Missouri FFA and Agriculture Education | Blog
Latest news and reflections by Missouri FFA officers.
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Greenville FFA Lends a Hand

The past 18 months, members of the newly chartered Greenville FFA Chapter have built not only one, but two small homes to be placed in homeless communities in the St. Louis area. Greenville FFA Advisor, Scott Payne, got the idea to build these homes from a fellow Army Reserve Chaplain who has a servent heart for homeless individuals, specifically homeless veterans.

 

“When I told my FFA kids about (the homeless communities), they immediately wanted to do something about it,” Payne said. “So, we drew up some plans and decided we would build a small house.”

 

The small 6-by-12-foot houses are only large enough to hold a set of bunk beds. Even though the houses are not made with plumbing or electricity, the facilities help make living much more bearable for homeless individuals.

 

“They (homeless individuals) were living under tarps and thrown over branches,” Payne explained.

 

Payne, who has a background in industrial education, encouraged his students to begin soliciting community businesses for material donations such as lumber, metal and linoleum. With the support of local businesses, both homes were fully funded. The first home the chapter built was delivered to a man and his wife living in the homeless community in February 2018. The second will be delivered this month.

 

“The students bought into the project immediately, and they would all work hard during the assigned class periods,” Payne said. “They would show up after school. They would show up during free time in other hours. They just wanted to work on it and see it come to pass.”

 

Building the houses was used as a teaching tool in a building construction course. While building, the students had the opportunity to learn about planning, designing, estimating the required materials and different tenants of construction for the small houses.

 

Aesthetically, the homes are very pretty inside even though they are only made to house two people. The walls and ceilings are made from tongue-and-groove pine lumber with two windows for ventilation. To put a personal touch on the houses, Payne left a spot on the wall for each student to sign his or her first name around the words “From Your Friends at Greenville FFA.” The students also used their artistic ability in art courses to paint patriotic paintings to decorate the interior walls of the home.

 

The homes are delivered to a homeless community in the St. Louis area with mostly veteran inhabitants. While Payne is not certain the recipients of the first small home were veterans, he is certain the person who received the home this year is a veteran.

 

Payne is encouraged by the commitment the Greenville FFA members have made to building the homes. While they are learning crucial building skills, they are also helping someone stay warm at night.

 

“On a personal note, it was great to watch the kids get excited about it,” Payne said. “Not because they were just building this, but because they knew they were helping somebody. When that lightbulb came on, I could just see it in my student’s faces. That’s what I appreciated the most out of the build itself.”

 

After being chartered in 2014, the Greenville FFA Chapter has become home to nearly 50 students and just graduated its first set of four-year members in 2018. The number of active freshmen joining each year encouraged Payne. With a little help from their supportive community, the fast-growing chapter is living to serve, one tiny home at a time. —by Julie Choate

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Where Does Your Story Begin?

Paxton Dahmer

Paxton Dahmer – President

“Home is the place where your story begins.” Each time I enter my house, the sign in the foyer catches my eye. This simple quote serves as a constant reminder that we have the chance to write our own story, but first, we have to figure out where home is.

Fortunately for Missouri FFA members, our organization serves as our home. When we zip our jackets, we become part of a network of passionate, accepting and loving individuals that support each other through thick and thin. In my mind, and the minds of more than 25,000 other Missouri FFA members, our organization is our home. However, when we think about FFA being our home, what kind of story are we writing? Are we writing one where everyone can feel as if they are home.

 

This reminds me of our area barnwarming my senior year. One particular student appeared out of his comfort zone. He was watching the dance from the sidelines, avoiding interaction. At that point, my friends and I made the decision to pull him onto the dance floor. He immediately transformed from someone who hadn’t found his place to the star of the show! A seemingly simple act allowed him to not only find his home that night, but it also showed him that he had a home in our organization.

 

FFA members, this organization provides you with opportunity for exponential growth, However, you have to be willing to find your home and write your own story. Throughout the past year, it has been a true honor to watch you begin finding your home and writing your stories. I look forward to the opportunity to continue watching you blossom into passionate advocates for our organization and industry. Thank you for a great year!

