TULSA, Okla. — Steven Sanders of the Guthrie FFA Chapter won the State Star in Agribusiness award at the 97th Oklahoma FFA Convention and Expo on May 3 at the BOK Center.
Sanders first became involved with agriculture in the fall of his freshman year. He began his project when the Oklahoma Youth Expo’s gilt sale was moved to an online format, and the sale allowed exhibitors to scratch gilts from the sale.
“That is what started my business,” Sanders said. “I actually scratched one of them from the sale and started breeding sows.”
Not only does Sanders have his breeding sows, but also, he has boars he collects semen from. Sanders said his operation branches from his family’s larger operation.
Sanders explained that his marketing plan consisted of bringing in three to four show prospect pigs at a time and talking about them as individuals and answering any questions the customers might have. With a new location that is more user-friendly to host live farm sales, Sanders can utilize online sale features like ShowPig.com.
Knowing that he needed to take the next step in his operation, Sanders said he pursued finding a Duroc boar to be a herd sire for his sows. Sanders said that he couldn’t wait until his first crop was born because he saw an opportunity to start a semen sales company since there were no true Duroc boars in a stud in central Oklahoma.
“I make safety a priority in our business,” Sanders said. “So, when I expanded the operation, I had a lot of learning to do.”
When collecting, Sanders said that it’s important to keep the collection clean and properly store the semen in a timely manner. He also makes sure to have the proper equipment to safely allow the boar to perform the reproduction act.
Knowing that he had to make a high-quality product, Sanders said that he takes a small sample of raw semen and looks at it under a microscope to test mobility and look for any debris.
“I was quick to find that when trying to grow my business it was vital to make sure a high percentage of my customer base returns,” Sanders said. Trying to ensure that he builds a positive bond with his customers, Sanders offers help with projects, reposting their success on social media and genuinely giving his support.
After high school graduation, Sanders said his parents will help with the operation when he goes to college, but he plans to come home on the weekends and during school breaks to do his part.
“I am going to Redlands Community College next year to be a part of the livestock judging team, while also majoring in general agriculture,” Sanders said. “After two years there, I’m hoping to transfer to Oklahoma State University or maybe another senior college.”
The 20 Area Stars each received a plaque and $500 cash award co-sponsored by Masonic Charity Foundation, McDonald’s, The Chickasaw Nation, Blue and Gold Sausage Co., Davis Farms, Sirloin Club of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
As Star in Agribusiness, Sanders and the other State Stars over Oklahoma will each receive $31,855 in scholarships or capital grant funds through a $3.2 million gift from the Carl C. Anderson Sr. and Marie Jo Anderson Charitable Foundation. The late Carl C. Anderson, after whom the State Star awards are now named, was born in Naples, Oklahoma, in 1911. One of 10 children, he dropped out of high school to earn money and support his family. From those modest beginnings, the Anderson Corp. Grew across the country as well as in Canada and South America.
FFA is an integral part of the Agricultural Education division in the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education system. With more than 29,000 members and 366 chapters, the Oklahoma FFA Association is the fifth-largest state FFA association. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. To learn more about the Oklahoma FFA, visit okffa.org.
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