Capital Press | FFA Capital Press Sat, 3 Oct 2015 20:22:09 -0400 en Capital Press | FFA New FFA chapter, ag classes a hit in Idaho county Wed, 30 Sep 2015 09:25:30 -0400 John O’Connell Capital Press

IDAHO FALLS — Prior to the start of his senior year, Ty Barnard figured it was time to do something about the lack of agricultural curriculum and an FFA chapter within Bonneville County.

Barnard approached the principal of Technical Careers High School, who shared his sentiments, and together, they made an appeal to the school board and the school district’s superintendent.

It appears they were onto something.

In the school’s first semester of offering agricultural classes, several students have enrolled from nearby Bonneville and Hillcrest high schools, and there’s talk of adding a second instructor.

The new FFA chapter fielded the winning livestock judging team at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot within a few days of its formation. More recently, a team of agricultural students from the school won second place out of 45 teams in livestock judging at University of Idaho’s Ag Days in Moscow.

Barnard, raised on a small farm and ranch, plans to study agriculture in college and to make a career of ranching.

“We have a lot of farmers and ranchers getting up there in age, and there’s not a lot of their kids who want to take over, so we need to push our schools to try to get more people wanting to run farms and ranches so Idaho can still be a top producer,” Barnard said.

Prior to this year, he attended Bonneville High School and took automotive, welding and metallurgy classes at the technical school. Now, he’s a full-time Technical Careers student, as well as its student body president.

Technical Careers, in its fourth year as a standalone, accredited high school, has also added emergency medical and computer information systems curriculum this school year, said principal Craig Miller. Miller had planned to wait on availability of a facility before pursuing agricultural classes but said Barnard made him realize delaying was at current students’ expense. Miller outlined the financial numbers for the school board and superintendent and let Barnard address the need.

“I knew I needed that passion to make it work,” Miller said.

Miller hired Chris Ball, who was raised on a dairy in upstate New York, as his agricultural teacher. Ball developed curriculum with guidance from the Professional Technical Educators website, emphasizing livestock, and teaches classes in animal science, botany and introduction to agriculture, with plans to expand into equine science, agricultural mechanics and agricultural welding.

“Where this school is all technologically applied and trying to get kids ready for a career path, it was a no-brainer to bring in agriculture,” Ball said.

He estimates 80 percent of his students have an agricultural background.

Bone rancher Lane Elkington serves on an advisory council assisting Ball and has offered to speak or lend his ranch as a field trip destination.

“I was going to send my son to Rigby or Ririe so he could be part of an FFA program, and then they came up with this deal,” Elkington said. “I always wanted an FFA program because I felt the ag community was footing the bill for the high schools, and we needed that program to give back to the ag community.”

Kuna’s Liberty Ranch Dairy hosts Boise Valley District FFA event Tue, 29 Sep 2015 17:22:31 -0400 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Reporter On Sept. 16, Kuna High School hosted two Dairy Career Development Events for all Boise Valley District FFA chapters.

The Dairy Foods CDE was held in the morning at Kuna High School. Those who competed in this CDE tasted and identified different dairy products and took a test on dairy food knowledge. The Meridian FFA Dairy Foods team placed fourth, with members Kaitlyn Steppe as 6th high individual, Trinity Martin, Cayden Strim, Zach Kerby and Maddie Bennett.

Kuna also hosted the Dairy Cattle Judging CDE at Liberty Ranch LLC Wednesday afternoon. This CDE had six classes of dairy cows and heifers that were evaluated. The contestants also answered questions on a set of dairy cow records called DHIA, or Dairy Herd Improvement Association. As a team, Meridian FFA placed 1st overall in this CDE with the following team members: Alexa Phillips as 1st high individual, Ashlyn Schiers as 3rd high individual, Zach Phillips and Maddie Bennett.

The Meridian FFA members who competed would like to thank John Wind and the Liberty Ranch Dairy for hosting this year’s BVD Dairy Cattle Judging CDE and providing the cows to evaluate. They would also like to thank the BVD advisors who helped set up, run and host these CDEs.

National FFA membership increases by 3 percent Mon, 28 Sep 2015 14:54:56 -0400 MITCH LIES The National FFA Foundation announced Sept. 28 that national FFA membership has reached record numbers and is up more than 20 percent from 2009-10.

The foundation announced membership in the national FFA organization now stands at 629,367, a 3 percent increase from last year.

The number of chapters also increased, from 7,665 in 2014 to 7,757 in 2015, according to the announcement.

“FFA, through agricultural education, is preparing our youth to ensure the security of our country’s food, fiber and natural resources for years to come,” said National FFA Organization CEO Dwight Armstrong in a prepared statement. “Through real-world experiences, the nation’s agricultural educators are helping students develop the technical knowledge, skills and problem-solving capabilities to be the industry’s leaders of tomorrow.

“FFA continues to grow leaders, build communities and strengthen agriculture,” he said.

The top five states by membership are Texas, California, Georgia, Oklahoma and Missouri, according to the announcement.

Oregon membership numbers also are up, said Kevin White, executive director of the Oregon FFA Foundation, increasing from 5,323 in 2013-14 to 5,588 in 2014-15. Going back five years, the state membership has increased more than 17 percent, White said.

Asked why he believed membership has grown in recent years, White echoed much of what Armstrong said.

“In addition to the trade skills we are teaching, with ag mechanics, animal science and some of the science and technology classes that our teachers are providing these students, we are teaching the life skills that are necessary to be able to cope and compete in that career world,” White said.

“The ability to set a goal and achieve it. The ability to speak your opinions in a way that is going to help establish a conversation; to defend your argument; to be able to interview for a job. The ability to be able to speak coherently. The ability to handle yourself politely. These are the skills we are teaching,” White said.

“I think we are more relevant than we’ve ever been,” he said.

The national foundation announced that National FFA Alumni membership also grew, going from 57,832 members in 2014 to 62,705 members this year.

Chelan FFA places well at Adams County Fair Fri, 25 Sep 2015 13:45:30 -0400 The Chelan, Wash., FFA built on their earlier success at the fall fairs as they traveled to the Adams County Fair in Othello to compete in the Washington State FFA Horse CDE, Livestock Evaluation CDE and Dairy Evaluation CDE.

The Chelan FFA Horse Team evaluated 4 halter classes of Quarter Horse Mares, Quarter Horse Geldings, Paint Geldings, Paint Mares, Western Pleasure and English Pleasure. They then had to give a set of oral reasons defending their placing of the Quarter Horse Mare class. They then completed a saddle part identification test and as a team had 10 minutes to prepare and give a 10 minute Equine Marketing Scenario presentation. When the points had been tallied, Katie Gleasman had earned 339 points out of a possible 370, just one point behind the two judges who tied at 340, earning her a third place individual finish and a spot among the best horse judges in the state of Washington.

Josie Gallup, Emily Mudd, and Sarah Goyne rounded out the Chelan team which earned a fifth place plaque for their efforts finishing just 12 points out of first place in a contest worth over 1400 pts.

In the Dairy Evaluation CDE, Chelan members were led by Owen Oules, who earned a 242 score out of a possible 250 to place first overall, Wyatt Habich followed in fifth place with a 229. Dane Schwartz, Dianna Sanchez and Kenny Reeves rounded out the team which earned a second place banner for their efforts.

