Fruitful Footsteps

Ashland FFA member Ethan Hilgedick recognized as national proficiency finalist in fruit production

From corn, soybeans and wheat to cotton, rice and watermelon, yes, watermelon, Missouri’s diverse agricultural landscape is bountiful.

 

And for Ashland FFA member Ethan Hilgedick, that diversity provided the perfect opportunity for him to build an award-winning supervised agricultural experience project (SAE). Hilgedick is a national finalist in the fruit production proficiency award area for his watermelon production SAE. The winner will be announced as part of the virtual National FFA Convention, Oct. 27-29.

 

Farming the Missouri River bottoms in Hartsburg, Hilgedick leases land from Riverside Farms. The young entrepreneur is following in the footsteps of his father and uncle and has gleaned much advice from his predecessors on how to grow a successful crop.

 

“In the spring of 2017, I built a grow-room in the basement of my grandfather’s farmhouse to manage the temperature, water and the amount of light for my seedlings,” Hilgedick says.

 

Each spring, Hilgedick germinates more than 5,000 seeded and seedless watermelons in the grow room. At planting time, an attachment on the back of a tractor helps Hilgedick get the seedlings in the ground. Come harvest, though, it’s all hands on deck. A crew of hired FFA members assists in bringing the fruit in from the field.

 

“At the farm, I package the watermelons on pallets and deliver them to stores,” Hilgedick says. “In the spring of 2018, I increased the number of acres of watermelon. My additional supply was sold by expanding my marketing efforts to grocery stores such as Moser’s, HyVee, Schulte’s and Lucky’s Supermarkets. Expanding my marketing increased my operation’s profits.”

 

Hilgedick says his business has given him management experience. “Being an owner and operator of a business was always an interest of mine,” he says. “As a young crop producer and entrepreneur, I have learned that it is critical to pay attention to every aspect of producing the product.”

 

For Hilgedick, success can be found in the details. From walking the fields to checking for insect damage, sampling the soil for moisture content, checking the product for ripeness or observing pallets for broken boards, it all matters to his bottom line.

 

“Developing high standards early-on in my business has helped my product gain popularity among produce managers and customers,” Hilgedick says. “Paying attention to every detail has allowed me to gain numerous experiences and run a successful business.”

by Joann Pipkin

Beyond Cows and Plows

Zip up your blue corduroy and dive in to FFA!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — FFA jacket season! Though zipping up the blue corduroy is often a student’s first experience as an FFA member, it takes strategy at the chapter level to get them hooked on ag education and FFA.

 

Sullivan FFA Advisor Travis Kramme says timing is the key to retention.

 

“This is my 18th year teaching agriculture education, and one thing has been true year after year,” he explains. “The students in my Ag Science I classes who get involved in FFA activities are the same students who are in our program until graduation and become four-year active members in FFA. The Ag Science I students who don’t make it to any FFA activities during that first semester usually don’t come back as sophomores and find other programs and electives to be involved with.”

 

An important first step in capturing students’ interest is to debunk the myth that ag education is all about “cows and plows,” says Nathan Isakson, Ash Grove FFA Advisor.

 

Karson Calvin, a sophomore at Troy Buchanan High School and member of the Troy FFA Chapter, agrees that chapters should promote FFA as a multi-faceted organization.

 

“It’s not just production agriculture, and there’s a diverse range of activities that can fit everyone,” Calvin says.

 

Recognizing the importance of relationships and tradition also helps capture students’ interest and sense of belonging.

 

“In a normal year, we have a back-to-school meeting and ag department open house,” says Cord Jenkins, Rolla FFA Advisor. “This is a big event that our officers spend a great deal of time planning. We invite all of our first-year members and their parents to this meeting. It is structured so we have social time on the front and back end of the meeting.”

 

Jenkins says this helps make new members feel included as an integral part of the program. Calvin agrees that building relationships was one piece he remembered most from his first year in FFA.

 

“My favorite chapter activities last year were the LDEs and our Friendsgiving,” he says. “I was on our Conduct of Chapter Meetings team, and my favorite part about it was growing closer with my teammates. While training in the spring, we had some funny moments that stick out as I look back at last year. My other favorite activity was our Friendsgiving. It was a fun time as we were playing games, enjoying some good food and becoming closer as a chapter.”

 

Kramme, Isakson and Jenkins all say they call upon older students and FFA members to help build a sense of community through using student teacher aids, officer mentors or a buddy system.

 

Calvin adds that honing in on tradition and the advice of other students helps inspire members to get involved.

 

“My dad, brother and sister were really involved in FFA, and if there’s one thing they’ve taught me, it’s that you get out of FFA what you put into it,” he says. “I know people who were involved in FFA and received much in return. I hope to do the same.”
by Brandelyn Martin Twellman

Calling All Innovators!

