Ford raffle will benefit NILE youth ag programs, scholarships | TSLN.com

Ford raffle will benefit NILE youth ag programs, scholarships

Montana Ford Stores have given the NILE a 2012 Ford F350 Crew Cab truck to raffle off. NILE members may purchase tickets for $35. Buying or selling a new membership has the incentive of receiving additional tickets for free. The drawing will be Friday, April 15 in the hospitality room during PBR. Proceeds benefit NILE youth programs.

Anyone can take a look at the price of cattle, feed, land understand that the cost to raise livestock is high. Young farmers and ranchers struggle with getting started because of the hefty price tag on operating. The NILE Merit Heifer Program is an effort to give young agriculturalists encouragement to "come back to the family farm" after college. Heifers are charitably donated to approximately 20 kids in late fall, those selected kids then care for and raise the heifers to be shown at the following year's NILE. They are required to submit monthly reports about the care of their heifers. At the conclusion of NILE Merit Heifer show final ownership is transferred to the kids. The heifers can then be taken home and bred to start a herd of their own. To further encourage this next generation of cattle producers, the progeny pen show at the NILE invites past Merit Heifer recipients to show their original Merit Heifer with her offspring. This program is one way the NILE is investing in the future of agriculture by helping young adults raise cattle.

The Merit Heifer Program is one of the many NILE youth programs. To sustain and grow programs like these NILE and Ford partnered up. This raffle is designed to increase the funding for programs like: 4th Grade Ag Education, NILE Merit Heifer Program, Scholarships, 4-H and FFA Contests, Internships, and the Junior Fed Livestock Show & Sale. Only 3,500 tickets have been printed which is much better odds than the recent billion dollar lottery.

Bustling little bodies take a break from the classroom setting for a field trip to the NILE each October. Elementary schools from Yellowstone County are invited to bring their fourth graders to the barns for a look at livestock, crops, conservation procedures and honey bees. In 2015 over 1,700 kids from 33 different schools attended. The kids arrive at a scheduled time and then rotate through stations, each focusing on a different aspect of agriculture. Many of the students respond with answers like, "the grocery store" when asked, "Where does food come from?" This program is designed to deepen their understanding that the grocery store is just a middle man, food comes from plants and animals that farmers and ranchers grow and raise. The increase in population, the decrease in available arable land amd agriculture's importance needs to be communicated with the people that will affected by it. NILE's Fourth Grade Ag Education program hopes to do just that, essentially bringing the farm a little closer to the table.

As a way to offset the high cost of college, the NILE awards scholarships to deserving students who have participated in NILE events. High school seniors and current college students may apply for financial assistance. Since 1990 over $550,000 has been awarded. The annual dinner and auction, Stetsons and Stilettos, has been the primary fundraiser for scholarships since 2007. The new partnership with Ford the Foundation hopes to increase the number of scholarships awarded and the amount of each scholarship.

Buy tickets from the NILE office or at the MATE show in Billings, February 18-20. Check out the full rules and regulations at thenile.org or call (406) 256-2495

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–The NILE

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