Grandfather, granddaughter win FFA honors 50 years apart

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 3/18/21

This year, the Sword family had reason to celebrate a family tradition as Erin Sword took home reserve grand champion honors in the market goat category in the 78th Annual Katy ISD Livestock Show …

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Grandfather, granddaughter win FFA honors 50 years apart

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This year, the Sword family had reason to celebrate a family tradition as Erin Sword took home reserve grand champion honors in the market goat category in the 78th Annual Katy ISD Livestock Show –50 years after her grandfather, Perry Sword, took home the same honor in the lamb competition.

FFA has changed quite a bit since Perry was in the program, he said.

“When I was in school, we didn’t have (all the different animals),” Perry said. “All we had was chickens pigs and what they call a market steer, which wasn’t halter-broken.”

Erin’s prize-winning Future Farmers of America project was a goat that brought in $5,000 at this year’s auction, she said.

Perry said he was very proud of Erin’s accomplishment which carries on a family tradition passed down to his children and then to his grandchildren. He had even worked for about 13 years on his father-in-law’s ranch before taking a job at KISD in 1983.

The FFA has evolved significantly since his 1971 win, Perry said. When he was in FFA, young women weren’t allowed to participate in FFA. Additionally, Katy was the only high school in the district, and the barns were located where the Merrell Center is now, near Katy High School. There were about 10-12 students in an FFA class compared to the 30-40 in the classes Erin and attends, he said. Generally, though, the curriculum is similar but spread out differently in semester-long classes rather than year-long courses and students have more individual projects rather than shared projects.

For her part, Erin said she was glad she loved FFA. The program has taught her a great deal, helped her meet friends, gotten her in a more engaging environment than a simple classroom, and even helped her realize she wants to be an equine chiropractor – for which she’s going to Blinn Junior College in the fall.

“Last year I took Equine Science and everybody there wants to be a vet, right,” Erin said, expressing her eagerness to begin working with horses as soon as possible. “That’s just too much schooling … and I like horses more than I like dogs and other animals.”

She added that the money she received at the auction will go toward helping her pay for her education, something many FFA students benefit from as they work their way through the program.

Erin also works for Mandola Stables in Katy where she helps care for more than 60 horses.

Erin said she and her FFA classmates put in a lot of hard work and learn a lot from one another. Students go to the FFA barns at very early hours and again in the evening to feed and groom their animals seven days a week. But the hard work is worth it, she said.

When asked if she would recommend FFA to younger students, Erin began cracking jokes.

“Well, the first thing I tell people is we get to skip a lot of school,” She joked. “So, they go, ‘sign me up.’”

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