Paris High School alumnus, Brant Francis, may have graduated in 2015 but that didn’t mean his career with FFA was over. This past October, Francis won the National Sheep Proficiency degree.
According to FFA’s website, proficiency degrees are prestigious honors based on one’s SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) project throughout their FFA career. For Francis, his project was a given. He has been working on his family’s farm, Francis Family Farms, raising sheep since he could walk.
FFA’s official winners document states that Francis began by purchasing two Southdown ewe lambs. Part of his hands-on learning process included docking tails, drying newborns, and bottle-feeding orphans. “He retains quality lambs for his own flock or markets them to exhibitors. Lambs not suited for breeding are marketed through the local sale barn.”
To participate in the Agricultural Proficiency Awards, Francis had to submit a detailed application (like this one) that explained his project/business in detail including his assets, inventory, accomplishments and more. Francis won Missouri’s Sheep Proficiency and went on to compete for the National Proficiency award. After a rigorous interview, he was announced onstage as the winner during the National FFA Convention. He received a total of $1,000 and a plague signifying his accomplishment.
Below is a Q&A The Pariscope conducted with Francis:
How did you prepare for Nationals?
BF: The way I prepared for it was my advisor (Bondy) and my dad sat down and made up questions that could possibly come up in my interview. I also prepared by going to a practice interview activity in Jefferson City, MO where I was able to give my two minute introduction and go through a mock interview session. By doing those things and going over my questions continuously, it helped me the best. I also studied a lot, especially over questions that my advisor and my dad made. I also went to a practice interview session in Jefferson City that helped give me an idea of what my interview at Nationals was going to be like.
What was winning like? Were you surprised?
BF: This award was definitely a surprise. The day I gave my interview, I had a gut feeling that I was going to win. Being up on stage and hearing my name being called was one of the most exhilarating things that has happened to me. Of course all my family, the ones that were there in person and the family back home, were all excited. As soon as I got off stage and away from the crowd, I teared up a little knowing that I put a ton of hard work into something that I have done all my life.
Are you finished with FFA or will you compete in future events?
BF: Yes. It is sad to say that I am done with my FFA career.
How has FFA changed your life?
BF: It is a bittersweet thing because FFA has taught me so much. It has helped me with public speaking, managing time, keeping records, communication, and the list goes on and on. The experience that I have gotten from being a part of the National FFA organization is something that I can take and use in my everyday life.
Do you have anybody you would like to thank?
BF: I would like to thank my parents, Tony and Barb Francis. They have supported me in everything that I do. I would also like to thank my ancestors down the family tree. If they didn’t get started with sheep, then my dad would have never had them and then I would have never been able to have the experiences I have had.
I would like to thank my siblings, Britton and Aly. I would say that they know how to push my buttons, good and bad, but they have helped, pushed, and supported me in every way possible.
I would like to thank my grandparents, Grandma Sandra and Grandpa Boug, who have always been there for me and supported me like all my family has.
I would like to thank Todd Francis, Denny Hollingsworth, Van and Caryl Darkow and their kids Andrew, Erik, Courtney, and Blake.
I would like to thank the rest of the Francis/Darkow/Hollingsworth family that has supported me.
I would also like to thank my Ag advisors Mr. Josh Bondy, Mrs. Teresa Briscoe, Mrs. Stephanie Eckler, and Mrs. Jessy Reuterdahl. They have all been my Ag advisors throughout my FFA career and I would like to thank them for all the time they have sacrificed and all the support they have given me. No words can describe how thankful I am for people like you all. And thank you to anybody who has talked or been around me because all of you have had some type of impact on my life and I appreciate every single one of you.
Photo contributed by Francis.