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Leave Your Mark on Others

Regan Ragsdale

Regan Ragsdale – Secretary

“Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch.” – Judy Blume

 

Hello, April! Spring has seemingly sprung so quickly, and I could not be happier. April means many things: blooming flowers, sandal weather, celebrating holidays like Easter, and most excitingly – the Missouri FFA State Convention!

 

In a fast two-day convention, Missouri FFA members travel from across the Show-Me state to reconnect with old friends, exemplify the work they’ve done all spring, and have one of the best weekends of their life.

 

The rumble and roar of convention can be exciting and intimidating. For many, it is easy to be caught up in the competition of Career Development and Leadership Development Events. Thinking about the culmination of all your hard work can sometimes be overwhelming. It is also easy to be worried about being the best you can possibly be – trust me, I’ve been there.

 

When going to convention, rather than worrying about the titles you could win or all the things you could see, think about the lives you could be touching. The Missouri FFA State Convention is the best place you could be to meet new and old friends in Missouri FFA. My all-time favorite FFA memories are in the Hearnes Center with the greatest friends I could ask for. The things in Hearnes that I remember are not standing on stage; it’s the times with my friends walking through the Career Show or when I was standing on the floor of Hearnes seeing friends I had met at HYPE.

 

The people at the Missouri FFA State Convention are the reason it is such a magical event. Take advantage of the opportunity to see an old friend from FFA Camp or meet a new friend in the Career Show. The people you see at Missouri FFA State Convention will leave a mark on your life – take a moment to leave a mark on theirs.

 

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91st Missouri FFA Convention to be held in Columbia April 25-26

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., April 10, 2019 – FFA members from across the state will meet in Columbia, April 25-26, at the 91stMissouri FFA Convention to honor fellow members for outstanding achievements, conduct association business, elect new officers and participate in leadership workshops. For the first time, convention sessions will be viewable at https://Livestream.com/MoDESE/MoFFA.

Cultivate Tomorrow, Today is the theme for this year’s annual convention, which is expected to attract more than 8,000 students and guests to Hearnes Center on the University of Missouri campus.

According to Missouri FFA Executive Secretary Keith Dietzschold, the state association will present State FFA Degrees to 760 members who, as a result of their agricultural and leadership achievements, have qualified for the state’s highest FFA degree. Dietzschold also said Missouri has the largest number of American FFA Degree recipients of any state – 518 Missouri FFA members received the American FFA Degree in 2018 during the national convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana, in October.

During the convention the State Star Farmer, the State Star in Agribusiness, the State Star in Placement and the State Star in Agriscience will be named. In addition, 576 FFA members will receive awards in 48 agricultural proficiency areas for development of their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program. The proficiency areas are varied and include production, management, and communications disciplines. In Missouri, SAE programs during the 2017-18 school year generated more than $52 million in student income.

FFA members also will participate in a number of organization program areas including speaking competitions and career development events such as agricultural sales, floriculture, and livestock evaluation.

The Missouri FFA will present awards to several adults and groups for their support of agricultural education and FFA. This year 22 Honorary State FFA Degrees will be presented. An additional 16 honorary degrees will be presented to parents of the retiring state officers.

The Distinguished Service Citation will be presented to Don Fuhrmann, Hillsboro. Fuhrmann started working as a lifeguard in 1978 at Missouri FFA Camp Rising Sun. His position grew to include boat mechanic, ski instructor, lifeguard trainer, boating instructor and waterfront supervisor. Fuhrmann taught art at Hillsboro High School for 32 years. He also coached football, wrestling and track. After retiring in 2005, he continued to work with the wrestling program and was recently honored with the Hillsboro Wrestling Tournament being renamed the Don Fuhrmann Duals.FFA Convention results on the State FFA Med

During the convention Missouri FFA President Paxton Dahmer, Nevada FFA Chapter member, will lead 694 delegates in official business sessions. Each chapter is represented by two delegates.

Four FFA chapters will be chartered during the Thursday evening session. The new chapters are Oak Ridge, Valley Caledonia, Newburg and East Carter.

