Lory Beth Holbrook got well used to hearing her father recite that phrase as she grew up on the family’s 800-acre farm in Pine Ridge, a small community in Wolfe County in eastern Kentucky. The truism helped inspire the 18-year-old tobacco farmer and college student to win one of the two most prestigious annual Future Farmers of America (FFA) awards: The State Star Agribusinessman of 1999.
Lory Beth is the first woman in the state to win the award.
From her dorm room at the University of Kentucky where she is enrolled in the College of Agriculture, the freshman scholarship student shared her philosophy of succeeding by leading and the importance of family-both of which she says helped her earn the top recognition by the
“If you don’t have that striving force, it’s going to be hard for you to make your goal, to take you wherever you want to go. Nothing’s easy. You can’t just sit at home in your room and watch TV. That’s not going to take you anywhere in life. You have to get out there and work hard and do it for yourself.”
A cluster of photos on the shelf over her patchwork quilt-covered bed makes the point that family ranks as a top priority. Lory Beth counts her parents and brother as the guiding influences in her life, the role models for hard work, ambition, and determination to succeed.
“I’m a very family-oriented person,” she says. “My parents have gotten me where I am today. They made me strong. They showed me all the opportunities that can lie ahead for me.”
Those parents, Ted and Kaye Holbrook, have strong backgrounds in agriculture themselves, as graduates of UK’s College of Agriculture. Lory Beth’s father is an agriculture education teacher; her mom is the home economics agent for the Wolfe County Agriculture Extension Service.
“My parents showed me the endless possibilities that I could have in the field of agriculture, doing anything I set my mind to.”
Lory Beth credits her parents with instilling in her the driving force and desire to win that earned her not only the designation of State Star
Agribusinessman but helped her garner four state titles in FFA public speaking contests and a slew of other awards. She also attributes her strong scholastic and career outlook to them.
“Just recently Mom and Dad were stressing to me that, while I’m at UK, I need to get as many contacts as I can. When you get out there looking for a job, you’re really going to need them. Some parents don’t even tell their kids things like that. My mom and dad look out for me.”
Lory Beth’s brother, Todd, an animal science pre-med major, is another source of inspiration.
“He won’t take no less but the best,” Lory Beth quips with a soft ripple of laughter. “He’s a very ambitious person and he works hard for everything that he gets. He doesn’t want anything given to him.”
Lory Beth’s fierce determination and enterprising spirit is softened by the personal trappings in her room: posters of a majestic wolf, a cat bemoaning a bad hair day, and country music star George Straight; a sign that announces one of her favorite sports (“fishin’ “); a cuddly Care Bear nestled on her pillow.
What you don’t see are her trophies, testimonials, ribbons, and citations. The hard-driving honor student and former cheerleader has amassed a list of awards and accomplishments that would rival those of people more than twice her age. For the Future Farmers of America, she was the 1998-1999 regional president, 1997-1998 chapter president, 1998 state winner/burley tobacco essay, girls division winner/ chapter tractor driving contest in 1996 and 1997, 1996 National FFA Convention flag bearer for Kentucky, and public relations committee chairperson in 1996 and 1997.
In high school, she was class secretary from her freshman through senior years, an academic honor student for three years, and a member of the academic team for one year.
She also took a leadership role in her community, participating in 4-H for nine years and winning the 1997 egg demonstration, first place in the regional auctioneer contest in 1996, and outstanding 4-H youth leader. She is a Wolfe County Junior Miss, a grand champion in the Kentucky Egg Council Cook-Off, and an honorary page for the Commonwealth of Kentucky State Senate.
For the FFA award competition, candidates are required to complete a rigorous supervised agricultural experience program in either production agriculture or agribusiness. The entrepreneurial spirit of an agribusiness program appealed to Lory Beth’s natural drive and inherent creativity. With either program, candidates must keep strict records of hours worked, money earned, and skills or proficiencies learned.
For her supervised project, Lory Beth chose business management, working at the family business, Holbrook Implement Company, a firm in which she owns a 25 percent interest.
“I worked at the parts counter. I stocked and ordered parts.” She performed most tasks on computer, including processing orders and warranties and ordering parts for farm machinery and equipment. She was also responsible for customer billing.
