Chickens, goats and lambs — Oh my!
Inside the small Future Farmers of America shed in a lot neighboring Sweet Grass County High School, freshman Raelynn Thomasson, 15, stood surrounded by dozens of small chicks.
The fluffy little birds pitter pattered around her, their high-pitched chirps of excitement and confusion made loud by the enclosed space.
She stepped slowly around the heat lamps and her boots crunched on the bedding as she kneeled down.
Thomasson quickly scooped up a small tan chick. It immediately stopped chirping and stared around wide-eyed as she held it securely in her hands.
Despite snow still peppering the ground, students around the county are beginning their months-long journey of purchasing an animal, raising it and then selling it at the Sweet Grass County Fair, and Thomasson is one of them.
But if it weren’t for the small farm in the city limits, Thomasson and a few others city-dwelling students would have a hard time participating in the summer FFA activities they enjoy so much.
“My older sister has always been (in) FFA and stuff, and I love agriculture stuff and been raised around it,” Thomasson said Saturday morning.
Previously, Thomasson and her sisters raised their livestock on the ranch of family friends, Casey and Jeneva Lunceford.
While they were grateful for having a place to house their animals, it came with some inevitable difficulties.
“When we had them out at the Lunceford barn we’d have to travel, and at the time I didn’t have my license. We’d have to wait for our parents to have free time to go out there and then we didn’t spend that much time out there,” Thomasson said of her experience a few years prior. “But with (the animals) being in town, me and my sister could walk down there and spend as much time as we had available instead of having to wait for our parents … it was really convenient for my family.”
Current city rules prohibit livestock on city residential property. However, the Sweet Grass Community Foundation land that houses the animals is not yet annexed into the city boundaries.
For the most part, Thomasson’s experience last year was flawless. A few run-ins with baseball players were frustrating at times, especially when they would “play in our dirt pile,” but Thomasson said her FFA advisor simply talked to the coaches and the disturbances stopped.
“A lot of kids would ... sometimes throw rocks and stuff,” she said. “So that disturbed the animals, but it wasn’t a big deal.”
In 2016, three students used the land for the first time to raise their animals: Thomasson, her sister Adelle, and fellow classmate Kendel Hudec. This year, Thomasson and two of her sisters will use the land, along with Hudec.
“I, personally, like it. It was pretty entertaining and interesting,” Hudec, 14, said. “I have nothing to do during the summer so I just got to hang out with my animal. I’d spend most of my days there.”
To read the full story, pick up the March 16 edition of the Pioneer or subscribe to our e-edition. Current subscribers are provided complimentary access to the e-edition with registration.
Story and photos by Olivia Keith / Pioneer Staff Writer
Raelynn Thomasson holds a small chick which the FFA students will sell once they are fully grown.