New Professor of Practice for Youth Livestock Programs started June 2023
Sarah-Jane French is someone who believes everything happens for a reason.
A new faculty member in the Department of Animal Science within the Auburn University College of Agriculture, she brought that phrase with her through a lifetime of livestock judging and allowed it to inspire the decision to change her career path through one simple connection that led her to Auburn.
As the newly appointed Professor of Practice for Youth Livestock Programs, French works with everyone across the board from middle and high school students, students in Auburn’s College of Agriculture, as well as state programs all over.
“I don’t think there’s another position quite like mine,” she said.
She’s involved heavily in outreach and helps at contests such as skillathons and judging competitions and works on “enhancing those education environments, specifically in the industry.”
One way she does that is by helping guide students enrolled in the Beef U program here at Auburn. “It’s really rewarding to get to help provide as many opportunities as possible for students to get involved with agriculture,” she said.
Another way she does this is as the permanent advisor for the Block and Bridle Club, which is something she never saw herself doing. But she was taught, “You need to give service back no matter what, and helping these students feels full circle because that’s what people did for me.”
Another part of her position is helping put together subject and content material for teams to practice with, plan and host training days, and compile resources for the national skillathon. With a personality that leans more toward outreach, she’s hit the ground running in the couple of months she’s been in Auburn.
“Sarah-Jane has brought a level of enthusiasm for youth programming to the department that reaches across the entire state,” said Dr. Wayne Greene, department head of Animal Sciences. “Her expertise in animal science programs is opening the door for many youth to increase their knowledge in animal production while introducing them to our programs in the Department of Animal Sciences.”
French’s experience with livestock judging started in 2010, when she and her father started a show goat business.
She got involved in livestock judging, which she credits to cultivating her roots in the industry. As a high school student, she was on the 4-H National Championship Livestock Judging Team, where she was recognized as an All-American. She continued judging when she made it to Butler Community College in Kansas.
After two years there, she kept the competitiveness going when she transferred to Texas Tech University, where she pursued her bachelor’s degree in animal science with a concentration in business. While at Texas Tech, she was part of the Junior College National Championship Team and received various Top-10 recognitions.
From there, she had choices. “I always thought I was going to be a scientist, but my last semester of grad school, I realized this is probably not what I wanted to do,” she said.
After earning her master’s in reproductive physiology from Tarleton State University, she received a text from Jonah Biench, her former assistant livestock judging coach and the former Auburn University livestock judging coach, about the listing for a new head of youth livestock programs.
“It was really through connections or else I probably wouldn’t have known about this job,” she said. “I’m such a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason because of everything that has fallen into place.”