Lane Conderman will likely walk a little slower, breathe a little deeper and relish a little longer in the coliseum during the 2019 Missouri State Fair FFA market steer show. It will be his last.
Conderman started exhibiting steers as a freshman in high school as a member of the Elsberry FFA. Beef cattle were part of his Supervised Agricultural Experience program.
He, along with his father and grandfather, runs a 300-cow Black Angus cattle operation in Lincoln County. His first steer came directly from the herd. “I was really proud of that animal,” he recalls, “but I had a lot to learn.”
The next year, he bought a steer, broke it to lead and learned how to fit him. He attended his county fair again. While he could’ve been satisfied competing at the local level, his FFA advisors encouraged him to aim higher.
The Elsberry FFA chapter provided Conderman with the opportunity to show at the Missouri State Fair his sophomore year. “We kind of travel as a show team,” he explains. “There are kids who show pigs and sheep, but at the time, I was the only steer kid.”
Elsberry FFA advisor Sarah Ray says exhibiting at the state fair is an opportunity for students that may not have the means otherwise.
The chapter has support from its local alumni and community who help raise money or donate to the FFA program. Because of this funding, along with chapter fundraisers, the Elsberry FFA program has its own livestock trailer — along with grooming chutes, trimming stands, blowers and clippers.
“I use all of the chapter’s equipment when I show,” Conderman says. “It really helps that I don’t have to buy it, and it is available.”
FIT TO SHOW: Spraying a little adhesive is all part of the grooming process to make a steer ready to enter the show ring. Over the years, Lane Conderman received tips and instruction from his FFA advisors and fellow exhibitors.
Members not only show livestock but also stay in the fair’s campground. There are two campers — one for the girls and one for the boys. The chapter rents the units for the duration of the fair and provides meals for members.
Livestock exhibitors come in what Ray calls “heats” during the 11-day event. Between Ray and fellow FFA advisor Jason Vandivort, the two make multiple trips to Elsberry to drop off kids and pick up animals.
When Conderman first came to the state fair, he didn’t know what to expect. “I looked up to the other members who had been there already,” he says. “I learned from them.”
He recalls helping get pigs, sheep and goats ready for state fair competitions. “I would never have showed any of those without that experience,” he says.
Elsberry FFA members attend each other’s shows. “It means a lot to have someone you know in the stands and cheering you on,” Conderman adds.
Now, he is that seasoned showman helping the next generation. Conderman wants new FFA members to have the same fun experiences he did in the FFA and at the state fair. “I really think it brings a chapter closer together when you are pulling for one another,” he says. “It is one of those experiences I don’t think everyone has, but one I am grateful to have had.”
While Conderman does not age out of showing, he’s decided this state fair will be his last as a youth exhibitor. “I attend school over three hours away,” the sophomore at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville says.
Conderman is majoring in agricultural education and minoring in animal science. While he says agriculture education and the FFA provided him many opportunities in high school, he is ready to stow away the show stick.
“This is not my dad’s FFA project. It is mine. I’m not going to ask him to do the work,” Conderman adds. “It is just too much trying to farm, especially in years like this, when there’s flooding and trying to get crops in and then trying to get steers fair ready.”
“I will always be involved in agriculture and supporting FFA,” Conderman says. “It gave me so much already. It is time I start giving back.”