GROWMARK announces 2021 Essay Contest Theme

The theme for the 2021 GROWMARK Essay Contest is: “If you could invent a new technology to improve agriculture, what would it be?” The contest is open to all high school FFA members in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

 

This is the 28thyear for the program, sponsored by the GROWMARK System and FS member cooperatives, in conjunction with state FFA leaders, to help young people develop their writing skills, learn about current issues affecting agriculture, and understand the unique role of cooperatives.

 

Students will describe a problem within the agricultural industry, and a creative way to provide a solution. Students are encouraged to be creative with their ideas, whether or not the solution they propose is currently possible.

 

Essays will be submitted online at www.bit.ly/GMKEssay2021. The deadline for all submissions is midnight Central time on November 6, 2020. Additional program details have been sent to agriculture teachers and are online at www.growmark.com.

 

Each state’s winner earns a $500 award and the winner’s FFA chapter receives a $300 award. Four runners-up per state each win $125 awards.

 

The program is offered annually and many agriculture teachers use it as part of their class curriculum. Past topics have included sustainability, careers in agriculture, and the cooperative principles.

 

GROWMARK is a regional cooperative providing agronomy, energy, facility planning, and logistics products and services, as well as grain marketing and risk management services, across North America. GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, which is used by affiliated member cooperatives. More information is available at www.growmark.com.

Rolling Over Roadblocks

Santa Fe FFA member Jacob Dierking wins State Star Farmer after tackling the challenges of a beginning farmer.

Breaking into the industry as a young farmer comes with its challenges. Missouri FFA’s State

Star Farmer is all too familiar with the hurdles and roadblocks that must be overcome. Jacob

Dierking of the Santa Fe FFA Chapter started this journey through his Supervised Agricultural

Experience (SAE).

 

“In 2015, I was given an opportunity by two neighboring landowners to start farming, first with a 10-acre field and then another 19 acres on which I grew corn,” he says. “In 2016, I was able to rent 35 acres to grow corn. I also began a vegetable business growing 9 acres of sweet corn with my parents and brother.”

 

With his sights set on growth, Dierking had to choose between focusing on the row crop or vegetable production side of his business throughout the years that followed.

 

“In 2017, we expanded to growing 80 acres of sweet corn and 34 acres of green beans,” he says. “In 2018, a neighbor retired, and I was able to rent his farm to grow 83 acres of corn and 39 acres of soybeans. Since I was able to rent more land, I decided to scale back the vegetable production so I could properly manage my row crops. In 2019, another farmer retired, and I decided to sell the green bean equipment so I would have the money to invest in crop inputs.”

 

By 2019, Dierking was farming a total of 195 acres of corn, 111 acres of soybeans and 25 acres of sweet corn.

 

While his progress is evident, it wasn’t always easy. Dierking had to overcome many challenges, including one of the most prevalent among beginning farmers.

 

“One major challenge in my SAE was financially being able to purchase enough equipment to farm efficiently,” he says. “When I began my SAE, I was able to exchange my labor with my grandpa for the use of his machinery. Since then, I have been able to purchase many needed pieces of equipment.”

 

Overcoming roadblocks has empowered Dierking to pursue a career in production agriculture. After graduating from State Fair Community College, he plans to expand his row crop operation by obtaining more land to rent in the future.

 

Goals for Growth

Measurable goals help Hermann FFA’s Megan Schneider earn Missouri FFA State Star in Agribusiness.

Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time oriented. While agricultural education students learn these components of SMART Goals in the classroom each year, Missouri FFA’s State Star in Agribusinesshas seen their effectiveness firsthand. Megan Schneiderof the Hermann FFA Chapterstarted her Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) with the decision to keep back her best show gilt and start a breeding operation to produce higher quality show pigs for the county fair.

 

“One gilt has now turned into roughly 35 sows, 45 laying hens and some beef cattle,” Schneider says. “We started out farrowing sows and selling some of the pigs to local kids to show at county fairs. However, there started to be excess pigs around the farm, so we decided to start selling whole and half pigs for people to butcher themselves.”

 

Schneider’s operation continued to grow, exposing the need for expansion and diversification.

 

“As my production increased, it started to exceed local demand, and I needed to expand my markets,” she says. “With the help of my family, the decision was made to start selling at farmers markets and other retail outlets. At the markets, I engage with customers and answer any questions they might have about my products.”

 

As her SAE evolved, so did Schneider’s goals.

 

“There have been many goals set for this SAE,” she says. “The first goal was to raise lean and high-quality pork to sell to our customers. Also, to ensure our pigs have high cutability, but, at the same time, they are able to have a high success rate in the show ring.”

 

With each goal she reached, Schneider set new, higher goals to encourage additional growth. Other goals set included expanding her number of sows to keep up with product demand and creating new flavors and products to retain current customers and attract new ones.