The Tractor Driving team earned a third place banner just one point behind the teams that tied for first and second. All three drivers from Chelan placed in the top ten with Ken Housely placing fourth and Michael Tutino and Jake Horlebien placing eighth and ninth respectively.

Chelan FFA members will travel to the University of Idaho in Moscow this weekend to participate in the U of I Ag Days celebration. Members will compete in the Livestock CDE which they won last year, the Dairy CDE and then tour the campus.

Meridian FFA prepares for school year at Western Idaho Fair Fri, 25 Sep 2015 09:09:44 -0400 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Chapter Reporter The Ada County Fair, more commonly known as the Western Idaho Fair, has traditionally been Meridian FFA’s main opportunity for members to show and sell their animals.

This year’s fair was held Aug. 19-28 at the Boise fairgrounds. Meridian FFA had a total of 33 members compete at the fair this year. Despite the new school year overlapping with the 4-H/FFA show schedule, our chapter still had showmen for every large animal species. The following members represented Meridian FFA at this event:

Sheep Showmen from the Meridian FFA included William Stokes, Mollie Hiscox, Cole Manda, Kaitlin Muniz, Katelyn Putzier, Killian Rasmussen, Dino Vinci, Trinity Martin, Kyle Schmit, Hannah Smith, Dani Turnbough, Hayden Turnbough, Vivienne Blom, Caydan Stirm, Ashton Shaul, Alyssa Hernandez, Tyson Hernandez, Zach Putzier and Alexa Phillips.

Dairy Cattle Showmen from Meridian FFA were Madison Boyd, William Stokes, Ryan Bennett, Maddie Bennett, Hannah Smith, Kristen Nesbitt, Zach Phillips, Brandon Walton and Steffanie Eilers. Zach Putizer showed his beef steer through Meridian FFA this year.

Maddie Bennett, Ryan Bennett, and Jared Murphy were the market goat showmen of the chapter, and Maddie also showed dairy goat.

Pygmy goat showmen were Kiara Wetzel and Caydan Stirm, and swine showmen consisted of Zach Kerby, Jonathon Murphy, Ashlee Bowen, Zack Davis, Ryan Bennett, Maddie Bennett and Cara Gonzales.

Horse showmen from the Meridian FFA were Loretta Lacy, Alexa Phillips, Lauren Barker, Mallie Miller, Ashlyn Schiers and Danielle Vanderford.

Alexa Phillips represented the Meridian FFA by showing her alpacas.

Meridian FFA had the following members qualify to compete in the FFA large animal round robin competition: Steffanie Eilers, Dani Turnbough, Dino Vinci, Zack Davis, Ashlee Bowen, Maddie Bennett, Jared Murphy, Ashlyn Schiers and Alexa Phillips.

Members sold their market and dairy animals at the Western Idaho Fair 4-H/FFA Dairy & Market Livestock Sales at the end of the fair. Money earned from these sales goes to these students’ future, whether that be college tuition or purchasing another future animal project. As a chapter, we’d like to genuinely thank every buyer who financially supported these members’ Supervised Agricultural Experiences.

Chelan FFA advisor loses home to wildfire Tue, 18 Aug 2015 09:48:34 -0400 Matw Weaver FFA advisor Rod Cool and his family are among the dozens of people who lost their homes to the massive wildfire that burned through the Chelan, Wash., area.

Cool lost his home and outbuildings Aug. 14. He’s not sure about the cost to replace it all, but said he has good insurance. He planned to begin the rebuilding process this week.

Cool and his family were evacuating when the fire hit.

“I drove by the driveway and the trees were on fire in the yard, that’s how close it was,” Cool said. “The fire really came fast.”

Fire surrounded the home, but wasn’t moving, Cool said.

He got some FFA pigs he was keeping for students loaded, but ran out of time and three were lost to the fire, he said. The remaining animals have been moved to other locations in the school district, he said.

Cool says that as an agriculture teacher he teaches about “defensible space” around houses to guard against wildfires.

“Sometimes, fire behavior, especially in a year like this, you almost have to double what you think is safe,” he said. “I had 100 feet of bare ground all around my house, and it still burned down.”

Several of Cool’s neighbors also lost their homes, but others were untouched.

“It’s just a weird deal, hit and miss, on how houses started on fire and which ones started first,” he said.

Cool and his family are living in town with his mother. He hopes his insurance will provide a rental place until they can get back into their home. Daughter Sammi Jo Sims said she is in the process of moving to Moscow, Idaho, for college but was storing gifts from her July wedding at her parents’ home.

“Those are all material things that can be replaced, I am just so grateful my family is safe,” Sims said.

The fires — caused by lighting — were still burning in the area, Cool said, with more firefighters coming in from the National Guard and the U.S. Army.

“Virtually all of northeastern Washington is on fire right now,” Cool said. “This fire jumped the Columbia River like it wasn’t even there.”

Cool was touched to see the agriculture community north of Chelan reach out to raise money for the FFA student who owned the pigs to recoup his costs. Last year his chapter banded together after the Carlton Complex fire — the largest wildfire in state history — to put together 58 tons of hay and 12 to 15 tons of feed for ranchers there.

“To have them turn around one year shy of their devastation, with fires going on all around them, to go together and raise money to pay some money for that young man” was remarkable, Cool said.

Cool said he appreciated the people helping others, which he said demonstrates the FFA motto: “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.”

“I told my kids, what goes around comes around,” Cool said. “If you do things to help out other people, they’ll come back and help you out.”

Meridian FFA members compete at Canyon County Fair Tue, 4 Aug 2015 17:32:45 -0400 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA student reporter This year’s Canyon County Fair was held on July 23-26. Meridian FFA had members enter 40 animals to compete in the following areas: swine, sheep, beef, dairy, meat goat and dairy goat.

Sheep competitors that represented Meridian FFA were: Breanna Ball, Chelsie Ball, Kody Burch, Elise Cambell, Kirsten Forster, Alyssa Hernandez , Tyson Hernandez, Shelby Peugh, Alexa Phillips, Zach Putzier, Killian Rassumen, Karlyn Roberts, Ashton Shaul, Hannah Smith, Caydan Stirm, Dalton Turnbough, Dani Turnbough, Hayden Turnbough and Dino Vinci.

Meridian FFA meat goat showmen were: Maddie Bennett, Ryan Bennett, Maddie Boyd, Zoie Pagel, Kaitlyn Steppe, Jared Murphy, Stephanie Eliers and Katelyn Flake.

Ashton Shaul showed her beef heifer through Meridian FFA.

Dairy cattle FFA showmen included: Maddie Boyd, Kristin Nesbitt, William Stokes, Brandon Walton and Stephanie Eilers.

Cara Gonzales, Tanner Wilder, Zack Davis and Ashlee Bowen showed swine through Meridian FFA.

Kaitlyn Steppe showed her dairy goats through Meridian FFA.

The following four showmen, Cara Gonzales, Hannah Smith, Kristin Nesbitt and Breanna Ball, competed in this year’s large animal round robin. Round robin is a competition between all of the Grand and Reserve Champions of every species. Thank you to all buyers of Meridian FFA livestock at the 4-H/FFA Market Livestock Sale of the Canyon County Fair.

Young rancher sets her sights high Tue, 14 Jul 2015 10:03:51 -0400 CRAIG REED CHRISTMAS VALLEY, Ore. — Mariam Horton has not only learned in the classroom over the past several years, but also on her family’s ranch.

