Lainey Hutchison is a sophomore from Gadsden in Crockett County majoring in farm and ranch management at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She was an FFA member for all four years of high school, and she is currently a member of the UT Martin rodeo team, where she takes part in breakaway roping, team roping and goat-tying.
Hutchison also has an eye toward advancing agribusiness and doing that through education. She has given horse-riding lessons, run a small goat business and coached summer farm camps over the last couple of years.
Her star in agribusiness is on the rise – at least, the national FFA organization thinks so.
Hutchison was named the American Star in Agribusiness at the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis on Nov. 8.
The road to winning the national honor began her senior year in high school.
“I won the state Star in Agribusiness my senior year of high school,” she said. “That made me eligible to run for the national competition.
“I was notified that I was a finalist last summer, and I had to do an interview in August over Zoom with about 15 judges.”
Hutchison said her agribusiness ventures coupled with her enjoyment of teaching younger generations about farm life bolstered her chances of winning the national honor.
“I think being involved with the kids and teaching agriculture and having a goal for the future involving the next generation was an eye-catcher (in the National Star competition),” she said. “I know that (other competitors) – two of them had a landscaping business and one guy had a concrete company. Theirs are definitely good services.
“I think with mine, everybody loves involving children and the next generation. I felt like that was what my project was aimed toward, and that helped me a lot (in winning the national honor).”
Hutchison’s supervised agricultural experience – known as an SAE, a required activity in FFA – was in equine science. An SAE allows students to learn by doing, by either owning or operating an agricultural business, working or serving an internship at an agriculture-based business or conducting an agriculture-based scientific experiment and reporting results.
“I started teaching horse-riding lessons in high school,” she said. “I started with just two students, and it eventually turned into eight to 10 students per week. I love getting to teach with the horses, and I love getting to share my love with the students.”
Hutchison grew up on a cattle farm, and her father owned a sale barn when she was younger.
“We now farm beef cattle,” she said. “I’ve always been around all kinds of animals. I started in rodeo when I was 7.
“When I started high school, I needed extra money for traveling with rodeo, so that’s why I started giving lessons.”
The farm camps came about when people in the community, including family and friends, wanted to see the Hutchison farm and visit the animals.
“We did just a couple of farm camps the first summer we had it,” she said. “I ended up having waiting lists for all my camps. I had a lot more people wanting to come than what I was expecting. This summer, I had about 10 camps, and in each camp, I had 16 to 20 students.”
The farm camp business helped her horse-riding lesson business to grow, as children wanted to learn more about horses when they saw them on the farm.
Each year at the National FFA Convention and Expo, four FFA members are honored with American Star Awards for outstanding accomplishments in FFA and agricultural education.
The American Star Awards – including American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience – are presented to FFA members who demonstrate outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through completion of an SAE.
Hutchison said she was honored to earn the American Star in Agribusiness award.
“I’m still learning how big a deal it is,” she said. “I originally did not realize how big of an opportunity this is.
“FFA has something for everybody, even if you’re not from an agriculture background. I just think it’s something that everybody should get involved in because it’s a great organization, and there are opportunities placed right at your feet through FFA – at least, it has been for me and a lot of the students from my Crockett County chapter.”
Sixteen American Star Award finalists from throughout the U.S. were nominated by a panel of judges who then interviewed the finalists. Four were chosen for the national awards.
Hutchison said she wasn’t quite sure about a career path at this point, but said she wants to get a job in pharmaceutical sales or an agribusiness sales job.
“I also want to continue my ag tourism back at my family’s farm,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of ideas. I’m going to continue my farm camps, but we’re looking into doing adult tours and things like that on our farm.
“I like building relationships with people and communicating. I feel like I’m pretty strong in that area, so I’d like to get a job working in livestock sales or something like that.”
Winning a national FFA American Star award is a unique honor, but certainly deserving of the star who shines on West Tennessee.