As alluded to last week, the MCHS FFA chapter had great success at this year’s Kentucky FFA Associations’ State Convention. Like many events this year, the annual in person convention was canceled due to COVID-19, but thankfully, advancements in technology allowed for a virtual convention to be held instead. Though many aspects of a typical convention were scratched due to the circumstances, some of the presentations and guest speakers were able to continue on, virtually, along with some of the contests that did not require in-person contestants.
This past week I was able to set down with Meade County FFA Chapter Advisors and sisters, Noel Pack and Callie Hobbs along with Meade County FFA President and Lincoln Trail Regional Treasurer Cecilia Banks and Senior Kenzey Compton. They discussed the chapter’s recent success at the state level and a return to nationals for both Banks and Compton (both young ladies were a part of the Ag Issues team in 2019 that won the state and competed at the FFA National Convention last fall).
Noel Pack said that every FFA member is required to have a supervised agriculture experience (SAE). As a freshman or a sophomore, they establish a program, whether it is production based, they are working for someone or they have their own business.
“The idea is for students to gain opportunity somehow in job experience, and hopefully when the time comes, those are things that they can put on a resume,” stated Callie Hobbs. “So, when they do go to apply for jobs or if it turns into a lifelong career, then they have something to fall back on because they can say I have done this to gain this experience to be a valuable employee.”
There are over 40 areas that students can choose to pursue. Contrary to popular belief, many of these have little to do with stereotypical farming. The FFA kept its initials but abandoned the Future Farmers of America moniker years ago, as agriculture expanded into many other areas than just the farmer. A few examples are wildlife management, veterinarian science and landscaping.
Once a student chooses an SAE and has a year of data under their belt, they can pursue a Proficiency in that area and apply to compete at the regional level. If they win, they are then allowed to compete at the state convention.
The advisors said that this is the best the chapter has ever done in Proficiencies, and they are super proud of the hard work these students put in. Prior to this year, they’ve had a student win here and there, but this year, Meade County had three students win their area along with placing second or third in five other Proficiencies.
Pack said that it is a twenty page application with essay questions, finance balance sheets, hours worked, wages, assets, liabilities, capital and picture evidence supporting what they are doing with their project. Hobbs added the applications can take up to twenty hours or longer to prepare. There is also a resume that must be filled out along with obtaining a signature from an administrator who has looked over it along with the chapter advisors.
This year Cecilia Banks placed first in Swine Production Placement, Kenzey Compton placed first in Vegetable Production, Toby Graham placed first in Diversified Horticulture, Hayden Knott placed second in Specialty Animal Production, Jasey Allen placed second in Diversified Livestock Production, Cecilia Banks placed second in Agriculture Sales Placement, Kaley Mills placed third in Sheep Production and Austin Pike placed third in Fiber and Oil Crop. The three state winners will now move on to compete at the FFA National Convention later this fall. The Meade County chapter also had nine students receive their State FFA degrees and the chapter received a Gold Emblem rating based off their activity, competitions, community involvement and community service.
The one downside was that they were not able to be at the convention in person, especially with as many students as MCHS had place at the state level this year.
“The way they found out was disappointing because normally at session, we are the crazy sisters screaming and cheering,” said Pack.
“Usually we invite their families, and they don’t know their families are coming,” added Hobbs. “So we make a big deal about it, but we didn’t really get to do that this year.”
Cecilia Banks said that her winning Swine Production Placement Proficiency was based on show pigs. She started with three head of hogs in 2016 and had built up to 10 head by 2019 (2020 is not included as the year is not complete). Her proficiency involved keeping records on feeding, walking the animals, caring for them, and showing along with medication and veterinarian records. Her second place proficiency was Agriculture Sales which revolved around the sweet corn that she sales in the summer.
“It was just my mom and me there (watching the results),” Banks said. “I didn’t expect to win because that was my first time submitting that one. So when I won I was like ‘oh gosh’!”
She said her family was very excited of her accomplishments. Banks plans on attending Murray State now that she has graduated and majoring in agribusiness. She is also very happy that the Meade County Fair and the Kentucky State Fair have both decided to allow livestock shows to take place this year since she has worked so hard to get her hogs ready for both shows all year.
Kinzey Compton’s winning Vegetable Production Proficiency was based around her Farmer’s Daughter produce business. She started the business her sophomore year and at the beginning of last year bought a greenhouse to add to the project. As a production proficiency, Compton had to keep ledgers on expenses, assets, liabilities and capital to name just a few of the requirements.
“I would have liked it better if we were actually there, but we were all at home,” Compton explained about winning the state. “My family was really proud, especially when I told grandma. She was really proud.”
Compton, who also graduated this year, plans attending ECTC for two years and majoring in their sustainable agriculture program. She plans on using this to help her grow The Farmer’s Daughter Produce as big as she can. She also gives credit to her family’s support, saying without them nothing would be possible.
The third state winner was Toby Graham who won in Diversified Horticulture Placement. He was unable to attend the interview due to work. Hobbs said that he has a small greenhouse where they grow ornamental and tropical plants for their personal benefit mainly, though he does sometimes sell to neighbors. He learned how to propagate Christmas cactus. She said he really has a passion for plants and luckily his mom saw that so she started investing early on in that for him.
“I think it’s so cool for their passions to be rewarded,” said Hobbs. “It’s something they have worked towards and something that will impact them for the rest of their life.”
“We are just really proud of them, and we are really going to miss the seniors,” added Pack.