She’s earned her education and degree at North Lake High School, but has managed her time well enough to also educate herself on the animal science of sheep and cattle. The 2015 North Lake graduate has expanded her livestock numbers from three Suffolk ewes when she was a fourth-grader to about 380 ewes and ewe lambs, and from two bred black Angus heifers when she was an eighth-grader to 35 registered Angus mother cows.

The 17-year-old and her father, LeeRoy Horton, are partners in the livestock operation.

Although Mariam Horton has already established quite a flock of Suffolk, Targhee and Rambouillet sheep and a herd of cows at such a young age, she has bigger dreams.

“I have big goals, definitely,” she said. “After college I hope to buy a ranch and have lots of animals, hopefully here in Oregon. I plan to get up to 500 to 1,000 Angus cows.

“And I want to be able to win one of the national shows,” she added.

Horton is off to a good start on all of her goals. In January, she attended her second National Western Stock Show in Denver and showed five heifers in the junior competition (for producers age 21 and younger). One heifer took first in its Early Summer Heifer Division (animals born during the previous months of May, June or July). She then showed the heifer in the Open Division that included entries from producers of all ages and the pair finished second in the judging.

Chad Waldron, the ag science teacher and FFA advisor at North Lake High School for the past 20 years, said he has not had a previous student own and manage as many sheep and cattle as does Horton.

“What she is doing is very unique for a student,” he said. “But she is very responsible, very motivated. She also gets a tremendous amount of support and encouragement from her parents. She does have a love for agriculture that motivates and drives her.”

LeeRoy Horton is a hay grower, and now a livestock partner, on the family’s Christmas Valley ranch.

“I’m an animal person myself,” LeeRoy Horton said. “Mariam is just kind of following right in behind me. We work real close together on everything.”

The daughter called her father her inspiration.

“He knows a lot and I try to listen to everything he has to say,” she said. “I look up to him a lot.”

LeeRoy managed and owned sheep flocks in the Willamette Valley and in Idaho in his younger years before moving to Christmas Valley in 1992 and concentrating on hay production.

Mariam Horton most enjoys the lambing and calving. And she doesn’t mind helping during the birthing process when needed. She first helped pull a lamb from a ewe at age 10 and has become the go-to person when an animal is having trouble giving birth.

The fun of showing her ewes and lambs at county and state fairs and jackpot events led Horton to want to have more opportunities to show animals. So she purchased the two Angus heifers. They had their calves, one a heifer and one a bull. She kept the heifer calf and eventually had her bred. The bull calf was sold at auction. It looked impressive, helping her establish a market and she’s had no trouble selling her bull calves since.

Horton also attended a weekend class at Oregon State University in Corvallis and learned how to artificially inseminate cows. She’s been involved in that process with her Angus cows for a few years.

At North Lake, Horton’s experiences in the FFA program helped her gain confidence in addition to knowledge in marketing and selling her animals. She’s been a two-year chapter president for North Lake FFA and a two-year district FFA secretary for Central Oregon. She considered running for a state office, but then decided not to because it would have meant time away from her animals.

She will attend Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, this fall. She plans to major in animal science and is eager to study sustainable agriculture so she can apply it in managing her own animals.

LeeRoy Horton will manage the cattle and sheep while his daughter is at school. And when she finishes her college career, she intends to return to Oregon to make ranching a full-time profession.

FFA students build hog loading ramp for Shasta fair Mon, 22 Jun 2015 14:32:03 -0400 Tim Hearden ANDERSON, Calif. — With their local fair needing a new ramp to load hogs sold at auction onto trucks, Dalton Giles and his friends in FFA came to the rescue.

Giles volunteered when supporters of the Shasta District Fair approached his club at West Valley High School near Cottonwood, Calif.

“Their older one didn’t work,” said Giles, 18, explaining that its wide surface enticed hogs to turn around and made it difficult to load them onto semis.

With some help from other FFA members, Giles spent about two months in his ag mechanics class working on the new ramp, whose materials were donated by the Friends of the Shasta District Fair.

“I think it’s cool,” he said of the project. “It’s cool for me as a way of leaving my mark here … It’s something to be proud of.”

The ramp project isn’t the first time that 4-H and FFA students have chipped in to help the fair, which has had to get creative in raising money since most state funds for local fairs were cut several years ago.

For a couple of years, Bella Vista, Calif., 4-H member Lane Simmons donated the proceeds from one of his hog projects to the fair, raising more than $10,000 in the first year in 2011.

The nonprofit Friends group has raffled preferred parking at the fair, ride packages for kids and preferred seating at the auto races in an effort to raise money.

The group proposed the ramp project to Ron Hardin, who teaches several agriculture classes at West Valley. The high school has three ag teachers and 320 kids in its FFA program, excelling in competitions for everything from welding to public speaking.

“It’s nice that they have faith in us to do this kind of product,” Hardin said of the hog ramp. “These guys do good work.”

The ramp was on display at this year’s fair, where it was used to load some 350 hogs after the June 20 auction. Nearby, other FFA students’ creations, such as tables and work benches, were sold in a silent auction during the livestock sale.

“It’s a great way for them to make a little extra money,” Hardin said. “Plus they’re doing them in class.”

Giles is wrapping up his eighth year in FFA. He’s raised and sold five lambs, a replacement heifer and two market hogs.

“It’s kind of what my family is into,” he said. “My dad did it growing up, and his sisters did it. All my cousins show. When it’s show day, all my family is here.”

Giles’ family has a small-scale hay operation. He said he’d like to continue in ag as a career.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “Ag’s kind of what I do.”

No sleeping in for teen preparing livestock for county fair Thu, 11 Jun 2015 09:18:33 -0400 MARY KECKThe Herald-Times BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Every day, rain or shine, Lizbeth Funkhouser gets up early, pulls on rubber boots, hops a fence and dodges cow droppings as she walks across a grassy field to feed her cattle and pig.

Before she starts her freshman year at Bloomington High School South, Lizbeth will spend the summer working on 4-H projects. Caring for one pig, a mother cow and calf and six other cattle isn’t a job for the faint of heart. Lizbeth sees her animals from the moment they are born, feeds them, walks them, bathes them and says goodbye at the end of their lives.

“It’s a lot of commitment,” she said. “At the end, with my steers that I’ve raised, they go to butcher. So, it’s really hard letting go of what I raised.”

This year, Lizbeth helped with the birth of a special calf named “Left Behind.” When he was born, his feet were turned under, and he couldn’t stand for a couple of weeks. Lizbeth had to help hold him up to his mother when he nursed. Even though he wasn’t perfect, Lizbeth insisted on showing him at the fair.

Lizbeth’s been working with animals to prepare them for 4-H since the third grade.

“I like it because it gives me responsibility. In order to have these (animals), I have to be able to take care of them, because they live and breathe just like us,” she said.

From Lizbeth’s point of view, cows and pigs are good company. Her pig has a taste for marshmallows, but she also likes to nibble at feet. Whether she’s muddy or not, she’ll come snorting over to rub up against your leg. The pig doesn’t have a name yet, because Lizbeth’s waiting to see what she’ll respond to.

“My pig has a lot of personality. They’re really lovable creatures,” she said.

