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OYEA fundraiser held

By Staff, 07/19/19 9:23 AM

PRESCOTT –  A fundraising event was held for the Organization for Youth Education in Agriculture (OYEA) Thursday night.

As fundraisers go, the gathering was small with 19 people showing up for the event held at the cabin of Fred Harris, one of the founders of OYEA along with Darren Neal. Harris kicked things off by showing photos of the evolution of the project from its start with an old barn on land owned by the Prescott School District (PSD) to the completion of Phase I, with a new barn, animals, and pens.

Neal followed, reminding everyone this began as a collaborative effort with the PSD as a way to provide animal science education outside of the classroom setting. The idea was to provide an atmosphere where students could learn about animal production with the primary focus on teaching them responsibility. The program, he added, is geared toward children who live in town and either don’t have the room to raise an animal or don’t have the means to do so. As the animals are provided by the program, this includes those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate.

The program, he said, has already made a difference for two students. One got so involved he decided to go to Southern Arkansas University and study agriculture, while another had discipline problems until bonding with a pig, as odd as it may sound. Neal said since the student began working with a pig there have been no more disciplinary problems.

With Phase I done, he said, the program is ready to go to Phase II, which will include cross fencing of the pasture and fresh water. The program needs some equipment and also has recurring expenses. He pointed out OYEA is a 501(c)3 organization and all donations are tax deductible. He added no money is used to pay salaries, but everything goes into the program.

Harris said Neal asked if he’d be interested in helping with the project and he thought it was a unique program other schools don’t have. Percy Malone and Allcare donated $50,000 for a new barn and pens. From there, money was raised to buy animals (cattle, rabbits, goats and pigs) for students to take care of and raise. He said 23 pigs were raised with half being sold to raise money for the program. This, he added, is done to generate revenue to purchase food and pay other expenses.

Dennis Guidry, a former high school ag teacher, was on hand and said he’s seen a lot of success with students in his program. What’s being done at PHS, he said, is different and there’s nothing like it in the state. In talking to other at instructors, he’s found out the OYEA program is one-of-a-kind. Other schools allow students to bring animals to school to raise, but Prescott is the only district that furnishes animals for the students.

Robert Poole, superintendent of the PSD, said Neal has put a lot of sweat into this program as has Harris. Both, he added, are at the barn almost daily. “I  wish we’d have had something like this when I was in school.”

He continued saying he could see the opportunities this offers students as they can make a good living in the ag industry and stay in Prescott and Nevada County.

In its first year, the program had two animal science classed with 18 students. For the 2019-20 school year, Neal said, it’s expanded to four classes with 36 students.

Shane Meador, a member of the OYEA board, said the program needs a small utility tractor and a bulk feeder. Both items are being donated by area businesses, which will help – especially the bulk feeder as feed is currently purchased in bags.

A pad has been poured for the feeder already, Harris said. He turned to the fundraising part of the meeting, saying Legacy Partners are those who donated $2,500 or more. This list includes Allcare Pharmacies, The Hendrix Foundation, Fred and Debbie Harris, Bridgestone America Trust Fund, South Ark Electric, Inc., John and Kathlene Richardson, Michael and Sherry Young, Farm Credit Services, the Nevada County Conservation District and the Farm Bureau. All didn’t donate cash, but provided services and equipment. South Ark Electric donated the wiring and conduit for the barns, while the NCCD provided a $13,000 grant. The names of these donors are on a sign on the barn, he said, and there’s room for more.

Neal said they realize a new need daily for the program and it’s a fluid list. The recurring expenses will always be part of it, but the idea is for OYEA to keep growing and not become stale. One fourth grade teacher, he told the group, brings her students to the barn as a reward.

In talking about opportunities in agriculture, Neal said there’s a 600 percent placement rate for those with degrees in poultry science from the University of Arkansas.

OYEA, he added, is in direct connection with the Nevada County 4-H program.

Malone said he’s blessed to be able to give and will continue giving as long as he can. He said he has no intention of selling his pharmacies or retiring and agreed to donate a black Angus calf for the upcoming class.

He pointed out Temple Grandon designed the cattle chute on his farm and invited students in the program to come and see it. The chute is a low stress device which keeps the animals calm as they move through it.