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Making memories

Long-time FFA member Maria Geis, 16, puts the finishing touches on the FFA scrapbook. (Jen Kocher)

Long-time FFA member Maria Geis, 16, puts the finishing touches on the FFA scrapbook. (Jen Kocher)

FFA students gearing up for Campbell County Fair

This photo was particularly cringe worthy, 16-year-old Maria Geis joked as she stared down at a picture in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) scrapbook. The photo in question was from the FFA Creed competition last year where Geis and other members were charged with memorizing and reciting the organization’s five-paragraph creed in front of a crowd.

Not one of her fondest memories, Geis said with a grin as she continued gluing down photos and other embellishments into the scrapbooks on Tuesday morning. Beside her on the floor is 14-year-old Autumn Clark who is helping her Coal Country FFA pal put on the finishing touches along with advisor Kristi Holum, who plans to enter the scrapbook at this year’s county and state fairs.

“Anyone who knows me knows how competitive I am,” Holum said as the girls nodded in return.

The two scrapbooks encompass the past two years of FFA events and activities. Despite the pandemic, the group of just under 70 members from Thunder Basin High School nonetheless stayed busy with around 25 to 30 events this past year alone from speech competitions, fundraisers, community service projects, and celebrations.

Of note among events celebrated in these pages is the 50th anniversary of the admittance of women into FFA in 1969, which as Holum said, marks a shift in the advent of women in agriculture which is apparent in her chapter that’s almost 80% female.

Both Geis and Clark are representative of this new female generation who are planning to shape their careers around agriculture, parlaying their experience in FFA and 4-H events at the Campbell County Fair, which marks 100 years for the annual agricultural event.

The fair itself is one of their favorite events each summer because not only to they get to see their friends, but they also get to go before the judges to compete in animal showmanship competitions.

Geis, who comes from a local ranching family with deep roots in the community, will be showing her sheep that’s she been working hard all year to get ready. She’s turned her budding heard of around 50 sheep into a mini business as part of the FFA’s Supervised Agricultural Experience with Holum overlooking her operation as advisor.

Both she and her brother raise sheep, Geis said, explaining that her older brother Wyatt just accepted a job as shepherd of the flock at Montana State University.

Along with showing her sheep, Geis will also be entering her best wool in the competition, too. When finished, she’s hopes to sell it to Mountain Meadow Wool in Buffalo.

For her part, Clark will be showcasing her swine and poultry skills before the judges next week at fair. Her 17-year-old brother will also be competing with the family’s poultry flock of 25 or more chickens.

Clark has been competing at fair since she was eight and says it has definitely gotten easier over the years as she’s honed her skills and gotten used to presenting before the judges.


She’s most excited for the swine competition and has been practicing for about an hour a day for the past several months. She’s worked hardest in this category this year, she said, as pigs can be rather difficult to train.

“Most of the time they just want to lay down,” she said. “Pigs definitely have attitudes.”

More than anything, both girls are looking forward to the long days at fair and seeing all their friends because they don’t get to see that much during the summer because they’re too hard at work getting ready.

Apart from the fun and non-stop entertainment during the week, both Geis and Clark say what they’ve learned most from their experience in FFA and 4-H and competing at fair is personal.

“You learn how to humbly win and gracefully lose,” Geis said sagely. “It just makes you a better person all around.”

For more information about the fair and this year’s events, see the 2021 Fair Schedule.