There’s a lot that goes into preparing her animals for the Monroe County Fair at the end of July. When Lizbeth feeds her heifers, she’s got to make sure they don’t get too fat. She has to practice with her steers to be certain when she walks them before the judges, they’ll behave themselves.

“We work really hard all summer to make these projects happen. It’s not just the fair that we take care of them. We have to work with them all year,” Lizbeth said.

Lizbeth has also turned other hobbies into 4-H projects. She’s a photographer, and she cooks, too. Some years she’ll win and others she won’t, but winning isn’t what the fair and 4-H projects are all about.

“Everyone wants to win, but what I like about it is that I take pride in knowing that all my cows I show at the fair come from my farm and the cattle that I’ve raised,” she said.

Farm operator to be featured each day of Indiana State Fair Tue, 9 Jun 2015 09:39:31 -0400 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The operators of 17 farms from around the state have been picked to represent the “Year of the Farmer” during this summer’s Indiana State Fair.

State Fair officials say those picked are individuals or families from various elements of Indiana agriculture, including grain, animal, fruit and tree producers along with an urban farmer from Indianapolis.

One farmer was picked for each day of the 17-day fair that’s scheduled for Aug. 7-23. They will participate in various events and exhibits throughout the fair.

Vice President Rajan Gajaria of fair sponsor Dow AgroSciences says the farmers selected will give fairgoers a chance to learn more about those whom he calls “the heroes of modern agriculture.”

Record turnout for Idaho FFA career development events Fri, 5 Jun 2015 12:28:00 -0400 Matw Weaver MOSCOW, Idaho — More than 960 Idaho FFA members are competing in state career development events this week.

That’s up from 705 in 2014 and a record turnout, according to the University of Idaho, which is hosting the competition June 2-5 on its Moscow campus.

“There’s a really cool energy going through the state and excitement for FFA and agricultural education,” said Casey Zufelt, Idaho FFA executive director.

She credits the state legislature’s agricultural education initiative, passed in 2014, for getting students involved. Zufelt cited record registration at a state leadership conference in April and a leadership conference in January.

UI is good for accommodating the higher numbers, but finding other locations can be tricky, Zufelt said.

“It’s a lot of growth,” she said. “Idaho in a lot of ways is not big hotel-space wise, so it’s a good problem to have, trying to find venues for things like (the conferences). Timing of events, trying to make the logistics work.”

During career development events like parliamentary procedure, meats technology, agricultural mechanics or livestock judging, students put things they’ve learned in the classroom to real-life use, said Henry Wilson, Idaho FFA state sentinel, of Kuna, Idaho.

The events help members decide what they might want to pursue as a career, said Jentrie Stastny, Idaho FFA state reporter, of Kimberly, Idaho.

“If you have interest in any of these topics, you can just try it out,” Stastny said.

Macy Hagler, a graduating senior at Kuna High School, participated in livestock judging, evaluating animals in different classes for specific operations or basic eye appeal and quality, selecting the animals that will make or yield the best product. She’s practiced several times a week and attends district contests and invitationals, and received second-place at state last year.

Hagler hopes to become a plant biotechnologist. Livestock judging helps because the products she makes would go directly to a consumer or feed, she said.

“If you have really good potential in your crops, you have really good potential to have better animals, and then you can have better product for consumers in the end,” she said.

Travis Barnard, a freshman from Oakley, Idaho, is interested in pursuing any kind of career that has to do with livestock, possibly veterinary school.

“I just like being around animals and being outside,” he said. The career development events teach him more about leadership, he said.

Barnard said many local farmers and ranchers have donated animals for his team to judge to practice for state.

“We put quite a bit of time into it,” he said.

Many of the students put in a lot of hard work preparing for the events, Stastny said, something the FFA takes pride in.

“Our students do have a hard work ethic,” she said. “We were trying to mingle with people, but everyone was busy studying.”

Zufelt asked for the industry to keep supporting FFA students.

“We want to keep pushing them onward and upward,” she said.


Wenatchee H.S. graduate elected Washington FFA president Wed, 20 May 2015 13:37:02 -0400 PULLMAN, Wash. — At the 85th Washington State FFA Convention last week, 2014 Wenatchee High School Graduate Julia Spangler was elected to serve as the President of the Washington State FFA Association for the 2015-16 school year.

Spangler has been a member of the Wenatchee FFA Chapter since her Freshman year at WHS and served as President of the chapter during her senior year. She continued to stay involved in FFA through her first year of college at Washington State University, returning to the convention to run for office. Approximately 3,000 FFA members from throughout the state were present to hear Julia’s name announced as the new State President for the upcoming school year.

Julia will join five other students from Tonasket, Pullman, La Crosse, Meridian (Bellingham), and Palouse in representing Washington State at the local, state, and national levels.

The State officer group will travel throughout the State of Washington visiting local FFA chapters and providing leadership and employability training to younger FFA members. To prepare her for this task, Julia will attend a State officer training in Washington D.C. this summer with other state officers from throughout the country. She is extremely excited for the opportunity to serve the FFA and is looking forward to an exciting and challenging year as the FFA State President.

The National FFA Organization is the largest youth organization in the world with over 500,000 students with over 7,200 chapters in all 50 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The Washington State FFA Association is comprised of approximately 7500 members in 160 active chapters. FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Visit for more information. For further information about the Washington State FFA Association, visit

Wenatchee FFA chapter shines at state convention Wed, 20 May 2015 13:29:11 -0400 PULLMAN, Wash. — Members of the Wenatchee FFA Chapter traveled to the Washington State University campus to participate in the 85th annual Washington State FFA Convention. Sixteen WHS students competed in various career development events, leadership workshops, and community service activities at the three-day event.

Chapter highlights of the convention included:

• Wenatchee Graduate Julia Spangler was elected to serve as the Washington State FFA President for the upcoming 2015-16 school year. Julia will travel throughout the State and abroad representing the Washington FFA Association over the course of next year!

• The Wenatchee Chapter was awarded 1st place in Washington State for having the highest monetary donation to the March of Dimes Foundation.

• In the National Chapter competition, FFA chapters are evaluated for their overall participation in chapter development, student development, and community development. Out of approximately 160 FFA chapters in Washington State, Wenatchee received a Silver Rating.

• Wenatchee placed 4th overall in the Chapter Scrapbook competition. The scrapbook highlights the FFA Chapter Program of Activities (POA) through a creative pictorial display.

All members in attendance participated in career development events (CDEs) focused on various agricultural topics:

• The Food Science & Technology team, consisting of Hanna Kiehn, Alura Hottinger, Mandy Hedding, Mya Chornyak and Hayley Lopemen placed 6th out of 43 teams. Individually, Kiehn and Hottinger placed 6th and 7th respectively among the 200-plus students involved in the competition.

• The Best Informed 1st Year Member CDE team placed 7th out of over 70 teams from throughout the state. The team consisted of Emily Carroll, Kailie Wulf, Marjie Sabo, and Vanessa Figueroa.

• Wenatchee’s Parliamentary Procedure team, made up of Marjie Jordan-Sabo, Vanessa Figueroa, Kailie Wulf, Emily Carroll, Eric Briley, and Roy Matthynsenns competed at the substate level, narrowly missing the ticket to move to the finals.

• The Wenatchee FFA Agriculture Sales team, which consisted of Alura Hottinger, Abby Davison, Avery Adams, and Bethany Symonds placed 8th overall. Alura Hottinger individually placed 6th of all students competing in the finals.

