Hours of preparation and care go into making the annual Ham, Bacon and Egg Show and Sale a success. Agricultural Education Teacher Leon Ammons and his students definitely have their work cut out for them, but they are equal to the task. Anyone who has tasted (or smelled) the fruits of their labor would agree.
Every year, students participating in the FFA program raise animals in the hope of harvesting a grand champion ham or bacon to be sold in the Spring. In mid-November, the animals are slaughtered and prepared. The students cut the meat, with the aid of their advisor. A few weeks before the annual sale, the hams and bacons are cured and later smoked. According to Ammons, it take hundreds of hours to prepare for the sale, but he doesn't shoulder the burden completely. "The students pitch in throughout the process," he commented.
Ammons said the entries into the show/sale will be judged, and only the meats rated prime and choice will be sold. All hams and bacons are processed in state-of-the-art facilities that meet commercial kitchen standards set forth by the state. For example, processing facilities must have sanitary walls that are impervious to liquids and can easily be cleaned, floors must be sloped to drains and work areas must be able to stand up to the salts used in cure mixtures. Hand-washing sinks must be foot, knee or elbow-operated and students must have a dress-in/dress-out room where they can change into clean clothes when entering the facilities.
The facilities must also keep daily temperature logs which ensure that hams and bacons are being cured at the correct temperature. Curing at either too high or too low a temperature affects the quality of the cure. Hams are also tested for proper salt content and shrinkage prior to auction. Removing the proper amount of moisture from hams is another critical component to achieving an optimum cure.
"These young farmers put a tremendous amount of work into their FFA projects and they learn more than just how to process and cure meat," said Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass. "They learn responsibility while caring for their animals over the course of the year, they learn business skills, and they have an opportunity to walk away with some money they can apply to their college costs or next year's project, thanks to the generosity of the numerous bidders that attend the auction each year. Without the support of the individuals and businesses that show up to bid each year, there would be no auction."
Last year the sale grossed more than $44,000, setting another record for the year for students. Proceeds from the sale are used to continue their Supervised Agricultural Experience Program or to further their education beyond high school.
This Thursday, more 70 hams, 70 bacons, 10 dozen eggs and 10 loaves of bread will go on the auction block for local business owners and supporters of the program to purchase. A pre-sale buyer's reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. The auction will begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Tyler Consolidated High School.
The State FFA Ham, Bacon and Egg Show and Sale will be held in Building 7 of the State Capitol Complex on March 12 at 6 p.m.