Cedaredge High School graduate Lexee Wilson on Aug. 10 was named the top vocational agriculture student in the state and presented with the Future Farmers of America Colorado Star Farmer award. She will be leaving soon for college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins with plans to continue her success in agriculture by pursuing a veterinary medicine career and eventually giving back to the community that she says "has given me so much."
"I want to be a veterinarian," Lexee said. "I've always had a passion for animals and for raising animals."
Before her family moved to Surface Creek Valley, there was enough space on their Montrose lot for Lexee to raise rabbits and chickens. It was there she first discovered the passion that is now providing a pathway to her future.
Her family now has acreage enough for Lexee to have raised a flock of 27 sheep, and a llama and donkey to keep guard over the flock.
As her sheep herd expanded, Lexee says that her dad suggested that she run it as a business, and she has. With college days just around the corner, Lexee has now sold most of the flock to raise money to help pay college costs.
Her sheep enterprise also provided a vehicle for her application to the Colorado Star Farmer award. As her FFA ag project, she used it for doing original research on feed rations and kept careful records not only of the business, but also of the science and operational aspects of raising the flock.
She explains in her resume, "My sheep production SAE (structured agricultural project) began with three orphan lambs. My dad introduced me to the late nights and early mornings that come along with raising bum lambs. I was quickly intrigued with the care and affection the little ones needed. I enjoy trying to keep them healthy and doctoring them when they fall ill.
"My SAE grew to a flock of 27 sheep. I have ensured my sheep have quality pasture, proper medication and protection. I breed my ewes with good quality bucks. Through using selective breeding and culling the less satisfactory ewes from my flock, I have selected my best ewes to keep. I have learned important flock management skills, how to improve birth survival rates, and how to use selective breeding."
Lexee got some experience with real life tragedy while tending her flock. She explains, "One of the greatest challenges I experienced while raising sheep was caring for my ewe that was attacked by a mountain lion. Her side was ripped open and her rumen protruded about two inches out of her body. I took her to Surface Creek Veterinary Center. They cleaned the wound, replaced the organs, and sutured the wound together. She tore her sutures out regularly due to the lack of skin left. I cleaned the wound at least twice a day. This process included scrubbing away scabs with a gauze pad and an iodine solution, medicating the healthy flesh, and applying fly repellent ointment."
It turned out to be a learning experience with a happy ending. "The complete healing process took three months. She is now one of my breeding ewes and has recovered fully," Lexee explained.
The FFA Star Farmer Award is considered "the highest recognition in the state for an aspiring young farmer. The award recognizes achievement in both career and leadership development," according to the FFA website
Lexee's high school studies were focused around her vocational agriculture interests. "I always loved the ag program. My favorite subjects were science, and especially biology," she said. She has also had character building experiences as part of the FFA curriculum. She writes in her resume, "FFA focuses on building leadership skills. I serve students in the organization. I also serve the community through my chapter. FFA allows for many community service opportunities. I have helped the local dairy cover their silage pits, worked at the food bank for their Christmas Box event, volunteered at the Delta County fair and horse show, and participated at many other service events."
Her contributions to the local chapter have been significant, too. Among her efforts have been holding multiple chapter offices "including executive committee member, reporter, vice president, and president." She also served the district level as the 2015-2016 reporter and the 2016-2017 vice president.
She has worked at Surface Creek Veterinary Center. That has provided "a lot of great experience and encouragement learning about what the practice of veterinary really takes," she said. "It also helped solidify my decision that a veterinarian is really what I want to be." Another influence in her decision on future career plans was her pastor of whom she says, "He told me that if [being a veterinarian] is a recurring theme to me, then it may be something that God wants me to do."
Another big influence in Lexee's life and a contributor to her success in ag has been Katie Greenwood, the CHS vocational agriculture instructor. "Katie Greenwood has been very influential in my life," Lexee said. "Katie has been like my mom the past four years. She just never stops. She has always been there to help. She provided hours of help with the Star Farmer application. She wants to help her students achieve," Lexee said.
The admiration and respect works both ways, Greenwood says, "Lexee is one of the most hardworking and driven students I have ever had. Her faith and moral foundation are a constant compass to do what is right. I can think of no one more deserving of the State Star Farmer award. Our chapter and community are blessed to have such a great representative. Lexee will continue to influence the Cedaredge FFA program and I can not wait to see her when she returns as a practicing vet when she finishes her education at Colorado State University."
Lexee's studies at CSU in the fall will major in animal science, a focus mainly on livestock, and a minor in business. Eventually she hopes to come back to the Western Slope area and wants to serve the community. "I want to be available for people to use my services and to provide people with a good service," she said.
The local community has also been an influence in her success with scholarship assistance. "This community has such a heart for students who are starting out, and it wants to help them."
Above it all, Lexee credits faith in God as the biggest influence in her life. "I wouldn't have been able to do anything I have accomplished without faith in God," she said.