• Four members from the Wenatchee FFA competed in the Veterinary Science CDE. They are Jerissa Fisch, Brooke Gladsjo, Grace Vejvoda and Daniel Long.

• In the Farm Business Management CDE, the Wenatchee FFA placed 14th. Team members included Paige Fowler, Travis Mahon, Eric Briley, and Roy Matthynssus.

• The Dairy Foods Evaluation team Alura Hottinger, Jerissa Fisch, Eric Briley and Savana Graham competed well but unfortunately did not place in the top 10 ten.

• WHS Senior Bethany Symonds competed in the Job Interview CDE, doing well at the Sub-State level.

The Wenatchee FFA Forestry and Tractor Driving teams were also recognized at the convention for their participation in state competitions earlier in the school year. The Forestry team placed 3rd overall in state with Cody Schuyleman and Braihdin Dillard individually placing 3rd and 10th respectively. The Tractor Team, which competed last fall in Moses Lake, was recognized for placing 10th in the state competition. Austin Herrick individually tied for 1st overall in the competition.

The National FFA Organization is the largest youth organization in the world with over 500,000 students with over 7,200 chapters in all 50 states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The Washington State FFA Association is comprised of approximately 7,500 members in 160 active chapters. FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Visit for more information.

FFA gives Washington officers a sense of place Mon, 18 May 2015 10:00:56 -0400 Matw Weaver PULLMAN, Wash. — The incoming and outgoing Washington state FFA presidents say the organization is all about giving its members a feeling of belonging.

During the 85th annual convention May 16 in Pullman, Wash., FFA members elected:

• Julia Spangler, of Wenatchee as president.

• Monica Haugen of Pullman as vice president.

• Mitch Jamison of Garfield-Palouse as secretary.

• Dallas Tyus of Tonasket as treasurer.

• Jason Wigen of LaCrosse as reporter.

• Daniel Lyng of Meridian FFA in Bellingham as sentinel.

Spangler was emotional after her name was called.

“I can’t even believe my life right now — I am so honored and ecstatic about receiving this opportunity to serve such an amazing organization,” she said.

Spangler said she doesn’t come from an agricultural background. Her involvement with FFA was service and sales, she said.

“I really want to target the kids who don’t think they have a place,” she said. “I want to give them a place and show them where they can be, where they’ll grow and love everything about that place.”

Departing president Apolinar Blanco, of Chelan, said during his retiring address before the 3,185 members of guests at the convention that FFA also taught him he has a place. Blanco remembered his adviser telling him the only colors that mattered in FFA were blue and gold.

“We all have a different story, but we all travel the FFA highway,” he said. “In FFA, we accept all kinds of kids.... In this organization, and in this life, we all matter.”

Abbie DeMeerleer, Washington FFA executive director, said she was looking forward to sitting down with the new team and learning what their plan is for the year ahead.

“The things this team wants to see improve, evolve and to grow in Washington FFA — they’re going to help set that vision and help us work towards accomplishing those goals,” she said.

State adviser Rebecca Wallace expects membership to grow, noting the organization reached more than 8,000 members this year. Agriculture education enrollment in the state averages around 36,000 to 37,000 students each semester, she said.

One issue is that there aren’t enough agriculture teachers to fill open positions, Wallace said. She’s also concerned about funding for career technical education and the possible impacts on agriculture education courses.

“I’m excited about where we’re going, I’m hopeful,” she said. “Education funding is always scary, and now, more than ever, we really need our supporters and advocates to speak up. Our programs, our teachers, our students — we have to share our stories about what FFA has done and why it is such an important part of a student’s experience in high school and beyond.”

Fruitland FFA chapter surprise winner of raffled antique tractor Fri, 8 May 2015 09:57:21 -0400 Sean Ellis FRUITLAND, Idaho ­— Fruitland High School’s FFA chapter is the surprise owner of a restored 1946 John Deere GM tractor that was raffled off to raise scholarship money for Idaho FFA students.

Instead of writing their own name on the back of the winning ticket, the person who purchased it wrote “Fruitland FFA chapter.”

That’s the first time that has happened during the tractor raffle’s five-year history and Fruitland ag science teacher Mike Tesnohlidek didn’t believe it at first when he received a text from a student telling him the school won the tractor.

“I was like, ‘whatever,’” he said. “Two minutes later I got a text from (fellow ag science teacher Troy Wright) and I realized it was true.”

Wright and Tesnohlidek said they considered selling the tractor but decided its sentimental value and practical uses would be more valuable to the school’s agricultural sciences program.

“There are all kinds of things we can use it for,” Wright said.

That includes raising awareness of the FFA program by showing it off during parades and community events, teaching non-farm students to drive it and educating students about basic tractor maintenance.

The tractor also has a sprayer and can be used to teach students about the basics of spraying.

“It would be pretty good to go through it with the students and teach them about the components and what it takes to drive a tractor,” Tesnohlidek said.

Twin Falls area farmer Ralph Breeding, who donated the tractor, said he was happy to hear it was put to good use.

“It’s nice to know it’s still in good hands,” he said. “They can keep it for awhile, do whatever they want with it, and then sell raffle tickets for it again if they want.”

The annual tractor raffle was started by Middleton farmer Sid Freeman and his wife, Pam, in 2011. Five tractors built in the 1940s and early 1950s have been raffled off since then and this year’s tractor raised $24,000.

That is enough to provide 14 $1,000 scholarships and two $2,000 scholarships for ag education majors. The rest of the money will go to support FFA programs.

The raffle has sold between 2,400 to 3,700 $10 tickets each year but the goal has always been 5,000, which would be enough to provide 30 scholarships, Freeman said.

Based on a survey of ag education teachers last year that asked them how that 5,000 ticket goal might be achieved, Freeman decided to buy a newer model with more practicable uses.

Next year’s tractor is an early 1980s model Massey Ferguson 275 with a loader and blade.

The ag education teachers “said, maybe if you used a little newer model, then you could sell more tickets,” Freeman said. “We’re going to see if that theory works.”

The $7,000 cost of the tractor and loader will be offset by business sponsorships the program has sold for each of the nine tractor banners used by FFA chapters during various events.

Washington FFA honors past, looks to future Wed, 6 May 2015 11:23:17 -0400 Matw Weaver Washington FFA’s president says he and his fellow officers will honor the past as they work to plant seeds for the future at the 85th annual state convention May 14-16 in Pullman.

Apolinar Blanco, president of the Washington FFA, from Chelan, Wash., said his primary goals for the convention are to have fun and make an impact.

“I want to ensure we leave a legacy for FFA members to go above and beyond what we have already done,” he said.

Abbie DeMeerleer, executive director of Washington FFA, expects roughly 3,000 attendees at the convention.

Membership is at a high, with more than 8,000 members and several new chapters in urban settings on the western side of the state, DeMeerleer said.

She believes students see opportunities in FFA to develop leadership and communication skills and industry support.

DeMeerleer credited the state officer team with recognizing the past as they look ahead. The officers invited past state officers and advisors to attend and be recognized at the convention.

The officers are conducting a hygiene-item drive May 13, collecting toothbrushes, toothpaste and toilet paper from chapters, after asking three area community action centers about their needs during the summer.