 

Schneider’s SAE growth has inspired her to pursue a career in the industry. She plans to attend East Central College in Union, Missouri before transferring to the University of Missouri with the goal of earning a masters degree in biochemistry. In addition to beginning a career in agriculture, Schneider hopes to continue the family farm to provide a premium protein product for families to enjoy.

 

by  Brandelyn Martin Twellman

Reaching for Research

Eldon FFA member Destinie Tunis wins State Star in Agriscience while preparing for career success throughout her SAE.

Part of the National FFA Organization’s mission is to prepare students for career success. Whether it’s through participating in public speaking, holding a chapter office or attending a leadership conference, members have a multitude of opportunities to prepare for the future throughout their time in the organization. Missouri FFA’s State Star in Agriscience has chosen to prepare for her future through her Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE). Destinie Tunis of the Eldon FFA Chapter has conducted three agriscience research projects relating to either human or animal health.

 

“For my sophomore year science research project, I was testing Mus musculus (Mice) to see if certain prenatal diets affect the weight of offspring as they age,” Tunis says. “Last year for my

research project, I tested Gromphadorhina portentosa (Madagascar hissing cockroach) to see if 1550 Borate Glass would reduce scarring and increase the rate of healing time in thermal injuries. For this year’s project, I am testing the antimicrobial effects of various animals’ saliva to see if it can be used as an alternative treatment for antibiotic resistant bacteria.”

 

Like most students, Tunis has experienced challenges throughout her SAE. These roadblocks serve as real-life learning opportunities requiring real-life solutions. This year, one challenge was access to the saliva she was hoping to test.

 

“Because of the rules and guidelines that I follow, I could not obtain the (saliva) samples myself,” she says. “I contacted Dr. Kathy at the Lake Pet Hospital in Eldon and asked for assistance. She could collect the saliva samples for me during regular and safe procedures performed by her and her staff, but because working with larger animals doesn’t happen very often for her, I was lucky to have been able to get saliva samples from a horse, pig and cow.”

 

In addition to overcoming challenges, one of the goals Tunis set for her SAE was to turn her research projects into a future career. She is on track to do just that.

 

Currently in the process of becoming a member of the U.S Army Reserve, Tunis plans to go to Basic Training. She also plans to attend college to major in biomedical sciences and earn her PhD in Science for both health and medicine and STEM. Her career goal is to continue medical research to benefit both humans and animals.

-by Brandelyn Martin Twellman

Hands-On Approach

Bowling Green FFA’s Clint Bailey earns State Star in Agricultural Placement as hands-on learning grows his SAE.

Doing to Learn. These three words make up the second line of the FFA motto, the goal of a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) and the definition of Missouri FFA’s State Star in Agricultural Placement’s dedication to growth in his SAE.

 

Clint Bailey of the Bowling Green FFA Chapter started his placement SAE at Bowling Green Veterinary Clinic walking dogs, cleaning kennels and providing animals with proper food and water. These tasks, while important and necessary to daily operations at the clinic, represent the start of a journey filled with learning and growth. ICC_PROFILEpADBEprtrCMYKLab –)5acspAPPLADBEˆ÷”-ADBE desc¸tcprtp+wtptA2B0∞¢A2B2∞¢A2B1£∏¢B2A0E¿8¥B2A1~t8¥B2A2∑(8¥gamtÔ‹descU.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2textCopyright 2000 Adobe Systems, Inc.XYZ µZºg0mft2$⁄iŸ 6« ˇ1^∑‚2Wyµ“Ô%Y !≤"⁄#ˇ%#&D'f()ß*«+Ë-.(/H0i12¶3¬4fi5˚7

 

After gaining experience at the vet clinic, Bailey’s responsibilities began to increase. He started assisting the lead veterinarian at the local sale barn, the Eastern Missouri Commission Company, and assisting on large animal farm calls.

 

“My roles and responsibilities have changed in the veterinary science placement area,” Bailey says. “After working at the clinic for two months, I was given a promotion to help assist Dr. David Cerven in providing services at the Eastern Missouri Commission Company. My responsibilities include working the cattle chute, tagging calves, giving implants, aging cows, working the hot shot, penning cattle and holding the tails of bulls for the doctors to castrate.”

 

Bailey says this increase in responsibility has given him a more accurate glimpse into the life of a large animal veterinarian.

 

“The responsibilities at the sale barn have introduced me to an environment that is similar to a full time career as a veterinarian, since most veterinarians are called to farms to work livestock such as cattle, goats, sheep and hogs,” he explains.

 

This time spent “doing to learn” at the Bowling Green Veterinary Clinic has helped shape Bailey’s future career goals. He plans to attend the University of Missouri (MU) to obtain a degree in Animal Science. Upon graduation, he hopes to attend the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.

