When 19-year-old Trent Thomas’ boots hit the floor each morning, he knows thousands of lives are depending on him. More than 100,000 broilers count on Trent and his father, Chris Thomas, for feed, water and shelter at Thomas Farms in southwest Pike County farm.
It’s his dedication on the family farm, and an ever-growing sense of responsibility, that earned Trent the National FFA Poultry Proficiency Award at the organization’s convention in October.
“It was an amazing honor,” said Trent, a 2017 Goshen High School graduate and former Goshen FFA chapter president. “FFA has opened so many doors for me. I joined FFA my freshman year, but I never thought it would lead to all this.”
“All this” meant receiving an award on national TV as thousands of FFA members from around the country cheered him on. His recognition was the culmination of four years’ of record keeping and photographs but reflected a lifetime of work.
“My dad built four broiler houses in 1993, added two more in 1996 and two more in 2014,” Trent said. “I have literally grown up working on the farm with my dad. As I’ve grown older, my responsibilities and my interests in the farm have grown, too. I plan to build some houses of my own one day, and this experience has helped me get ready for that.”
The National FFA Agricultural Proficiency Awards recognizes FFA members who, through their Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs), develop skills they can apply toward future careers. It is among the highest individual achievements for an FFA member. Students compete for awards in almost 50 areas covering everything from agricultural communications to wildlife management. Competition includes local, state and national contests. A self-proclaimed introvert, Trent said FFA helped him personally and prepared him for a future career in the poultry business.
“As FFA chapter president, I had an outlet to develop leadership skills that will carry me a long way in whatever I do,” he said. “I typically don’t enjoy talking about myself or in front of people. FFA helped me with that. I’ve been able to conduct meetings, plan activities and attend conventions and seminars. All which helped me develop into the person I am today.”
Chris wasn’t able to accompany Trent to the national convention, but said he almost burst with pride while watching the live event on RFD-TV.
“We were told he was a finalist before the convention, so we knew it was a possibility,” said Chris, a Pike County Farmers Federation board member. “This is a big accomplishment for him, our farm and the Goshen FFA chapter.”
Trent said he couldn’t have done it without the help and encouragement of his dad and his mom, Angie. He also praised Goshen FFA advisers Cody Eiland and Jamie Rich.
“Mr. Eiland encouraged me to participate in the SAE and to keep good records,” Trent said. “My daddy pushed me to stick with it and learn all I could. It’s paid off in a big way.”
In addition to working on the farm, Trent attends Trenholm State Community College in Montgomery.