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.