Meet Austen, an Idaho teen with a passion for politics and agriculture. Austen was voted Weiser, Idaho, Chamber of Commerce’s Student of the Year.

Austen Thomason is enjoying a bit of local celebrity. The high school senior was recently voted Weiser Chamber of Commerce Student of the Year for his dedication to the community and his business leadership.

Austen’s path to fame started at age 10, when he began raising lambs via 4-H and selling them at the Washington County Fair. “That first year was a little tough—you work with the animals so much that you get really attached,” he says of giving up his animal.

Austen’s since moved onto steers—buying calves, training them to walk on leads and, again, selling them at the fair. The job is time-consuming, requiring up to two hours a day on top of school and his many other commitments. But it’s paying off, literally, allowing Austen to put away money for college and, just as important—introducing him to agribusiness and leadership opportunities.

Austen got involved in FFA his freshman year, and is currently president of the Weiser chapter and vice-president of the Western Idaho chapter. Participating as an FFA leader gave his confidence a big boost.

“My freshman year, I was okay sitting in the back of class and taking it all in,” he remembers. But once he found FFA, Austen found his passion and was no longer content to watch from the sidelines. In his current leadership roles, he runs and/or attends several monthly meetings, helps judge the annual FFA speaking competition, and takes care of all the behind-the-scenes paperwork. “Two or three nights of the week, I devote to FFA,” Austen says.

Austen has participated in two 4-H Know Your Government conferences, which provide students a hands-on look at how the legislative process works. This piqued his interest in politics and he successfully applied to serve this past winter as a page in the Idaho House of Representatives. Aside from performing administrative duties, Austen was able to sit in on committees. “It was cool to see how it all worked,” Austen says. “The thing that shocked me, though, was how long it took to get a bill from committee to the House to the governor’s desk. I also saw that state government is a great way to get in there and try to fix what’s wrong.”

After his page experience and getting to shadow Governor Otter for a senior project this year, Austen decided one of his goals is to be governor of Idaho. His other—to study agribusiness.

“I’m motivated by a quote from George Washington that says ‘Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it … contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness,’ explains Austen. “Every part of our lives is related to agriculture—and I’d be happy to be part of something that big and make a difference.”

Austen is one of five Idaho students who will travel to DC with 4-H to attend the inauguration in January 2017. “We’ll also tour the Pentagon and national monuments, and meet the candidates. Not sure which candidates, though!”

“Get involved with a group of friends with good values, and work to help each other succeed.”