FFA members will work with first-graders from Pullman and Colton, Wash., school districts for a “Little Farmers’ Ag Classroom.” The students will go to nine stations representing different Washington commodities with hands-on activities.

“The officer team really wanted to have some unique new opportunities, and that’s something that’s never been done,” DeMeerleer said. “They really wanted to allow a younger audience to start to see what FFA is, what it can be and be thinking about it in their future.”

It’s important to reach the youth before they reach high school or middle school, Blanco said.

Blanco said the past year has been “humbling,” as he and his fellow officers have grown as individuals, teammates and agriculture’s future. He estimates he’s driven more than 25,000 miles traveling around the state.

“We are the next generation of agriculturalists — we all have different skills that we could bring to the agriculture industry to ensure that it remains relevant for many generations to come,” he said.

The convention includes an education expo May 14, allowing FFA members to meet with representatives of agriculture and education about what kind of education and skills would best position them for a desired career.

“Washington FFA is really excited about another 85 years,” DeMeerleer said.

Idaho FFA chapters win prize money in soil nutrient competition Tue, 28 Apr 2015 11:16:24 -0400 John O’Connell TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Salmon, Idaho, FFA members plan to buy a greenhouse after recently winning a competition awarding prize money to chapters that best educate their communities about the importance of fertilizer in food production.

The chapter was awarded $3,000 on April 10, during the Idaho FFA State Leadership Conference in Twin Falls, for taking first prize in the annual Helping Communities Grow competition, sponsored by Nutrients for Life.

Nutrients for Life is a Washington, D.C.-based organization founded in 2004 by the eight major fertilizer companies to provide soil science education in school classrooms.

The Cambridge, Idaho, FFA chapter won $2,000 for claiming second prize, and the Mackay FFA chapter won $1,000 for third prize.

The competition, sponsored by J.R. Simplot Co. in Idaho, challenges chapters to find creative ways to take what they’ve learned about soil nutrients and share it with the surrounding community. The organization hosts the statewide competitions throughout the country and also offers free soil science curriculum and classroom resources, such as periodic tables, to teachers.

“FFA members have a very positive image in the community, and they’re able to really share their passion for agriculture and communicate how important agriculture is to sustaining our food supply,” said Dee McKenna, Helping Communities Grow program coordinator.

Salmon also won last year’s contest, taking home $5,000 in prize money, which it will pool with this year’s winnings and fundraiser revenue to buy a greenhouse this summer, said FFA instructor Katie Cooper.

Salmon hosted a fertilizer Olympics for seventh- through 12th-graders, involving a relay race. Teams raced to inflate balloons, signifying the extraction of fertilizer, swept the balloons across the floor to partners, signifying the delivery of fertilizer to farmers, and took the balloons to the “field” using scooters. The final step involved eating a banana, signifying the consumption of nutrients by plants.

Salmon also hosted a petting zoo, featuring members’ animals, at a local fertilizer dealer, explaining to visitors how fertilizer is needed to raise quality feed for livestock. Finally, they invited a master gardener to speak on soil issues during a dinner fundraiser, distributing literature about Nutrients for Life.

Cooper anticipates using the greenhouse to raise flowers for a chapter fundraiser and produce, some of which may be donated to the local food bank.

New California FFA leaders strive to meet challenges Tue, 21 Apr 2015 17:10:39 -0400 Tim Hearden FRESNO, Calif. — California’s new FFA president says the youth organization has a key role in bringing agriculture’s message to urban residents amid all the challenges facing farming.

“The members of FFA are going to be the ones who are the future farmers,” Joelle Lewis of San Luis Obispo said in an interview moments after being announced as the new state leader for the next year.

“I’m just excited to meet all of the members and get to know” fellow leaders, said Lewis, who was the South Coast Region president for 2014-2015.

Lewis leads a slate of new officers elected at the 87th annual California FFA Leadership Conference, held April 18-21 at Fresno’s convention center complex. More than 5,000 high school agriculture students attended the conference, whose theme was “Reach Out.”

Lewis was among 59 candidates for state office, including 35 who were interviewed and 12 who were named as finalists. She is joined by new Vice President Sydnie Sousa of Tulare, Secretary Breanna Holbert of Lodi, Treasurer Trevor Autry of Nipomo, Reporter Danielle Diele of Merced and Sentinel Tim Truax of Turlock.

In remarks during the last of six rock concert-like general sessions in Selland Arena, Lewis urged fellow members to take whatever inspired them during the four-day conference back to their hometowns.

“Whatever that moment was, don’t let it stay here in Selland Arena,” she said. “Use what you heard to help everyone around you.”

The new officers were announced after each of the outgoing state leaders had taken turns giving heartfelt speeches about their time in office. Each also had their parents and advisers on stage to thank them in moving tributes.

Outgoing president Dipak Kumar of Tulare spoke of his admiration for his father, a doctor who moved the family from what was then war-torn India to the Central Valley and planted almonds, walnuts and pistachios.

He said his family’s experience taught him to use challenges as well as good fortune to help others.

“In life, each of us has been given something,” Kumar said. “No matter the nature of what we have, we can choose to have amazing outcomes.”

Haley Warner of Angels Camp, the outgoing vice president, noted that people today “live in a world of words” in texts and social media and urged her fellow members to use words constructively.

“The power of our words is stronger than we know,” she said. “Those words — our words — can cut deep and they leave scars. But I have seen people empowered to do more because of the helpful, constructive words that people said to them.”

Kumar and Warner were joined by their fellow 2014-2015 officers — Secretary Sierra Bryant of Templeton, Roman Waskiewicz of Elk Grove, Reporter Ellen Van Noy of Grass Valley and Sentinel Luis Sanchez of Gonzales — in ceremonially retiring their trusty blue-and-gold jackets amid wild cheers and tearful embraces.

The conference also featured National FFA President Andy Paul of Lexington, Ga., who urged members to take “the second step” after joining by committing to service.

“Once we take step after step after step after step, we can climb the highest mountains,” Paul said on April 20.

In all, FFA has more than 76,000 California members in 315 chapters — a significant portion of the 610,240 members in 7,665 chapters nationwide, according to conference organizers.

Awards, scholarships given at California FFA conference Tue, 21 Apr 2015 10:09:50 -0400 Tim Hearden FRESNO, Calif. — A bevy of proficiency awards and scholarships were given out during the 87th annual California FFA Leadership Conference, held April 18-21 at the convention center complex downtown.

