynesville and Rolla.

The Area Star Farmer is chosen after a rigorous series of interviews, and judging of performance and written material done by FFA officials. Criteria include Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) performance, and overall FFA participation.

Houston alone has some 80 or 90 FFA participants. Considering the number of schools in Area 13, rising to the top means a lot.

“Being named Star Farmer puts a student in a pretty elite group,” HHS FFA advisor Van Kirkwood said. “Logan has definitely done what it takes.”

Taylor’s SAE involves managing two cattle herds of in Texas County – a spring calving herd east of Houston off of Highway 17, and a fall calving herd north of town off of Brushy Creek Road. His main source of income is selling bulls, and he sells as many as 12 to 15 for spring breeding and about another eight or 10 in the fall.

Raising and selling bulls is more or less in Taylor’s blood, as relatives have been doing it for generations.

“My grandpa Hollenbeck always used to say that we’re ‘bull shippers,'” he said.

The job of herd manager means keeping track of breeding and animal pedigrees, being a farmhand, helping out with haying in the hot summer sun, and everything else that goes along with cattle farming.

“I do so much, it’s hard to describe,” Taylor said. “But I love it and I’ve been very lucky. I work my tail off every day to have the best performing cattle out there and provide customers with the best product I possibly can.

“It’s feels very good to be recognized this way; it makes you stop and think that maybe it’s all been worth it after all.”

In addition to nailing down the area’s top FFA honor, Taylor also earned five area proficiency awards, which recognize outstanding results in specific categories related to a student’s SAE. He took awards in all five categories in which he competed, including first-place in beef production placement, second in forage production, third in natural resources, and two fourths – one in veterinary science and another in beef production entrepreneurship.

Kirkwood said several other Houston students earned proficiency awards (but the names weren’t available at press time due to inclement weather).

Taylor will now go the state FFA convention, April 19-20 in Columbia, and compete with winners from Missouri’s 15 other areas for the title of State Star Farmer.

State Star Farmer winners from around the country then eventually compete at the FFA national convention, at Indianapolis in October.

Taylor said he likes to think he has a handle on everything necessary to produce top-notch cattle, but he might have one particular strong suit.

“I’d say I’m pretty well rounded, as far as running a herd goes,” he said. “But I have a lot of knowledge in artificial insemination and other breeding aspects, and I guess that’s one of my strong points.

“When we’re sent catalogs for bull or cattle sales from big-time producers out in Montana or Oklahoma, I can look through the pages and pretty much tell at a glance which ones I would be interested in.”

The new Area Star Farmer’s future goals in the cattle industry include continuing the quest for the perfectly balanced beef cow.

“No cow is perfect,” Taylor said. “They all have their own ups and downs and benefits.”

Good balance would mean producing an animal that has a good amount of rib-eye, or “carcass” (which equates to more meat), but also a lot of inter-muscular fat, or “marbling” (which equates to flavor).

“We’re breeding to expand that rib-eye size and get lots of marbling,” Taylor said. “That way we can go from having small tasty steaks and big chewy steaks, to having big tasty steaks.”

Taylor also likes the idea of being a large scale, full-time cattleman.

“I’d like to expand the herd enough to where I could merit my own production sale like all the big producers,” he said. “I think that would be really neat, being one of the biggest producers in Missouri – and maybe even the whole country.”

The road to becoming Area Star Farmer was long for Taylor, and he didn’t travel it alone.

“I’ve had a lot of wonderful people help me out along the way,” he said. “Of course, my parents (Dr. B.C. and Carla Taylor), are first on the list. But there were others, like Ben and Darla Eggers, of Mexico, Missouri, Sonya Hohenberger, who gave me a lot of grooming help, and of course our school’s FFA advisor, Van Kirkwood.”

The last HHS student to be named Area 13 Star Farmer was Curtis Rouse, who won 10 years ago.

Kirkwood had begun his stint as Houston’s FFA advisor about a year before that. He said he gets great enjoyment out of watching students progress in the FFA program.

“It’s just thrilling,” Kirkwood said. “These kids come in here as freshmen and they hardly know what to do. Then you see them blossom and grow and do all these different things.

“Logan has been an outstanding student all the way through. He’s a hard worker – not only at school but at home – and he puts in countless hours both with FFA and his SAE.”

It’s feels very good to be recognized this way; it makes youstop and think that maybe it’s all been worth it after all.”

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