During the first general session Thursday afternoon, Christopher R. Daubert, vice chancellor and dean of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources, Columbia, will welcome convention attendees. Prior to joining MU in August 2017, Daubert was at North Carolina State University where he served as a professor and head of the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Services; director of the Food Rheology Laboratory; and system co-chair of Food, Biochemical and Engineered Systems. Daubert has served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Texture Studies, is on the editorial board of the Journal of Food Process Engineers and is a fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists.  He has received distinguished alumnus awards from Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania and Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. He earned a doctorate in agricultural engineering and food science from Michigan State University.

National FFA Western Region Vice President Shea Booster, a member of the Bend FFA Chapter, Bend, Oregon, will speak during the first session. In high school, Booster’s SAE was focused on hog production. He was the 2016-17 Oregon State FFA president.  Booster is a sophomore at Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, where he is studying agricultural business management. Booster’s goals include being in a leadership-development or communications position with an agricultural company, and eventually taking over his father’s leadership-consultation company.

Booster was elected as a national officer in October during national convention. The six-person national officer team collectively will log more than 100,000 miles representing FFA to top leaders in business, government and education. National officers also lead numerous personal growth and leadership training sessions, and promote agricultural literacy.

Also during first session, Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn will speak. Chinn, named to director January 2017, resides on her family farm in Shelby County with her husband and two children. The Chinns have a farrow-to-finish hog operation; a small cow-calf herd; raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa; and operate a family feed mill.

During the Thursday evening session, Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven will address the convention. Vandeven joined the department of elementary and secondary education in 2005 as a supervisor of the Missouri School Improvement Program before serving as a director of accountability data and school improvement, an assistant commissioner in the Office of Quality Schools and as deputy commissioner of the Division of Learning Services. She was appointed commissioner of elementary and secondary education by the Missouri State Board of Education in December 2014 and served in that capacity until December 2017. She was reappointed in January 2019.

Vandeven earned a bachelor’s from Missouri State University, Springfield, and a master’s degree from Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland. She earned a doctorate from Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, Missouri. Vandeven has been recognized by Missouri State University and St. Louis University as a distinguished alumna.

 

During the Friday evening final session, Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient Dave Roever of Fort Worth, Texas, will share a story of survival and inspiration. At the height of the Vietnam War, he joined the U.S. Navy and served as a river boat gunner in the elite Brown Water Black Beret. Then tragedy occurred. Today Roever travels the globe, speaking at national conventions, public schools and to U.S. military audiences, including tours of war zones. Since 2007, at the two Eagles Summit Ranches near Westcliffe, Colorado, and Junction, Texas, Roever and his team run Operation Warrior RECONnect.

 

The Missouri FFA Association has 25,375 members, ranking sixth as a state in membership. FFA strives to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

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Will You Achieve Your Goals?

Hannah Viets

Hannah Viets – VP

“Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there” – Bo Jackson

 

Many of us set goals at the beginning of the year to help ourselves succeed. Some of our goals might have been to make it to state in a contest, run for an officer position, or even get good grades. As the year has flown by, I cannot help but look back on my year as a state officer and think about what my goal was when I was elected.

 

My number one goal when I was elected was to impact the life of at least one FFA member. At FFA camp, I met this wonderful young girl who was very shy and didn’t really want to talk all that much and feared public speaking. As I kept talking with her, I realized that we had so much in common, and we became good friends. After that week, she messaged me over social media and thanked me for believing in her. Four months later, she messaged me and we talked about how she achieved her own goal, competing in and public speaking event and winning.

 

That was the moment I realized I had changed that young girl’s life. I had reached my goal as a state officer. I realized, then, I could push my goal farther. FFA members, as we near the end of our high school days for the year, let us keep in mind our goals that we set for ourselves when the school year began just a few months ago. Whether big or small, let us keeping pushing to achieve those goals. I achieved my goal for the year, will you?

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Power Throw

Ryan Siegel

Ryan Siegel – VP

It was the 2016 Summer Olympics, and I was sitting on my couch watching the snippets of the throwing events. As the shot-putters and discus throwers threw unfathomable distances, I was determined to try track and field, more emphasis on field, during my junior year of high school.