 

Bailey’s goal is to return to his hometown to apply for a position as a large animal veterinarian at the Bowling Green Veterinary Clinic. While working as a veterinarian, he plans on continuing to help operate his family’s commercial beef cattle operation in the future.

-by Brandelyn Martin Twellman

2020 FFA State Day of Service: Chapter Mini Grants

Due to the unprecedented times in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Missouri FFA in partnership with Missouri Farmers Care Drive to Feed Kids is offering chapters an opportunity to take part in a $300 matching mini-grant.

 

The goal of the Chapter Mini-Grants is to provide FFA chapters a Living to Serve opportunity to address food insecurity needs or awareness. This is a one-time only opportunity.

2020 Pantry List

2020 MO Farmers Care Mini Grant Flyer

Strengthening Youths’ Understanding of Food Insecurity Through Experiential Learning

Vision 2020: Missouri FFA Unveils New Communication Plan

Vision 2020 Graphic

After months of discussion and planning, Missouri FFA is excited to announce its new Vision 2020 Communication Plan.

 

Vision 2020 is a culmination of multiple media platforms including print, digital and video. Joann Pipkin, who has worked with Missouri FFA in a variety of communication capacities since 1996, serves as Missouri FFA’s director of communications. Former Missouri FFA State Secretary Brandelyn Martin Twellman is social media manager. Current Missouri FFA Mentor Kensi Darst joins the team as social media coordinator. And, Lacy Short, continues in her role as webmaster.

 

The new communication program officially kicks off in September with the Missouri Agricultural Education and FFA annual report. The printed coffee table-type publication will be distributed to chapters and program supporters across the state.

 

Beginning in October, the first digital newsletter will be published. Patterned after the Missouri FFA Today insert, which was previously distributed through National FFA’s New Horizons magazine, the bi-monthly publication will feature member- and chapter-driven content. In addition, Missouri FFA will continue its monthly eNewsletter, delivered through email to members across the state.

 

Highlighting the digital portion of Missouri FFA’s news communication protocol will be a stepped-up social media strategy. Members and supporters are encouraged to follow Missouri FFA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The communication team will work to bring Missouri agricultural education and FFA programs full circle with the organization’s website, missouriffa.org, servicing as the hub for everything Missouri FFA!

 

New to Missouri FFA’s communication strategy is a video component. Communication team members are developing a variety of visual content for agricultural education students including leadership development and SAE-based learning opportunities.

 

FFA members, agricultural education instructors and organization supporters are encouraged to get involved and submit their story ideas! Email them to joann.pipkin@missouriffa.org or brandelyn.twellman@missouriffa.org.

Show Me Summit Leadership Experience Launched

Show-Me Summit

As I reflect back on my FFA journey, I realize that the most significant personal growth and leadership development I experienced happened at Missouri’s State Leadership Camp at Camp Rising Sun in the summer heat. Just a few months ago, I was preparing to meet more than 1,200 FFA members at the Lake of the Ozarks for the opportunity to help them grow while spending time in the Rec Hall, playing volleyball, and swimming at the waterfront. I was heartbroken when I heard about the cancellation of Missouri FFA Camp in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but I knew there was still work to be done to help FFA members develop those skills in leadership, teamwork and strategic thinking.

 

After countless hours of brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of FFA members, advisors, state officers and state staff, we created the Show-Me Summit: Missouri FFA’s Virtual Leadership Experience. Through the Show-Me Summit, FFA members across the state have the opportunity to interact with State FFA Officers and gain foundational leadership skills that will propel them towards success in the Missouri FFA Association and beyond.

 

Show-Me Summitis made up of six core leadership development workshops hosted by the 2020-2021 Missouri State FFA Officer Team on concepts like individuality, intentional leadership, teamwork, taking action, Missouri agriculture, and grit and resilience. These topics encapsulate the overarching concepts taught in the elective leadership sessions that typically happen at FFA Camp in the summer.

 

In addition to the six core leadership workshops, there are four supplemental modules: Don Koonce’s Speaker Series, the Missouri Agriculture module, the Living to Serve Project, and Teacher Resources, all designed to give students (and advisors!) a well-rounded leadership development experience from anywhere. For FFA members interested in earning their State Leadership Medal, the Living to Serve Project requires them to put those concepts they’ve learned throughout the Show-Me Summitinto action by performing some kind of community service activity and completing an application for consideration. Additionally, if participants complete the checklist featured in the Living to Serve module, they can list Show-Me Summitas a state activity on Missouri FFA award applications.

 

Workshops and supplemental modules are being released in phases beginning this month! Stay tuned for announcements on Missouri FFA’s social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can learn more about and participate in the Show Me Summit online at https://missouriffa.org/show-me-summit/. Questions can be directed to smason@mail.missouri.edu.