Showing animals isn’t the only activity members of FFA do throughout the year, but when it comes to showing within the Yelm FFA chapter — one of Thurston County’s most comprehensive programs — few do it with quite as much strength and grace as senior Rebecca Griffin and recent-graduate Bela Burke.
The two Yelm residents recently finished up showing at the Thurston County Fair, which ran from Wednesday, July 31, through Sunday, Aug. 4. Both took home grand champion titles in senior hog and steer showing, among other activities.
“It’s always fun to work with students like Rebecca and Bela, who work hard, help others and set a great example for other members,” Yelm FFA Adviser Dusti Nash said in a text message. “One of the biggest things I appreciate about both of them is that they mentor younger members and take the time to make sure they are prepared for the show.”
Although she was preparing to leave for Washington State University in Pullman in mere days to begin preparing for her studies, Burke said it was important to cap off her fifth year with Yelm FFA at the Thurston County Fair doing exactly what she loves — showing animals.
Having shown seven pigs at this year’s county fair, Burke said the week leading up to the fair had been quite hectic, but she was glad to pass along some of her hog knowledge to younger members through the process.
“You think after five years you’d cap off on learning … but you’re always learning from each other,” she said.
The reason she loves showing pigs so much is because of their personality, she said.
“They’re personable. They’re your best friend or your worst enemy,” Burke said.
Compared with others competing in Friday’s senior pig market show, Burke seemed cool, calm and collected — and her hog followed lead. Hovering over and guiding her pig, she kept eye contact with Judge Andy Barth and made sure she and her pig made an impression.
“It’s kind of who I am,” Burke said. “It’s one of those things you never want to stop doing.”
She also earned the reserve grand champion title during the round robin pig show.
Burke came into the Yelm program a green-hand officer her freshman year. Going into 10th grade, she was elected secretary. The year after that she became president and then district treasurer. She said she didn’t see herself running for the district position, but was encouraged by her advisers.
Without the community and those that support her, she said she couldn’t have done any of this. She said she’d like to thank Rick and Donna Beyer, who taught her the basics of the market and encouraged her to keep learning.
“It’s an amazing community,” she said. “It feels empowering to have all these people around.”
Rebecca Griffin, a second-year FFA member, left this year’s fair with 11 ribbons in total, which includes grand champion in senior showman and reserve champion in market steer.
She was also the reserve junior showman in the market swine show.
Her 1,407-pound blue-reserve champion steer that she auctioned off at the 29th annual Thurston County Youth Market Animal Sale was also one of the largest four-legged livestock there.
During her time with FFA, one of the more important aspects of raising livestock she’s learned is how to take feedback and apply that to animals.
“An important part about raising livestock is taking the feedback and doing something,” Griffin said. “It’s so easy to take negative feedback and say, ‘They don’t know what they’re talking about.’ But if you look at what the ranchers are doing out here, they really know their stuff.”
Every fair is one for the books, Griffin said, and helping younger 4-H and FFA members is one of the highlights of every fair.
“It really sets the tone for the week,” she said.
Next year, she’ll be focusing on her collaboration as Western State Angus Queen and will be attending running start.