SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. — If you’re hoping to buy the best steaks at the grocery store, you might want to see if Allison Davis or Nick Moore will go along and help you choose. But if they’re not available, try to get in touch with Ian Alcox or Dorothy Brandon.
These four young people were the winning team – in competition with 22 other teams – in the 2019 FFA Meat Judging Contest. They also took first place in the 2019 4-H Tennessee Meat Judging contest. They will go on to national competitions starting in mid-October, first at the 4-H competition in Kansas City and, at the end of the month, at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.
Allison Davis was the top individual in the Tennessee FFA Meat Judging Contest and, with her teammates Moore and Alcox, who placed sixth and second respectively, will go on to the national competitions. Because she won last year, Brandon was ineligible to compete again this year in the state FFA contest.
When it involves beef, Davis, 15, has an advantage: She grew up on a cattle farm. Her family has a cow-calf operation with about 40 head of Angus. They own a 45-acre farm and rent an additional 200 acres.
Farming for her was a given. “I didn’t really have an option,” she said. “Since I was born I’ve just gone out and helped. I never really thought about it.”
Davis is an “all A” student and plans to attend a four-year university after she graduates high school. She’s considering either Kansas State or Ohio State. Her parents met in school at OSU, so it seems likely she’s going to be a Buckeye.
When Davis is not working on the family farm, she and her parents show their cattle. Her entry in the Bred & Owned Cow-Calf Pair class at the 2019 National Junior Angus Show in Louisville was judged its Grand Champion.
Alcox, 16, was a latecomer to FFA – he decided to enter the school district’s FFA program in his sophomore year. “I like the people and I like the courses,” he explained.
He is intrigued by science. “As a child I was always stuck to the Science Channel,” he said. He likes learning new things and competing in knowledge-based competition – “I like studying, and learning everything about the area we’re competing in.”
Alcox also likes music, and plays alto saxophone in the Shelbyville Central High School marching band. But the music he likes to listen to is definitely not marching material. He’s a fan of classic rock (including Led Zeppelin and Van Halen), and metal and thrash bands like Metallica and Revocation.
He has no doubt he will go to college, but he’s not sure whether he wants to go into agriculture. “I can’t say for sure if I’d enjoy farming,” he said, “but I might try it out.”
A newly formed sixth-grade friendship drew Moore, now 16, into agriculture. He started going to his friend’s family farm, often spending weekends there during the school year and “hanging out” during summers.
“I liked the atmosphere of being out there on a farm,” he said. “Hopefully I can do that.”
Moore has two career choices in mind: either a farmer or a large-animal veterinarian. He’s debating whether to go to a technical college or to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
He plays drums in church where he and his sister are youth leaders. For now, he works part-time, for “gas money,” on a farm. His job includes “everything,” as he described it. “They have pigs and ponies, goats and dogs ...”
Brandon, 16, is clear on what she wants to do for a career: She wants to work for the USDA. When asked about her ability to pick out a good steak, she said, without hesitation, “Oh yeah.”
What sparked her interest in FFA was food. “I want to know where my food comes from, the process that gets food from the farm to the table,” she explained.
Brandon is interested in all facets of agriculture. She’s competed with great success in various ag competitions, and this year she plans to compete in the dairy foods, dairy cow judging, and environment contests.
“It’s important to learn all that (environmental) stuff,” she said, “because we have those problems today.”
She has no doubt about her college education. She will go to UT-Knoxville and major in food science.
Brandon has recently become interested in photography in her spare time, as well, and is an avid nonfiction reader. “I don’t deal with fiction because it messes with my head,” she said.