Greener pastures

Randall Gray, 17, a senior at Sherando High School in Stephens City, sits in the school's butterfly garden. After graduation, he plans to attend Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown before transferring to Virginia Tech and double majoring in dairy science and agriculture economics. Josette Keelor/Daily

STEPHENS CITY — Not everyone joins their school chapter of the national FFA organization with the intention of building a career in agriculture.

Some join for the fun of it, said Randall Gray, vice president of the Sherando High School chapter.

“There’s a lot of people that just kind of join FFA and use it as a networking [tool],” he said. “That’s a genius idea.”

Through FFA, he said he’s met people who have the potential of helping him throughout the rest of his life.

Granted, he’s one of the core members who do plan on pursuing agriculture, but that’s really beside the point.

“People who join FFA can go do anything,” he said.

A 17-year-old preparing for his high school graduation at 7 p.m. Friday, Randall is excited for the future.

Planning to transfer to Virginia Tech after a year at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, Randall wants to double major in dairy science and agricultural economics, with a possible minor in business.

Tracing his interest in dairy farming to his uncle’s farm at West Virginia University, Randall said he took a job last year working with 400 head of purebred Jersey cows at Waverly Dairy Farm in Clear Brook.

After graduation, he said he hopes to run for a state FFA office and eventually own his own dairy farm.

This year Randall is taking English, government, veterinary science, agriculture business and has an aide period helping as needed around the school. He leaves early each day for work, is a member of the National Honor Society and guesses he’s probably in the top 3 percent of his class, but Randall said other school organizations and clubs didn’t make the grade.

“Most of my time is taken up by the dairy [farming] and everything else,” he said.

This summer he plans to continue working at Waverly and helping a friend make hay on his own beef farm.

If his plans to go into farming fall through, Randall said he might pursue teaching. Even without the cost of land or animals, he said starting a robotic farm, as he plans to do, will cost about $7 million. But despite the challenges he’ll face going into business for himself, he said he’s prepared to give it his all.

He said it was starting work at age 16 that “really lit my passion for wanting to learn about cows.”

“I know a lot about cows, and I’ll talk cows for days.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

In brief:

• Sherando High School’s Arrowhead Stadium
• 7 p.m. Friday. Rain date: 7 p.m. Saturday
• The school plans to award diplomas to 357 seniors.
• Commencement speakers will be Laura Kovak, Sherando’s reading specialist and the school’s Teacher of the Year, and  T.J. Rohrbaugh, the school’s social studies teacher .

<p id=’reporter_info’>Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or <a href=’mailto:jkeelor@nvdaily.com’>jkeelor@nvdaily.com</a></p>