 

Fast forward to spring 2017. The first day of practice came around, and I found myself running laps around our school. “What is this,” I thought. I signed up to throw shot put and discus, not run the mile. As the season progressed, I slowly realized the importance of running was to bring up my agility and speed when throwing.

 

At my first track meet, my coach told me I was going to do a half spin when throwing discus and glide when I was throwing shot put. And let me tell you, I did awful — 20 feet worse on discus than in practice and 5 feet worse on shot put! This was due to one thing — the technique. You see, I wasn’t comfortable with it. It didn’t fit the way I threw, and I had little practice with the techniques I used. Although I wasn’t doing the greatest, I didn’t want to just power throw. I didn’t want to be different from everyone else. I wanted so badly to be successful with the technique. However, during my senior year I realized it didn’t matter. If I didn’t use technique and just threw, I was successful.

 

FFA members, throughout our FFA careers we must be willing to try new techniques, ideas, contests and opportunities. Still, we won’t always be the best. Sometimes by realizing where we fall in technique we can realize what needs work and build on our skills. Try something new, push yourself, grow from your failures, but never be afraid to just throw.

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Stand Up and Speak Out

Whether you are interested in strengthening your speaking skills or simply meeting new friends, the Missouri Public Speaking Academy (PSA) might be right for you.

Missouri State FFA Vice President Dillon Reinitz is a past PSA attendee. He says the experience helped him sharpen his presentations, hook the audience and develop a topic meaningful to the audience.

“I personally was the shy kid who was frightened of talking to others,” Reinitz says. “After attending the Missouri Public Speaking Academy my freshman year of high school, I felt as though I could effectively and confidently present a speech to anyone.”

Reinitz tried his hand at public speaking the following spring. “I did really well because of the skills I learned at PSA and even attended two more times,” he says. “I highly recommend all FFA members attend PSA at least once.”

This year’s PSA will be held June 4-6 on the University of Central Missouri campus in Warrensburg.  Sixty spots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Deadline to apply is May 15. Registration application is available online HERE.

—from our staff.

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Cultivate Tomorrow Today: Missouri State FFA Convention

Who doesn’t find value in an American hero? Dave Roever is a Vietnam veteran backed by solid character, and he’s slated to headline this year’s state FFA Convention, April 25-26 in Columbia. Roever will inspire and challenge FFA members across the state through his engaging humor.

A Purple Heart recipient, Roever joined the U.S.  Navy at the height of the Vietnam War. He served as a river boat gunner in the elite Brown Water Black Beret, until tragedy occurred. His survival and ensuing life with his faithful wife Brenda at his side are miraculous. Now a multi-generational communicator, Roever travels the globe to share his gripping story, imparting hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Themed “Cultivate Tomorrow Today,” this year’s state convention also features award presentations, career development events, workshops and the ever-popular FFA Career Show.

Missouri also welcomes National FFA Western Region Vice President Shea Booster of Bend, Oregon, to the convention. Booster hopes to encourage members and ag education students to appreciate themselves as individuals.

“Every member has been crafted through years of experiences that have led them to where they are today, allowing them to find comfort in their uniqueness, one member, one day at a time,” Booster said.

While attending Mountain View High School, Booster’s supervised agricultural experience (SAE) was swine production. Majoring in agricultural business management, Booster is a sophomore at Oregon State University. He served as the 2016-17 Oregon FFA state president.

“I hope to intentionally seek out moments to build confidence in other young people who share my passion for leadership in agriculture,” Booster says.

Booster hopes to eventually work for an agriculture company in the areas of leadership development, talent recruitment or communications before taking over his father’s leadership consultation company.

In addition to these guest speakers, the 91st Annual Missouri FFA Convention will feature leadership workshops for members. The FFA Career Show also gives students and guests insight and the chance to learn about agricultural businesses, organizations, colleges and universities and more. Additionally, Missouri FFA will recognize the State Star Farmer, State Star in Agribusiness and State Star in Placement as well as present more than 750 State FFA Degrees to deserving members statewide. More than 8,000 people are expected to be in Columbia at the University of Missouri Hearnes Center for the state’s largest FFA event.

