Roy Yates leases property on four ranches, where he takes care of 105 cows and several calves. Not only that, but he also makes business decisions, prepares paperwork and watches the livestock market so he can decide when to sell his cattle.
Pretty good for Yates, considering that hasn't even graduated from high school.
A senior at Lodi High School, Yates was named California's "star farmer" at the state FFA conference, held on April 20 through 23 in Fresno. Considered the highest recognition in California for an aspiring young farmer, the award recognizes achievement in career and leadership development.
Yates, along with about 240 other agriculture students, is responsible for the Lodi FFA being named the top chapter in the state in 2012.
Lodi beat out FFA chapters in Dixon, East Nicolaus, Exeter, Littlerock and Templeton to gain the top California chapter award. Lodi FFA will compete with chapters throughout the country for the national title.
Other activities that helped Lodi FFA win the state title are the agricultural field day for third-grade students, and watershed stewardship with the Lockeford Plant Materials Center, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and a wildlife biologist from the East Bay Municipal Utility District.
The Lodi FFA chapter also participated in the Share Your Blessings annual food drive in November and December 2012, according to the FFA's qualifying application. Payless Market in Lockeford donated turkeys, bread, eggs and milk for the cause.
In addition to Yates' award, individual winners from Lodi FFA were Vanessa Berghold, who won a proficiency award for agricultural sales; Clayton Lauchland, who won for crop production services; and Jordan Sparrowk for beef production.
Yates, Berghold and Lauchland are seniors at Lodi High, while Sparrowk graduated last year and now attends California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.
The son of Bruce and Sherry Yates of Stockton, Yates chose to attend Lodi High because his neighborhood school, Bear Creek High, didn't have an agriculture program until the current school year, Lodi FFA adviser Jesalee Goehring said.
After school, Yates goes to the 500-acre cattle ranch he leases in Wallace, and on weekends he tends to business at all four of his ranches in Wallace, Clements (100 acres) and two on Roberts Island on Highway 4 (60 acres each).
Yates pays the lease for the four ranches from the money he makes selling cattle. He wants to make a career out of cattle ranching. He had to submit detailed financial figures to the state FFA to qualify for the state title.
Although he enjoys raising the animals, Yates doesn't come from a cattle family. In fact, his father is in construction.
"I don't like construction," Yates said, explaining why he didn't follow his father's footsteps.
His grandfather had a horse ranch, but Yates said cattle are a little easier to work with than horses.
In addition to tending his livestock, Yates helped build the FFA float for the Downtown Lodi Parade of Lights, set up murals at the Lodi Grape Festival and helped out with the FFA food drive, Coats for Kids and Adopt-a-Family.
Berghold, daughter of Ernest and LeVonna Berghold, plans to study forestry management in the fall at Columbia Community College in Tuolumne County.
She became interested in FFA in 2009, when she walked into a leather store and bought a kit to make leather wallets. She also began making leather bags and horse halters, which she plans to continue doing in addition to her forestry work in the mountains.
When not involved in FFA, Berghold participates in Relay for Life, the Clements Community Church food drive and Lodi Support Our Troops, and is an assistant 4-H leader in leather.
Lauchland will join Sparrowk at Cal Poly, where he will major in agricultural systems management and take irrigation management, agricultural engineering and crop science classes. He works 20 hours a week in the field at his father's vineyard, but they don't sell winegrapes commercially.
Sparrowk, who grew up in Clements, works at a beef ranch and gives cows vaccinations, thought he doesn't run the ranch like Yates does.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.