Here are the state proficiency award winners:

Agricultural Communications: Amber Bjerra, San Luis Obispo

Agricultural Education: Cassidy Lane, Lone Pine

Agricultural Mechanics Design/Fabrication: Michael Dorado, Madera

Agricultural Mechanics Energy Systems: Brett Umstead, King City

Agricultural Mechanics Repair/Maintenance Entrepreneurship: Andrew Holemo, Fallbrook

Agricultural Mechanics Repair/Maintenance Placement: Tyler Meador, Morro Bay

Agricultural Processing: Isaac Varela, Fallbrook

Agricultural Sales Entrepreneurship: Blake Jackson, El Capitan

Agricultural Sales Placement: Tyler Butler, Las Plumas

Agricultural Services: Jeffery Gaylord, Hughson

Agriscience Research–Animal Systems: Wade Sousa, Tulare

Agriscience Research–Integrated System: Sadie Whempner, Elk Grove

Agriscience Research–Plant Systems: Bailee Rusconi, King City

Beef Production Entrepreneurship: Jessica Judge, San Luis Obispo

Beef Production Placement: Robert Daley, Las Plumas

Dairy Production Entrepreneurship: Carly Olufs, Petaluma

Dairy Production Placement: Daniel Moules, Tokay

Diversified Agricultural Production: Kennady Wagner, El Capitan

Diversified Crop Production Entrepreneurship: Saul Armenta, King City

Diversified Crop Production Placement: Taylor Coffman, Laton

Diversified Horticulture: Quinn Shippey, Madera

Diversified Livestock: Robert Mattes, Minarets

Emerging Agricultural Technology: Garrett Maciel, King City

Environmental Science/Nat Resources: Paul Barcellos, Tulare

Equine Science Entrepreneurship: Kai Brown, Nipomo

Equine Science Placement: Tanner Lopez, Minarets

Fiber/Oil Crops: Miguel Lua, San Luis Obispo

Forage Production: Virat Kang, Madera

Forest Management/Products: Jacob Eyraud, Poway

Goat Production: Nicole Hobby, Hughson

Grain Production Entrepreneurship: Kent Norman, Ripon

Home and/or Community Development: Emily Ann Martinez, Galt

Landscape Management: Sebastian Aguirre, Merrill West

Nursery Operation: Maribeth Villanueva, Minarets

Outdoor Recreation: Kiana Almaguer, King City

Pomology Production: Veronica Viramontes, Lodi

Poultry Production: Marc Abdallah, Gustine

Sheep Production: Bridgette Eldridge, Winters

Small Animal Production and Care: Kelley Mellott, Lemoore

Specialty Animal Production: Victor Johnson, Lemoore

Specialty Crop Production: Bryce Umbarger, King City

Swine Production Entrepreneurship: Vanessa Soto, Templeton

Swine Production Placement: Amber Thompsen, Heritage

Turf Grass Management: Michelle Utterback, Pleasant Grove

Vegetable Production: Mitchell Gander, East Nicolaus

Veterinary Medicine: Madalyn Vieira, Tulare

Viticulture Production: Logan Engelman, Fresno-Central

Wildlife Management: Logan Douglas, Oakdale

Here are the 2015 scholarship finalists:

Actagro Scholarship: Kaitlin Cagle, Elk Grove-Pleasant Grove; Kayleen Kemp, Fortuna

Almond Board Scholarship: Alonso Garcia Razo, Hollister; Kelley Rene Mellott, Lemoore; Emilio Smith, Las Plumas; Hannah Van Dyk, Tulare

Jerry L. Biggs Memorial Scholarship: Jenae Hansen, Madera

Betty Bushong Memorial Scholarship: Robert Daley, Las Plumas; Dustin Suttles, Lakeside-El Capitan

Jerry T. Davis Honorary Scholarship: Kelcie Jones, Bakersfield-Frontier

Friends of the FFA Scholarship: Regina Gutierrez, East Nicolaus

Paul Freitas Memorial Scholarship: Karlee Dombush, Lincoln

Hartford Insurance Scholarship: Hunter Allen, Las Plumas; Katherine White, Hollister

Mabel W. Jacks Memorial Scholarship: Abigail Brown, Red Bluff; Emma Pierson, Santa Rosa; Andrew Sousa, Tulare

Byron J. McMahon Memorial Scholarship: Kaylee Santos, Tulare

Dorothy McMillan Memorial Scholarship: Matthew Turcotte, East Nicolaus

Dean McNeilly Scholarship: Jenna Baxter, Half Moon Bay

Jaimie Lynne Petty Memorial Scholarship: Josh Mendez, Santa Maria; Natalie Starich, Hanford; Ashley Utz, Half Moon Bay

The Willey Family Scholarship: Henry Jake Bones, Fortuna; Cole Lauchland, Lodi

Zenith Insurance Co. Scholarship: Sarah Dreyer, Exeter; Kylee Hagan, Rio Vista; Mallory Harrison, Bakersfield-Frontier; Virat Kang, Madera-South

FFA students ponder paths at conference career fair Tue, 21 Apr 2015 09:32:18 -0400 Tim Hearden FRESNO, Calif. — Drew Backe had a familiar feeling when he and another FFA member tried their hand with a crosscut saw at a career fair here.

Backe, a high school junior from Falbrook, Calif., is looking into the forestry program at California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo.

But he isn’t sure what he wants to do for a career, so the 60 booths at the career fair he attended April 20 helped give him some ideas.

“There’s a lot of stuff to look through, a lot of opportunities,” he said.

Backe was one of about 5,000 attendees of the 47th annual California FFA Leadership Conference, held April 18-21 in Fresno. Many of the students browsed through the university and company booths during the career fair.

California community colleges and university ag programs were joined by such out-of-state entries as Iowa State University and Utah State University as well as companies such as Nutrena CropScience and Brandt Agricultural Products.

While some career fairs focus on connecting students with jobs after college, this one was geared to simply motivating high school students to think about their futures, said Kelsey Dugan, a California State University-Fresno student who organized the career show.

“This is a great networking opportunity,” Dugan said. “It’s to get to know people and communicate with each other, to meet people in the industry, and from there they can successfully integrate into the university or to working.”

The Fresno-based Brandt has recruited several student interns over the years, but company representatives mainly wanted to encourage youngsters to consider careers in agriculture, they said.

“My children are very involved in FFA, and I was in FFA in high school,” sales coordinator Tracy Starich said. “It’s a great organization. We want to be here to support the kids who want to stay in agriculture.”

Most college and university booths featured students, many of whom had been in FFA in high school. Shelby Fields, an Iowa State animal science major from Newman, Calif., said she wanted youngsters to be aware of opportunities in the Midwest.

“I came to this all four years in high school and I was highly involved in FFA, was a sectional officer,” Fields said. “I think it’s really beneficial. It opens eyes to all the universities and their agricultural programs. It opens the doors for networking.”

FFA member Jennifer Fisk of Auburn, Calif., has already chosen a university. She’s a freshman at University of Nevada-Reno, but returned to the career fair this year to keep networking with people.

“Each of the colleges offer their own particular niche,” she said, adding the career fair gives members a chance “to speak with them directly.”

High school junior Tyler Pruett of Stockton, Calif., said he discovered an interest in being a mechanic while helping his dad restore a 1969 Camaro. He was practicing with a drill at a station hosted by the technical program at Reedley College in Reedley, Calif.

“Working on mechanical stuff helps me express myself in a way,” Pruett said. “This is my third year here, and all the mechanical stuff is what catches my attention.”

Helping the students find their niche is what the career fair is about.

“I think it gets them thinking earlier about their career and what they want to do,” said Sarah Tweeten, an agriculture communications student at Iowa State.

New Idaho FFA officers aspire to inspire Mon, 13 Apr 2015 10:53:55 -0400 Carol Ryan Dumas Catching their breaths after the whirlwind 2015 State Leadership Conference, Idaho FFA’s new state officers felt overwhelmed and drained, each excited about the opportunity to serve and inspire their fellow FFA members across the state.

All officers hold leadership roles in their chapters but said being elected state officers feels surreal.

“It was probably honestly the best day of my life,” President Riely Geritz said just after the close of the final conference session.

