"Future Farmers of America" was founded in 1928 with a mission to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. They teach that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting-- it's a science, it's a business and it's an art. There are about 5,000 members of the Future Farmers of America organization in the state of West Virginia, and almost 600,000 across the country. One of the organization’s leaders today is a young man from Point Pleasant.
Meet Wesley Davis. He goes by Wes. He’s 19 and this guy has a story.
Finding a Chicken
He grew up in Point Pleasant around lots of agriculture. He also spent a lot of time with his grandmother who was has an entrepreneur’s spirit. For years he worked at her flag store. One way or another, he inherited that spirit because by the seventh grade, his wheels started turning after a bunny mishap.
“I had thought that we had gotten two females, but it ended up we had a male and a female. Of course you know what rabbits do; they have a lot of babies. So they had a litter of babies—had about 10 rabbits and I decided, you know what? I’m gonna go into the rabbit business. I’m going to start selling these and make millions of dollars. By the time I sold all these rabbits, my parents were like, ‘Absolutely not, it’s just not happening.’”
But Wes wasn’t convinced his parents appreciated the possibilities, so he bided his time and looked for different avenues of approach. The county fair was, of course, the next day.
“So I start into the fair grounds and the first place I go—into the rabbits and poultry barn and start looking around. And of course I find one in the back corner and it’s got these beautiful little loppy ears and I’m thinking, ‘I’m gonna buy this rabbit.’”
His mother had different ideas. He pleaded and argued and pointed out the cuteness, to which she replied:
“’It’s not happening. You’re not bringing anything home with a heartbeat except your brother. It’s just not happening,’” Wes says she said.
This is when Wes gets his brother involved… By the end of the week—all prices reduced! 5 dollar rabbit? Now 3 bucks. Wes approaches his little brother who, he knew, would do anything for him:
“I asked him, ‘Zack, can I have three dollars to get a drink?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, sure!’ So he gives me the three dollars and I go running toward the rabbit and poultry barn and I’m buying this rabbit. When I get the cage where it had ‘3$,’ it had a big X through it and it said, ‘SOLD.’ I was so disappointed. They already sold my rabbit. So head sulking, walking around, I went over to the poultry side of the barn and started looking around and I found this chicken for a dollar. I’m thinking, ‘I can get this chicken, I can get the drink, I didn’t technically lie to him!’”
So that’s what he did. He bought the chicken, he bought the drink, and he endured the wrath of his mother. That’s how Wes found his chicken. From there it’s history. Wes was in the Chicken and Egg business.
“By the time I was a senior in high school I had 350 [birds] and was selling [eggs] to 100 homes, 9 schools, and 10 restaurants. Also had a compost operation so all the litter from the poultry themselves—it actually was composted so that was a third of the revenue itself. So it wasn’t just selling the eggs, it was also selling the compost.”
Wes made $45k in revenue his senior year. On 2 acres.
With some help from the USDA in the form of a five thousand dollar Young Farmer loan he bought his first brooding house to start a group of chicks and he soon had 50, then 350 birds. The USDA also offers grants through what’s called the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The NRCS looks for ways to protect the environment through agricultural ventures.
“A lot of people see poultry waste as waste that you throw away. But I could get this grant where I had no investment in this facility, and then take that litter, process it into a product, and sell it!”
Wes explains that it all folded back into making himself marketable. He tapped into the local food market, and when people found out his was an environmentally responsible business, they were even more likely to support him.
Now he’s touring the country and even making trips abroad as a national officer of the FFA—the first from West Virginia in 39 years. Wes attributes a lot of his success to the training and encouragement he got through the FFA. He’s been visiting industry partners and officials, but the next 8 months will be dedicated to what he calls a marathon of classrooms and state FFA conventions, and meeting with state and local leaders.
Wes is also enrolled at West Virginia University studying agribusiness management and agriculture education. He says after his year as an FFA officer, he’ll start his quest for meaning. He has big ideas about ways to improve his home state, and he wants to see more successful businesses diversify West Virginia’s economy. He’s developing those ideas and obviously becoming an effective communicator. He talks about the 3 P’s of successful business: Product, People, and Process.
He says people in West Virginia are “just awesome.”
“I go around the country and I see a lot of places, but the people from WV are different. They want to help you, they’re encouraging. They’ll work as hard as they need to get the job done.”
“It’s the process in West Virginia that I think we’re lacking a lot of the time. We have great products, great ideas for products. I want to one day come back and help develop that process and see how is it that we can continue to have success, not only in entrepreneurship, but also in education and in our government and in the things that really help to advance our state.”
Wes doesn’t have a clear idea of what or where he’ll end up next. All he knows for sure is that he wants to do something helpful in the world.
“Because I really think we’re meant to help other people any way that we can. So if I’m in business or education or wherever, I want it to be something where I’m helping people,” he says.
Three cheers for Future Farmers, right?