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Gustine High sophomore Austin Bell is active in speaking contests and livestock, among other FFA activities. 

GUSTINE - Less than two years into his FFA career at Gustine High, sophomore Austin Bell has already accumulated an impressive list of accomplishments.

And he has his sights set on more achievements in the year to come - including state FFA office.

Bell wasted little time establishing himself in FFA circles.

As a freshman at Gustine High a year ago, he won both the Merced-Mariposa Section and Central Region FFA Creed competition and went on to place second at the state.

That experience, Bell acknowledged, fueled his interest in making the most of what FFA has to offer.

“When I came in to my freshmen year, I knew FFA but I didn’t realize the opportunities I would have,” he commented. “After my first contest, the section, I decided that I wanted to at least make it to state.”

Fast forward to his sophomore year, and the accomplishments continue.

Bell recently won top honors in the Merced-Mariposa Section impromptu speaking contest to earn a trip to the Central Region competition.

Bell’s competitive nature carries over into the livestock show rings at fairs and the open “jackpot” shows throughout the state and beyond.

He has been showing sheep since his 4-H years, and has started his own breeding flock.

“When I started in 4-H I was taking one market animal to the county fair. After about two years of that I decided that maybe I wanted to jackpot. Ever since then we’ve been running with it,” Bell told Mattos Newspapers. “I take market lambs to the county and state fairs, and show at jackpots across the state and some national shows.”

Bell, who has five breeding ewes and a total of 13 sheep, said he competes in about 15 jackpots a year in more typical times and has been the sheep division winner in the California Junior Livestock Association each of the past two years.

He acknowledged, however, disappointment at not being able to show as an FFA member last summer.

“It was my first year that I was going to get to show in my blue jacket. That was disappointing,” Bell remarked. “Besides not getting to show, I had all these animals. I did get to sell them, but I did not get to go out and compete with them and do my best in the show ring.”

The Spring Fair has been canceled again this year, Bell said, but he believes that “there is definitely a chance that he will be able to show in Merced this summer.

“I know how hard people in the livestock industry will work to give kids a fair opportunity to exhibit their animals,” he explained.

Bell is also involved in livestock judging, which this year will be virtual competitions rather than in person.

He wants to judge at the collegiate level, Bell shared, and eventually pursue a career in the livestock field.

Bell is a chapter officer this year, serving as reporter.

Bell, the son of Richard and Michelle Bell, also wants to compete in speaking contests during his junior and senior years. He hopes to one day compete on the national FFA stage.

“I love competition,” he acknowledged.

Bell hopes to hold Central Region office on his path to state office.

“As I started to learn about the FFA and what it does for students it really made me want to do bigger things than just compete at the local level,” he stated. “I want to make an impact on California FFA.”