—from our staff.

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Be a Donut

Audrey Martin

Audrey Martin – VP

Doughnuts. No, I am not referring to the pastries, but rather to the spare tire that comes with your car — the one that looks like it belongs on a bicycle. I recently had a flat tire and had to get it fixed. To get my tire repaired, I had to put the doughnut on my car so that I could get to the tire shop. When I say, “I had to change my tire,”I really mean supervise while a couple of the other state officers actually changed it. After the doughnut was on, we headed to the tire shop. Keep in mind, though, that you can’t drive more than 50 miles per hour with the spare. Therefore, I carefully drove to the shop and eventually got my new tire.

 

While most people would look at the doughnut and think that it’s useless, ultimately, that doughnut is what gets you from having a stationary car to one that can hit the road. Many of you are participating on Career Development or Leadership Development Event teams right now. Some of you have been dreaming of being on the team you are on right now, while some of you feel the exact opposite. You might be the youngest one on your team, you might have needed to switch teams last minute, or maybe you are repeatedly the drop score for your team, but that’s okay. We all feel like doughnuts sometimes. Often, you are the one that makes a difference for your team. You are the one who will work hard, keep your head down and at the end of the day be the one who pushes your team to advance to state, break a record or place one rank higher than last week. Without you, your team would be stationary. With you, though, your team can transform into something you never imagined.

 

When a car has a flat, the doughnut becomes the most important tire. And when your teams face obstacles, you can be the most influential member.

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Letting Competition Get The Best of Us

Chloe Momphard

Chloe Momphard – VP

With Career Development Events and Leadership Development events well under way, it is easy to focus on what went well or what we could have done better this season. While self-reflection is a good technique for improving and working to better ourselves, we should also take a step back to understand that the goal of contests is growth.

Don’t get me wrong. I like winning, but it’s not always in moments of success that we develop or grow. During my sophomore year of high school, I was competing on the agricultural issues team. Our team placed first at area and then as alternate at districts. Needless to say, I was heartbroken because our goal of competing at state had come to an abrupt end. I quickly began exploring other options and landed on submitting a research project (in partnership with one of my Ag Issues teammates) within Agriscience Research – Animal Systems examining different types of filler feeds.  With our agri-science project, we placed first at state, applied to go to nationals and placed second overall!

It would have been very easy to take the loss and end my contest season.  Instead, I used it as a chance to learn, and then move forward to seek additional opportunities. During this project, I learned that I enjoyed and respected research so much that I am looking to pursue it in college. Sometimes, it is the less-than-stellar moments that help us most in the long run!

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Commit To The Pour

Hattie Grisham – VP

Filling a petri dish wouldn’t seem to be the hardest task. However, with no prior information on how to properly fill them, you are more than likely to make a mess. This is a lesson I learned the hard way.

One afternoon while filling practice petri dishes for an end-of-the-year chemistry project, I created a giant mess. The substance you pour in, agar mixture, has a very runny substance but also sets up very quickly, requiring speedy pouring. I had prepped my mixture, petri dishes and was ready to go! I began the process.

Plate one — a little full, but okay.

Plate two — not enough mixture, but these were just practice plates.

Plate three — only the slightest bit of mixture made it in, and the rest went all over the table.

I quickly scrambled to move the empty dishes and begin cleaning up the mess. After helping me, Mrs. O’Donnell, my chemistry teacher, told me, “You have to commit to the pour!” As a result of being hesitant to mess up the pouring, scared to commit and be confident in my abilities, I created the mess I hoped to avoid.

As my friends and I continued throughout the rest of senior year, we often joked about “committing to the pour” in various situations. However, I believe this simple science lesson can apply to us all. As we enter the grind of contest season, it is easy to not want to step outside of our comfort zone, doubt our abilities, or not give our all due to other involvements. In these instances though, our true character is revealed. In all you do, commit to the pour.

