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Lake Asbury’s Cooper Hickey not afraid to get hands dirty at Fair

Don Coble
Posted 4/4/24

LAKE ASBURY – Put an obstacle course in front of Cooper Hickey, hand the seventh-grader from Lake Asbury Junior High a set of keys to a tractor and ask him to navigate through it, and he won’t …

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Lake Asbury’s Cooper Hickey not afraid to get hands dirty at Fair


Posted

LAKE ASBURY – Put an obstacle course in front of Cooper Hickey, hand the seventh-grader from Lake Asbury Junior High a set of keys to a tractor and ask him to navigate through it, and he won’t flinch.

He’s never more at home when he’s in the middle of a barnyard or a field, no matter the challenge.

And while he’s stepping a little out of his comfort zone in June to compete in the FFA Middle School Extemporaneous Public Speaking Contest and the Florida State Convention and Leadership Conference, he knows he can rely on his passion for forestry, cattle operations and farming to make a good impression on the judges.

“It will be a random subject, something we draw from a hat,” Cooper said. “After that, we have 10 minutes to write a three-to-five-minute speech. Sometimes, you have to wing it as you go.”

Cooper has a binder with a lot of USDA facts and plenty of Florida Farm Bureau cattlemen magazines and records. But more than anything else, he has experience working in the woods, fields and barns. He has enough firsthand information, he knows he can give the judges everything they want to know.

Cooper has been a fixture at the Clay County Agriculture Fair since he was 8 when he was showing market swine. He’s worked in the Padgett House in the Early Florida Village, the Unlimited Opportunities Goat Show for children with special needs and Ag Town. Last year, he won first place in the Tractor Driving Competition at the Fair. He was the first Grand Champion Intermediate Ag Mechanics Project for the fire pit he welded at the Florida State Fair in Tampa and the first Grand Champion Intermediate Ag Mechanics for Showmanship.

This year, he was selected by the Fair’s Board of Directors as one of five Volunteers of the Year.

At Lake Asbury, he’s a member of the AgVentures 4-H Club and the Vice President of the FFA Chapter.

“I’m fourth generation,” Cooper said. “My family’s always been around cattle, forestry, swine. As I got older, I got to see things from a different perspective. It’s very important for many people in this county that agriculture is the theme for this Fair.”

Cooper said no matter how fast Clay County grows, he said it’s up to his generation – and those that follow – to make sure the county never gets lost in the five o’clock rush. It needs to take time to till the land and plant beans, smell the fresh-cut hay, move cattle to another field and even wince when it’s downwind of the pig pen.

“What makes Clay County special is that we have all our original stuff (at Early Florida Village),” he said. “It’s cool to show people our heritage, especially since Clay County is growing so fast – one of the fastest-growing counties in Florida. Agribusiness is a way of life for a lot of us here.”