News French to Focus on Youth Livestock Programs

French to Focus on Youth Livestock Programs

French to Focus on Youth Livestock Programs
August 1, 2023 |

Sarah-Jane French is bringing enthusiasm, experience and fresh insight to Alabama’s youth livestock programs, thanks to a new position funded by the Alabama Legislature, housed at Auburn University (AU) and created with support from the Alabama Farmers Federation. French began as a professor of practice for youth livestock programs in June.

“I love that my job is to serve the youth of Alabama,” French said. “We want to keep and build interest in livestock programs. My No. 1 goal is to bridge the gap between all our programs and partner organizations so we can work even better together.”

In 2022, the Legislature appropriated $125,000 for the position in the Education Trust Fund budget. Following a nationwide search, French was hired and began work after graduating with her master’s in animal science from Tarleton State University.

Federation President Jimmy Parnell said he looks forward to seeing French grow current programming and expand interest in youth livestock competitions. That includes the Federation’s Jr. Livestock Expo, Alabama National Fair shows, 4-H, FFA and AU educational courses such as Beef U.

“We believe supporting youth through livestock programs is an investment in the future of agriculture,” Parnell said. “They learn significant skills related to responsibility, hard work and how to raise quality animals. We’re excited to work with Sarah-Jane and thank the Legislature for making her work possible.”

French was raised on a vegetable farm in rural Virginia, where she grew up barrel racing and working farmers markets with her father. The farm diversified into show goats in 2010, leading French to discover a penchant for competitive livestock judging. National championships followed as a member of 4-H and at Butler Community College in Kansas.

Thanks to hard work and scholarships, including one from her county Farm Bureau, French judged livestock at Texas Tech University, where she earned a degree in animal science.

Connections formed through livestock competitions led French to Alabama, she said. Helping the state’s students build similar networks is one of her goals, French continued.

“I come from a program in Virginia that was special to youth and livestock,” she said. “They made us feel special and want to continue doing it. You don’t have to grow up how I did on the farm, but you can understand how and why we raise livestock. That’s what I hope youth get out of our programs.” 

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