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Celebrate the Failures

McKenzie Loftis

McKenzie Loftis – VP

“Every failurebrings with it the seedof an equivalent success.”
– Napolean Hill

During my time in the blue jacket, I have had the pleasure of competing in many Career Development  and Leadership Development Events. Every year I learned a new key component of agriculture, traveled to some really awesome places, and learned some very intense lessons about myself. It’s interesting in that looking back, I remember the wins, the insane celebrations and joy they brought. In reflection, the losses seem more vivid than the wins, though. I can still tell you the primary reason for not winning state my freshman year in poultry; it was because of a missing breast meat in a carcass class that I didn’t see. Although that failure hurt, it wasn’t final. I had many more opportunities to succeed and used it as a seed. As you enter the spring season of competing, I hope that you learn as much as possible about the area you choose to pursue. Still, do not forget along the way that this is teaching you more than just knowledge and skill. This season of your life is showing you how much dedication, heart and drive you possess. Enjoy the early mornings and the relationships you build with your teammates. Take chances, learn from failures and mistakes, and celebrate the joys of successes. Best of luck this spring!

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Missouri and Kansas FFA Students Collect 3,100 Items in 2019 Western Farm Show Food Drive

Kansas City, Mo. (March 5, 2019) – FFA students from Missouri and Kansas collected and delivered  3,111 non-perishable food items for the annual “Border War Food Drive” at the 2019 Western Farm Show at the American Royal in Kansas City.

 

More than 3,500 students from the two states attended the show on FFA Day, Friday, Feb. 22, where they also had the opportunity to participate in educational seminars and learn about career opportunities in the ag industry.

 

About 70 chapters from Missouri participated, collecting 2,143 food items. The top chapters were Lone Jack (504), St. Joseph (233) and Gilman City (217).  Lone Jack once again had the highest total of all chapters from both states, a feat they have accomplished in seven of the last eight annual Western Farm Show food drives. The chapter will receive a $500 prize for their accomplishment.

Nearly 20 participating Kansas chapters brought 968 items to the show, with the highest totals from Louisburg (304) and Tonganoxie (280).  That ranked them second and third overall from both states, just behind Lone Jack.

 

The food was donated to the Harvesters – The Community Food Network, a Kansas City-based regional food bank that serves a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. In the eight years the Western Farm Show food drive has been conducted, more than nearly 34,000 pounds of food have been delivered to Harvester’s which provided more than 28,000 meals for those facing food insecurity.

 

“We’re so grateful to these FFA students and the Western Farm Show, and appreciative of their continuing commitment,” said Gene Hallinan, communications manager for Harvesters.

 

“FFA Day is always one of the highlights of the Western Farm Show,” said show manager Ken Dean. “All the participating students are to be commended for the great leadership and commitment they demonstrated to help in the fight against hunger.”

 

Produced by the Western Equipment Dealers Association, the annual Western Farm Show features over 500 exhibitors and more than 400,000 square feet of floor space showcasing one of the largest indoor displays of farm equipment and other agricultural products in the Midwest. Other attractions include the Low-Stress Livestock Handling Demonstration, the Health & Safety Roundup and Family Living Center.

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Priming Pigs for Productivity

Imagine it. Improved conception rates and litter sizes for your hog operation. Through their animal systems agriscience experiment, Troy FFA members Dylan Sparks and Izabella Hutton Kidwell, aimed to provide commercial, show pig and seedstock farms valuable information to improve productivity.

Their experiment earned Dylan and Izabella first place honors in the animal systems, division 4 category, of the National Agriscience Fair.

The duo analyzed the type of artificial insemination (AI) rod used and how it affected conception rates and litter sizes. Their interest spawned from pork being the most widely consumed meat in the world, emphasizing the importance of increasing conception rates and litter sizes on hog operations.

Dylan and Izabella found that intrauterine or transcervical rods provide the best conception rates and litter sizes in the swine breed using artificial insemination. In fact, their data found almost twice the litter sizes and conception rates in the swine breed with the intrauterine rod.

Plans are already underway for this year’s Missouri Agriscience Fair. Registration and papers are due May 7, with the event set for May 14 at Memorial Union on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus. Get additional details online through this link: Missouri Agriscience Fair.

—from our staff.

