Next Gen Ag: Showing Cattle and Teaching the Next Generation

by | Jun 19, 2024

Next Gen Ag is a year long series that will run on our In The Field blog, Facebook page, Instagram page and Twitter account. Each Wednesday, we will highlight a young person pursuing a career in the agriculture industry. Individuals can be in high school, college, or recent graduates who are working to establish a career in agriculture. Stay tuned each week to meet some of our industry’s future leaders!

Growing up around beef and dairy cattle in Northern Orange County, Rhiley Crabtree fell in love with animals and agriculture at a very young age. That passion not only led her to involve herself in many agricultural activities and organizations through high school but is also directing her path towards a career in agriculture that will advance the industry for years to come.

As a young girl, Rhiley learned a lot of life lessons on the family farm. “My aunt and uncle own a beef cattle farm in Orange County, so I’ve always been immersed in agriculture,” she said. “At eight years old, I started showing beef cattle and, eventually, dairy cattle. I love animals, so being a part of the farm and learning to work with these amazing cattle sparked my love for the industry.” As a teenager, Rhiley learned to drive by operating the hay truck and tractor on the family farm. She also learned many lessons, like how to care for livestock and harvest a crop, from her aunt and uncle. “My grandparents worked in tobacco, so our family is no stranger to hard work,” she said. “I am glad that I not only had these experiences as a child but learned to appreciate farmers and their hard work in my early years. Many people take farmers for granted every day for providing the food that is on our tables. They deserve all the recognition in the world for the difference that they make in our lives.”

All throughout her high school years, Rhiley pursued her love for the industry through livestock shows, 4H and FFA. She became involved in 4H around the same time she began showing livestock, which was at eight years of age. She not only showed cattle at local county shows in the area, but also statewide shows like the N.C. State Fair. “I was in 4H until I hit high school and transitioned to FFA,” she said. “These two organizations, plus my experience showing livestock, made such a big impact on my life that I want to continue working with them in the years to come so that I can impact kids lives the same way.” As a Junior at Orange High School in Hillsborough, Rhiley is currently serving as FFA Vice President and is aiming for President in her Senior year.

Ever since she was a little girl, Rhiley has known that she wanted to be a teacher one day. She didn’t narrow down what subject she wanted to teach, however, until her time in FFA began. “FFA taught me so much about this industry, from livestock and crop management to horticulture, forestry, life skills and so much more,” she said. “I knew from my first year into the program that I wanted to be an Ag Teacher and help kids understand the importance of our state’s number one industry.” Rhiley has a passion for kids and their agricultural education. In fact, she is currently helping her aunt and uncle teach kids how to show livestock. “Parker Farms has about 300 head of cattle on the farm right now and we work with kids in our community to show the cows at local county livestock shows,” she said. “I continue to show, but I have also started teaching the interested kids at the farm how to show their livestock animals. I love watching the kids grow as they learn how to handle their animals and cheering them on in the ring. It’s amazing to see their eyes light up as they learn something new and know that I had a hand in helping to educate them.”

After she graduates high school in 2025, Rhiley plans to attend either N.C. State University, Appalachian State University or Tennessee Tech University to study Agriculture Education with a minor in Animal Science. In addition to her education, Rhiley would also like to play softball at the college level. “I want to learn all that I can during college and then become a high school ag teacher,” she said. “Eventually the goal would be to come back to Orange High School and become an ag teacher here. I also want to stay involved with FFA and 4H to continue immersing kids in agriculture through these programs and allowing them to have the same experiences that I had.” In addition to becoming a high school ag teacher, Rhiley would one day love to have a hand in continuing the family cattle farm operation and keep it going for generations to come.

Rhiley’s skills as a patient teacher, strong listener, passion for the industry and love of animals will help guide her towards her future in agriculture. Although she loves nearly every part of working in agriculture, her favorite thing is learning from the hands of the farmers and hearing their generational stories that have gotten them to where they are today. “I love to meet farmers and hear how their operations have been in the family for generations,” she said. “The stories of their hard work that got them to where they are today is inspiring and generates a strong sense of appreciation for each one of them.”

For anyone seeking a career in the agriculture industry, Rhiley encourages you to just go for it! “Look at agriculturally based programs and get involved in any way that you can,” she said. “FFA and 4H are both great places to start, as well as ag classes offered at your school. Dive in the deep end and do whatever it takes to find your passion in the industry.” We are so proud of all that Rhiley is doing to further the industry and we can’t wait to see where the future takes her!