By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- Of more than 4,000 members, Idaho FFA honored three as FFA Star award winners during the 2013 FFA State Leadership Conference at the College of Southern Idaho.
Joe Mills of Weiser was named Star Farmer, Megan Jarvis of Buhl was named Star in Agricultural Placement and Preston Searle of Shelly was named Star in Agribusiness. No candidates competed for Star in Agriscience this year.
Stars compete with chapter finalists from Idaho's eight FFA chapters to be top in the state.
"It's quite an honor," said Kody Howells, Shelly FFA adviser.
The Star awards honor the cream of the crop. It means they're No. 1 in the state and, they're all hard workers, he said.
Stars participate in a supervised agricultural experience. It's a hands-on work experience and a career opportunity to see if they like the agribusiness they're working in, he said.
Mills, a senior at Weiser High School, raised Angus replacement heifers for three years, buying and selling every year, on his father's small row-crop operation. He also bought Salers cows one year, fed them through winter, introduced a bull in the spring and sold the pregnant cows in the fall.
He also rented 10 acres from his father to raise hay to sell and to feed the animals when they weren't on pasture.
And he made more money than he would have made working a full-time job, he said.
"I learned a lot about time management, money management, people skills and business management," he said.
He also learned a lot about fencing and having a good work ethic, he said.
He plans to attend Treasure Valley Community College to study crop production and continue competing in rodeo.
Jarvis is a senior at Buhl High School, who moved to Idaho from Denver because she wanted to participate in FFA like her cousins in New Plymouth. She moved in with those relatives to start high school, and in her sophomore year she convinced her parents to move to Idaho, and they settled in Buhl.
Before moving to Buhl, she knew nothing about fish but began working for Fish Breeders of Idaho, and aquaculture became her FFA project.
The company raises tilapia, trout, sturgeon, ornamentals and alligators and produces caviar from sturgeon eggs.
"As soon as I got there, I fell in love with it," she said.
Jarvis has been working at the company for nearly three years, full-time in the summer and part-time during the school year. She plans to get a degree in aquaculture, starting at the College of Southern Idaho and continuing at the University of Idaho and will be getting financial help from Fish Breeders of Idaho, she said.
She sees growth ahead for the industry, and there's money in it. So she can do what she loves and make a decent living, she said.
Searle is a senior at Shelly High School and has raised garden produce and sold it and fruit in a roadside stand for three years, this last year with partner and fellow FFA member Zane Wilmot.
About 70 percent of his FFA project's sales comes from the partners' gardens, which doubled in size last year. They sell Mondays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. July through October, with their mothers helping out during the school year. Searle also pre-sells produce, delivering large quantities to buyers' houses.
Expenses ran about $2,000, with income at about $5,000, he said.
The experience has taught him to keep records, grow plants, balance his schedule and manage time. But it's also taught him social skills and a lot about his own character, he said.
He plans to pursue a degree in business management from Brigham Young University-Idaho or Utah State University and wants to be a farm manager and work on or start his own farm or ranch, he said.