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More Than Mowing Grass

Students in the agriculture program at State Technical College of Missouri are landing internships and full-time jobs at many high-profile companies in the turf and landscape fields. Just this year, State Tech had students on the athletic fields during the U.S. Open, World Series, Super Bowl and 100th PGA Championship. Their students are developing practical skills through multiple hands-on opportunities to prepare them for their careers.

 

Ryan Klatt, agriculture department chair and instructor, and Nick Rackers, instructor, make up the two-man teaching staff within agriculture at State Tech. Students pursing the commercial turf and grounds management degree take courses for two years with a required six-month internship between the first and second year.

 

“They stay on internship the whole time from the first week in March until August of the next [school] year when school starts back up,” Klatt said. “The reason we do that is because that’s when most landscape companies, golf courses, ball fields–they’re all looking for help. The students get out there, and they are able to see an extra season.”

 

The opportunity to work an extra season, as opposed to just the summer, provides students an opportunity to get more out of their internship experience by seeing how companies operate in two peak seasons of the year, spring and summer.

 

IN-DEPTH COURSE WORK

While the students are in classes, they are maintaining the landscape of the State Tech campus. Students are responsible for mowing, designing the landscaping, growing and planting flowers and even pruning trees and shrubs. Rackers has focused on creating a diverse, botanical garden feel over the campus by labeling each plant with its scientific name.

 

“I can’t teach tree and shrub identification in the middle of Osage County if I don’t have a concentration of trees and shrubs to go look at,” Rackers said. “I’m trying to create diversity on campus.”

 

One of the first courses students will take in the agriculture program is equipment operations, where they learn how to run a variety of mowers, mini excavators, skid loaders and multiple other pieces of equipment.

 

“We would rather them learn to do it here, so they know how to run that piece of equipment when they get on their internship–before we send them out in the field,” Klatt said. “The employers or the people who hire them really like that because when they are out [on internship], they are ready to hit the ground running when they get there.”

 

SUPERIOR INTERNSHIPS

Students are receiving internships with landscape companies, golf courses and on athletic fields. Klatt and Rackers are able to direct students toward a company, which fits their interests. They use industry connections to guide students in the right direction, but they also encourage students to become student members of certain associations, that often provide job boards where applications for some of the high-profile internships can be found.

 

“Out in our shop, we have what’s called our Wall of Fame,” Klatt said. “Any student who has worked for a professional team or at a high-profile golf course gets a flag on the wall. So that’s kind of our professional claim to fame.”

 

Over the past several years, students have worked for a variety of teams, including the Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox among others. Additionally, students have worked at the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open. In 2018 alone, State Tech had students representing the program during the U.S. Open, World Series and Super Bowl.

 

OUTSIDE OPPORTUNITIES

In addition to the hands-on experience during internships and through coursework, State Tech students in agriculture can be members of and participate in PAS (Professional Agricultural Student Organization).

 

“It [PAS] is kind of like FFA, but for college students,” Rackers said. “They have professional development type contests called CPAs. There’s floriculture, landscape, turf grass, dairy and equine, just like FFA has their CDEs. But there’s also a professional career building component.”

 

The professional career-building component of PAS provides students with the opportunity to expand their professional development skills through a practical application. This past year, State Tech brought home multiple awards from the state conference.

 

Additionally, students who are landscape-focused can attend the trade show at the Western Nursery and Landscape Association (WNLA). Currently, two State Tech students have been nominated to sit on the WNLA advisory board for the next two years.

 

MORE THAN MOWING GRASS

Klatt and Rackers are helping students develop the skills and resume necessary to be successful in the turf and landscape fields. However, both said it is a lot more than just learning how to mow grass.

 

“A lot of people come in and see all of our equipment sitting in our shop and they think, ‘I can go to school to learn how to mow grass’,” Klatt said. “It’s a lot more than just mowing grass by the time you get the fertility and the pest problems and how to manage all those things. There’s a lot more to it than just mowing.”

 

For more information about the State Tech Commercial Turf and Grounds Management program, please visit www.statetechmo.edu or follow them on Facebook @statetechctg.

—by Julie Choate

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