A senior from American Falls, Geritz, 18, plans to major in animal science at the University of Idaho. Serving as state president of FFA has been a long-time ambition and one of her goals is to diversify membership, she said.

She also wants herself and all members to be “determined, vulnerable and courageous to allow people to know you,” she said.

Vice President Dustin Winston, 18, a senior from Middleton, plans to attend University of Idaho and major in architecture and plant biotechnology and sciences.

He wants the new leadership team to create an impact across the state and nation and use its expertise to benefit members. His personal goal is to show professionalism and excitement to the membership, he said.

Reporter Jentrie Stastny, 18, a senior from Kimberly plans to attend BYU-Idaho and major in agribusiness. As an organization, she wants to focus on encouraging younger students to join FFA.

“It’s had such a profound impact on our lives, I want to share that with others,” she said.

Sentinel Henry Wilson, 18, of Kuna is a freshman at the University of Idaho majoring in agribusiness. He wants the team to continue to grow FFA membership and make improvements to the organization.

“I want to impact as many lives as I can through the entire organization,” he said.

Secretary Abigail Raasch, 17, is a senior from Troy. She hasn’t decided on a college yet but plans to major in Criminal Justice with a double minor in Political Science and French.

She wants the team to be able to “reach out to anybody and everybody on the importance of agriculture and FFA,” she said.

She also wants to share her joy and inspire members to know “they are always enough and that’s all that matters,” she said.

Treasurer Samantha Daniels, 18, is a senior from Malad and is planning to attend Utah State University to major in ag education. Like Raasch, she also wants to stress the importance of agriculture and FFA.

And she wants FFA members and advisers to feel they can bring any concerns about the organization to FFA officers, she said.

It will be a busy year ahead for the new officers, who said they are excited to get started in their expanded leadership roles.

Oregon’s changing FFA elects slate of state leaders Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:17:08 -0400 Eric Mortenson SILVERTON, Ore. — Luis Mendoza of Molalla High School and Addie Howell of Jefferson were elected president and vice president of Oregon FFA for 2015-16, and will head a student organization that is growing and changing.

Given the way delegates danced to blaring hip hop music during session breaks at the state convention this past week, FFA may stand for Funky Farmers of America. Or, considering the intense interest that has led to an FFA chapter forming at a deeply urban Portland school, maybe call it Food and Fiber of America.

Either way, FFA membership in Oregon is about 5,600 students, up from 4,800 a few years ago, and the organization’s breakaway from state Department of Education funding has paid off in the form of industry support.

The result is an organization that appears freshly vibrant while still rooted in the FFA traditions of agricultural education and leadership training. The organization’s intended message hasn’t changed, either, said Kevin White, executive director of the Oregon FFA Foundation.

“Basically, FFA is life changing,” White said.

Some farmers were indifferent FFA members in high school, of course, and some weren’t members at all, but others say they gained from the experience.

“It taught me the importance of a firm handshake, how to look people in the eye when talking to them, how to address people with respect and how to speak in public,” Willamette Valley farmer Brenda Frketich said in response to a Facebook query.

Kathy Freeborn Hadley said she and her husband, Troy, were active in FFA as high school students. Hadley said she still farms Willamette Valley fields she rented as part of her FFA project.

“Probably the biggest benefit I gained was the leadership and speaking skills from attending conferences and participating in contests,” she said on Facebook.

It wasn’t that long ago, however, that Oregon FFA faltered as public schools, cramped for money, eliminated the ag science, home economics and shop classes that often paralleled FFA involvement.

In 2011, Oregon FFA became financially independent from the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon FFA Foundation, a non-profit, was formed to raise money from industry sponsors. White, a former California state FFA vice president and national secretary, was hired to run the foundation.

White said FFA has three main components: Classroom instruction, supervised agricultural projects and leadership training. “It’s not just a club on campus,” he said.

Rising interest in where food and fiber come from have helped the organization grow, White said. “That’s only making FFA more relevant,” he said.

Madison High School in Northeast Portland, with a low-income, high-minority student population, recently formed a chapter. White said.

Although state funding for FFA has been eliminated, school districts are beginning to re-establish career and technical education, or CTE, programs, said Reynold Gardner,a specialist with the state education department. He credits Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences with providing the “cultural lead” in reviving the programs.

Students elected to statewide office are seniors, but delay entering college to spend a year traveling the state working with local chapters.

Mendoza, the newly-elected president, said he met with touring state officers when he was a freshman.

“That definitely inspired me,” he said. “I thought, wow, I can do this. Follow your dreams, don’t give up.”

In addition to Mendoza and Vice President Howell, other state officers are Secretary Joe Matteo of Sutherlin, Treasurer Alyssa Smith of Elkton, Reporter Ricky Molitor of Madras, and Sentinel Bailey Myers of Nyssa.

Oregon state FFA convention begins Friday Thu, 19 Mar 2015 08:39:54 -0400 An estimated 2,500 delegates from 98 Oregon FFA chapters are expected to attend the annual state convention March 20-23 in Silverton.

Silverton High School is hosting the convention. The convention agenda is available at

Youths ponder options at career fair Tue, 10 Feb 2015 11:22:53 -0400 Matw Weaver SPOKANE — FFA students didn’t need a crystal ball to see their futures at a career fair last week. All they needed was a firm handshake and an interest in agriculture.

Several businesses were at the Spokane Expo to talk with the 250 students. Among them were some of the largest ag employers in the region: the Papé Group; Washington Tractor; Northwest Farm Credit Services; CHS; Oxarc; Wheeler Manufacturing; Spokane Produce; certified public accountants Leffel, Otis & Warwick; agricultural law firm Carpenter McGuire & DeWulf; and Spokane Community College.

The career fair followed a presentation for FFA members at the expo.

Jensen Daily, a high school senior from Potlatch, Idaho, said he hopes to become a welder.

“It’s just something I enjoy,” he said, noting he plans to attend Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. “I like building stuff, taking a little and making a lot.”

Brandon Miller, another senior from Potlatch, plans to go into farming and was looking at his options at the career fair. He works for a hay farmer now, and is interested in farming for a while before attending college.

“(I’d) have some money then,” he said.

Jarod Garcia, a junior from Potlatch, hopes to go into logging, following in his family’s footsteps. He’d look for a job in Potlatch to get his foot in the door while he attends college, he said.

Garcia said the career fair gave him a wider range of opportunities to consider.

Haley Goodwin, a junior from Elma, Wash., has been interested in agriculture since she joined FFA.

“I want to know the opportunities that are out there for us,” she said.

After speaking with representatives at the fair, she said she is leaning toward a possible career in sales and marketing. She’s competed in related events through FFA.

Aiden Troy, a sophomore from Elma, said the career fair would help him figure out what he wants to do when he graduates. He joined FFA last year, and hopes to pursue a career involved in technology, such as unmanned aerial vehicles.

BJ White, a senior at Lind-Ritzville High School, said the fair shows younger members in his chapter careers they can look forward to in agriculture. He wants to study crop and soil sciences, pathology or entomology.

Dinah Gadberry, a junior at the same school, said she is interested in crop and soil sciences.

Raeann Hoeft, a junior, wants to be a nurse, but she credited her time with FFA for preparing her for what lies ahead.

“Everything I’m doing in my FFA chapter is preparing me for real life,” she said. “It’s preparing me to apply for jobs, preparing me for the adult world.”