During the course of her program, Lory Beth fulfilled a number of technical and personal goals as outlined in her program: home landscaping, use of insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides, taking soil samples, fence design and construction, turf management and conservation, and operation and maintenance of a small-animal kennel.
“I love working on the farm, it’s just that with the business, you get to talk to and meet people and see new faces all the time. You get lots of contacts.”
As much as the family values hard work, they also place a premium on academics. In addition to traditional high school studies, Lory Beth attended the UK landscaping program, completed a self-study course in computer printing skills, completed the UK Extension Home-Based Business workshops, and attended extension service programs on farm management.
“Academics come first,” says Lory Beth, who plans to attend law school for studies in agriculture or environmental law after graduating from UK.
“I love agriculture and I love to talk,” she laughs. “I thought with agriculture and communications you can’t go wrong because you basically get an overview of everything in the ag department. If I don’t like law school I can always fall back on my communications degree.”
With family and friends all connected to farming in the small town in which she grew up, Lory Beth shows a sensitivity to global agricultural issues. She worries about the decreasing farmland-noting that just 2 percent of Americans are farmers-and about the world’s future food source.
“Farmers and agriculture are what keeps the world ticking. You cannot live without either of them. So many people take the value of agriculture and the American farmer for granted. People don’t realize how important they are to our society.”
As the first woman to win the FFA State Star Agribusinessman award, Lory Beth says she hopes her success will encourage more female FFA members to work harder toward their goals.
“Nothing’s easy. You have to make yourself do it. You have to get involved and expose yourself to all the opportunities that you can. I’m living proof that you can do anything you want. You just have to have the fire and the desire.”
Lory Beth’s Bio
First woman to win the Kentucky FFA State Star Agribusinessman award
Freshman at UK
Hometown: Pine Ridge, just outside Campton.
College Goals: Graduate from University of Kentucky with a degree in agriculture communications and public relations and continue on to law school.
Career Plans: Work in public relations in an agribusiness firm.
Professional Associations: Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, American Quarter Horse Association, American Simmental Association, Mid-America Equipment Dealers Association, and USA Runners Club.
Pets: A 20-pound cat named Patience and a blue-eyed bird dog named Hannah.
Hobbies & Interests: Training cattle dogs, fishing, reading, riding four-wheelers, listening to country music, exploring the Internet, driving around on her family’s farm, watching sunsets.
Her “Shining Light”: Grandmother (Granny Bell) who will “always tell you what she thinks no matter what.”
The Future Farmers are Coming
The largest annual student convention comes to Kentucky this month when nearly 50,000 people will come to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville, for the National Future Farmers of America Convention on October 27-30.
The convention has been held in Kansas City every year since the founding of the FFA in 1928. But the organization outgrew Kansas City’s convention and hotel space. The FFA conducted a thorough search for a solution, and in 1996 the board voted to sign a seven-year contract with Louisville, holding its conventions there from 1999 through 2005.
The FFA estimates the convention will bring $20 million a year to the local economy, using 40,000 hotel room nights and generating $1.2 million in taxes. It will also generate a lot of media attention, set up the area as a focus for agricultural leaders and companies, and bring a lot of great young people to town.
Curt Lucas, executive secretary of Future Farmers of America, says that FFA was founded nationally in 1928 and in 1930 in Kentucky. There are about 13,000 FFA members in Kentucky and 450,000 nationally. FFA is tied directly to the state’s agriculture education program under the aegis of the Kentucky Department of Education.
Any member with two consecutive years or more in FFA can apply for what is called a state degree. To compete for the Star Farmer or Agribusinessman award, students plan and carry out an experience program where they must earn at least $1,000 and work at least 350 hours. Lucas says about 350 to 400 degrees are awarded statewide each year. A regional star farmer or agribusinessman is chosen from each of the 11 regions in the two categories. They then compete for the state title. This year marks the first time that the Star winners in both categories were women. (Anna Fisher from Allen County was Star Farmer.)
If you’re interested in joining, or just want to find out more about FFA, you can call the Kentucky office of the FFA in Frankfort at (502) 564-3472, or use a computer and modem to visit the organization’s website at