4 students, 1 trailer, $60K in prizes. These SHS seniors took the FFA season by storm.
For Peyton Vanden Berge, Kash Stone, Jakob Stockstill and Allen Moerman, the long hours and late nights were all worth it.
The four Stephenville High School seniors worked as a team to build a sliding tandem tilt deck trailer that wowed FFA judges from across the state, starting with their first big win of the season at the Erath County Junior Livestock Show where they took home the title of Grand Champion and first in Show.
The team went on to win Grand Champion at the Fort Worth and San Antonio stock shows, and were Reserve Grand Champion in San Angelo and Reserve Division Champion in Houston.
When it was all said and done, the boys each won $5,000 in scholarship money and $40,000 in prizes.
“There were a lot of long nights and sometimes there was some frustration, but it was all worth it in the end - and we grew closer because of it,” Jakob told Beneath the Surface News. “All of us do well in school and are work-minded people. We problem solve very well and always find a way around a situation.”
They all agree that it was a staunch work ethic and support from family and SHS ag teacher Jordan Smith that helped contribute to their success.
“I think our work ethic was a big part of it,” Kash said. “Even on the late nights up at the shop, running on a few hours of sleep, everyone worked nonstop.
“All of our parents tried to help and support us as much as they could, but the main person who pushed us through this project was Mr. Smith.”
5 MONTHS, 400 HOURS, 4 ORANGE JUMPSUITS
The team decided to build the trailer after Peyton’s dad, Jake Vanden Berge, said he could use one for his trucking company and offered to front the money for the project.
Taking on a project this size was no small feat, but when the decision to build the trailer was finally made, they decided on something else – to do it while wearing orange.
“The shows were a great experience, but when we first started working on the trailer, we all bought orange jumpsuits,” Jakob said. “That memory is one that will stick with me forever.”
The team began working on the project in August 2022, logging 400 hours of shop time until completing the trailer in January 2023, just hours before their first showing in Erath County.
“Depending on our schedules, lots of times we had one or two evenings we picked and worked until we got to a stopping point,” Peyton said. “My dad’s motivation kept me going.”
The boys worked on the trailer as a group, with a few putting their own unique set of skills to the test.
“I was responsible for drawing and designing the trailer,” Allen said. “I designed the parts and the trailer’s functionality.”
Peyton took on most of the welding while Kash oversaw painting and fabrication.
“We are all great friends so working together was fun,” Allen said. “We were determined and excited to get it done and see it work, which gave us that extra bit of motivation on those late nights.”
The trailer is now part of the trucking fleet at Dairy Cow Compost and is used for all sorts of things, Jake said.
And the boys?
Well, they’re still riding the high of an incredible FFA season and enjoying their last few months as students at Stephenville High School.
“It was a really fun experience,” Kash said. “We’ve all been friends for as long as I can remember, so it was fun to do one last big thing with everyone before we all move on to the next chapter.”