Ag education major learns at
nature's open book
By Tamra Watson
May 7, 2008 | Twenty-Five Assisted Labors in Below
Freezing Temperatures, Only Two Deaths reads at
the top of Ty Smith's resume.
On Logan winter nights when the temperature read 12
degrees, Smith paced six sheep pens, each full of 40
ewes heavy with lambs. Any signs of heavy breathing,
strain, or strong "baaa's" sounded the alarm
for Smith to aid the mom in delivery.
Although the facilities are familiar to him now, Smith
said the first time he stayed at the sheep farm he felt
like the professor had "thrown" him out there, not really
prepared for what he had to do. On his first watch,
a ewe had a set of twins prematurely, and they both
"Death happens," Smith said. "It's
just part of the agricultural life."
However, since that first night Smith has seen a total
of more than 23 successful births, and as many as seven
lambs born in one night, he said.
Smith's hands-on experience in things like sheep-production
have earned him two job offers from Nevada school districts
as a junior in college, Sarah Nutting, Smith's girlfriend
However, the process of becoming an agriculture education
major did not only include sheep. Growing up the small
town of Wells, Nev., and attending a high school with
less than 150 students, Smith had many opportunities
to play sports. As a freshman, he "hap-hazardly"
started as the varsity catcher when an upperclassman
broke his arm.
"When they told me to put the gear one, and take those
pitches from all those seniors, it was pretty intimidating,"
Smith said. "That day I became part of the team that
won three state championships, and one-runner up state
However, Smith said the days of baseball we're not
all glorious. During his freshman year, Smith suffered
three concussions in two weeks.
"I played hard, sometimes too hard," he said. "I was
pretty accident prone."
One particular day, he was playing in the outfield
to "keep safe." When his coach hit a deep fly ball,
Smith bolted back to catch it. Upon missing the ball,
Smith slammed into a poll of the outside fence at full
speed and fractured his skull. It almost took his life
he said, but fortunately the doctor lived just down
the street and was able to exam Smith on the field.
After finding motion in one of his eyes, Smith's parents
rushed him to the hospital, he said.
"They had to pull over three times to wake me up,
so I wouldn't fall asleep and not wake back up," Smith
said. "I guess that's the closest near death I've been."
Yet, to him injury was just another part of life. When
he was not playing his favorite sport of baseball, Smith
was playing quarter back and linebacker on the football
field. His attitude as a player was to "run over someone
and knock off their head, then run around them." It
was this attitude that gave Smith two broken vertebrae's
in his back, a broken arm, hand, and blown out knee
during his high school football career, he said.
"It was a tough road, yet through those trial and
tribulations it helped me to be better, and to be more
of a coach then a player. I was always there to help
the younger kids to play and to throw in my advice,"
His love for teaching also grew during the summers
when he worked as a ranch hand. Cottonwood Ranch is
owned by his uncle, Agie Smith, and focuses mainly on
beef production. It's unique because it gives "city
slicker" the chance to live the western lifestyle.
"We get some idiots every time," Smith said, "when
we herd cattle they come running out just a hootin'
and a hollerin' and run straight down the middle of
the herd, splitting it in two directions."
To make matters worse, Smith said their apparel makes
them look even more ridiculous. "They come out with
all these fancy shirts dotted with sequence and Conchos.
One couple even came out for a weekend each wearing
a pair of $4000 custom-made boots," he said.
The ranch itself helps these people transform from
slicker to cowboy with a little of Smith's help. By
the end of their experience the fancy apparel and make-up
seem to fade away and "I got to see who they really
were, instead of just what their money showed," Smith
In a similar manner, Smith said the National FFA organization
helped him transform into his true self just like the
people on the ranch. Entering high school, his skills
were limited to beef cattle production and horses, however
with the aid of the National FFA organization, he acquired
a set of diverse skills, he said.
The theme of his high school career matched the National
FFA motto that reads, "Learning to Do, Doing to Learn,
Earning to Live, Living to Serve."
Smith followed this phrase by competing is nine different
career development events ranging from meats evaluation
to parliamentary procedures. These competitions helped
students like Smith apply the knowledge they learned
in the classroom to real agriculture experiences, according
to the National FFA Association.
Smith trained so well that he and his three-member
team won at the state level and traveled to Louisville,
Ky., to compete for the nation title in meats evaluation.
His team received eighth place.
"The FFA gave me opportunities that I didn't get to
do any other high school course," Smith said. He had
the chance to travel, judge, learn by hands-on experience,
and meet various people at leadership conferences and
Throughout his experience he became close to his agriculture
teacher, Dan Noorda, he said. Between paint-ballin'
with the guys and the weekends and coaching the students
in CDEs, Smith said he recognized Noorda more of a friend
then a teacher.
"He's my inspiration, the goofy cat, and yet he's
the smartest person I've ever met," Smith said. "So
I guess you can say with is influence, by agriculture
background, and having a great experience in the FFA,
I just put two and two together and decided to become
an ag teacher."
Smith will continue to work towards that goal as he
finishes his bachelor degree in May of 2009. With his
hands-on experience in agriculture life, and the diligence
he learned while playing high school sports, Smith said
he hopes he's prepared to become like those who mentored
him throughout the years.