FFA Livestock

Third time’s a charm for New York FFA member, goat farmer


One might say applying for a grant is like applying for a job. For one New York FFA student, that statement couldn’t have been more true … but it was job he just had to have.

Meet Austin Nolley, a freshman at Stockbridge Valley, a Co-Reporter for his FFA chapter, active in National Junior Honor Society and Mathletics, and a member of the school’s soccer, basketball, and baseball teams. And now thanks to his persistent efforts at obtaining a 2017 Agricultural Experience Tracker (AET) Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE) Grant, Nolley’s a full-fledged goat farmer.

“I am not sure where my passion for goats came from.  Originally, I was going to raise chickens and sell the eggs for my SAE,” Nolley said. “My grandfather suggested I do goats and it developed from there.”

Courtesy of Kelly Marie Photography

Nolley, who didn’t grow up on a farm but whose family comes from a farming background, joined Stockbridge Valley’s Jr. FFA program in sixth grade and started applying for the SAE grant to expand his goat operation the following year. He found the process quite lengthy.

“The process is very in-depth, detailed. On the grant application, you need to outline four goals you have for your SAE. The goals need to include an overall view of my SAE plan, the current state of my SAE and the scope of the project, activities that I need to do to implement the plan and practices that will be put into place for sustainability,” Nolley said. “I also needed to develop a budget to show how the grant would be spent.  They also ask what other resources I have available if I wasn’t awarded a grant.”

Nolley completed the process three times before finding out this past December he was one of 152 FFA members nationwide that had received the AET SAE Grant. This past year alone 3,339 students had submitted a grant application.

Courtesy of Kelly Marie Photography

Now with the $1,000 in hand, Nolley is ready to expand his meat goat operation. He just completed his second rotation of 10 bucks. The goal for the coming rotation is 20 goats, all bucks. The grant money will be used specifically to add two additional pastures at 150′ x 25′, allowing Nolley to implement rotational grazing. 

And while Nolley plans to run his goat operation throughout high school, his FFA ambitions do not end there.

“This spring I am practicing to enter the Creed Contest, my goal is to be number one in the state of New York and compete at the National Convention in October. In the spring of 2019, I plan to run for District 5 President and then in the spring of 2020 run for New York State Officer,” Nolley said. “Maybe after that I will try for National Officer.”

No matter what Nolley shoots for, he knows from experience, that “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

“You should continue to try for the grants, because you never know, you might be chosen and you can start or expand your SAE,” Nolley said.

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