It was a full house Friday night during the Neosho High School’s annual FFA Banquet, held at the high school cafeteria.

Along with the dinner and awards ceremony, students and their families were introduced to new ag instructor/FFA advisor Austin Steele, who is replacing Mike Aldrich, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

“I grew up on a farm in Miller (Mo.), with my parents and younger brother,” said Steele. I was pretty well involved in FFA throughout high school. I was a state officer in FFA, my freshman year of college. So my ag advisor really pushed FFA and growing up on a farm was just almost destined for me to do it. So when I went to college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I went to College of the Ozarks for one year and then transferred to Mizzou (University of Missouri-Columbia). I started off in animal science, realized I didn’t want to go four years to vet school and so I switched to ag education, really enjoyed FFA and that just kind of paved the path for ag education.”

Steele did his student teaching at another part of the state and will graduate on May 18 from Mizzou. He will officially start at NHS July 1.

“I am really excited to come back to Southwest Missouri, it was kind of one of my goals that I had in mind to get back to Southwest Missouri,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen, but it just kind of fell into place, things worked out in the right way.”

Steele said his goal wasn’t to change things.

“hey have been doing things for 31 years,” he said. “I want to come in with what they are doing. Just keep things going they have been doing well and maybe improve on a few things, but for the most part, I just want to make that transition between me and Mr. Aldrich really smooth. Obviously, I want to do well in contest teams.”

Steele said that when he was in high school, he competed against Neosho’s FFA.

“Neosho and my home high school of Miller have always been the same FFA district,” he said. “We competed against each other in contest, public speaking and things like that. I knew ‘Mr. A’ pretty well.”

Steele’s family raised beef cattle, pigs and chickens on their farm.

“In my high school, actually had a meat lab in high school, and at the time, we were the only state-inspected meats lab in the high school setting,” said Steele. “So that is where kind of my meat science started going. When I went to Mizzou, I actually worked in the meat science lab up there, we did everything from kill the animal to processing to cutting the steaks, the whole nine yards.”

Steele said he was excited to be coming to Neosho High School.

“I am excited to meet them all [students], and learn about them, grow with them as they grow out from freshman all of the way up to senior,” he said.

Aldrich was presented with a couple of awards from the high school’s FFA chapter, as well as a Missouri House of Representatives resolution from state Rep. Bill Reiboldt.