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Jan 20 2021

GROWMARK Announces 2021 Missouri Essay Contest Winner

Press Release Compliments of GROWMARK


Madilynn Lippa of Montrose, Missouri, has been named the Missouri state winner of the 2021 GROWMARK essay contest for FFA members. The theme of this year’s contest was “If you could invent a new technology to improve agriculture, what would it be?” Students were encouraged to think creatively, not necessarily realistically, as they described their ideal invention.

In her contest entry, Lippa said: “The invention that is going to come into play is a food waste robot in every household. This robot takes food waste in and transports it to a local pig farm. Each robot will be set to recognize food from other foreign materials.”

Lippa is a student at Montrose R-XIV School District and a member of the Montrose FFA chapter. Her FFA advisor is Shayla Coale.

As the contest winner, Lippa will receive a $500 award from GROWMARK. The Montrose FFA chapter will also receive a $300 award in honor of her accomplishment.

Four state runners-up will each receive a $125 award. The runners-up and their FFA chapters are, in alphabetical order: Maggie Collins, Jefferson FFA, Ravenwood, Missouri; Emily Goetting, Carrollton ACC FFA, Norborne, Missouri; Ashland Higgins, Troy FFA, Moscow Mills, Missouri; and Abigail Miller, Eldon FFA, Olean, Missouri.

This is the 28th year 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 in agriculture, and understand the unique role of cooperatives.

GROWMARK is an agricultural cooperative providing agronomy, energy, facility planning, and logistics products and services, as well as grain marketing and risk management services throughout North America. Headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois, GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, which is used by affiliated member cooperatives. More information is available at

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Jan 20 2021

Young Leaders Compete in Beef Speaking Contest

Speaking Contest Finalists: (Random Order)

Hailey Eads, Elsie Kigar, Logan Blankenship, Owen Neely, Trey Riley, and Josie Meier

Speaking Contest Winners:

1st place – Trey Riley from St. James, South Central
2nd place – Owen Neely from Lockwood, Southwest
3rd place – Elsie Kigar from Memphis, Northeast

Press Release Compliments of Missouri Cattlemen’s Association


OSAGE BEACH, MISSOURI (Jan. 12, 2021) – Trey Riley, representing the St. James FFA chapter, was named the winner of the 2021 Missouri Cattle Industry FFA Public Speaking Contest. The final round of the competition was held Saturday, January 9, during the 53rd Annual Missouri Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in Osage Beach. The competitors were recognized at the convention banquet honoring youth.


“This contest is truly a highlight of our convention,” said Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Mike Deering. “We are committed to empowering the next generation and this contest puts the talents of our future leaders on full display. These young leaders leave us with absolute confidence that the future of Missouri agriculture is in good hands.”


Six finalists competed in the state competition. These FFA members qualified by advancing through area and district competition. Owen Neely, Lockwood FFA, placed second in the contest and Elsie Kigar, Memphis FFA, placed third. The three other finalists included Logan Blankenship, Eldon FFA, Hailey Eads, Jamesport FFA, and Josey Meier, Jackson FFA.


Each finalist received $100 and the top three places were awarded additional money. Third place received $200, second place received $300 and first placed received $500. The competition was hosted by MCA and the Missouri CattleWomen’s Association. The contest was sponsored by the Missouri Beef Industry Council; Missouri CattleWomen’s Association; Kent and Linda Blades; Apex Financial; Duckworth Farms; Missouri Heritage Mutual Insurance; and Jimmie and Linda Long Livestock.


The annual convention concluded Sunday, January 10.

Click here to view the winning speech.

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Jan 20 2021

When a Snag Sparks Spirit

Princeton FFA member Brylee Williams turns challenges into big rewards.

Brylee Williams, Princeton, Mo FFA Member

Princeton FFA member Brylee Williams knows first-hand how a challenge can help develop passion in something.


The 2020 National Swine Production Entrepreneurship Proficiency Award finalist lost every litter born in January 2018 when Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) hit her farrowing house.


“We ran tests on every single pig we lost and worked with our vet for months to ensure that we did not have the problem again,” Williams explains.


Today, the young entrepreneur implements a strict vaccination protocol to help ensure pigs stay healthy.


Williams grew up exhibiting livestock and has always had an interest in swine production.


“When I was very young my dad raised hogs at the Princeton FFA Research Farm,” she says. “Some of my fondest memories were going down to the farrowing house and playing with the baby pigs. It only made sense that swine production would be my SAE (supervised agricultural experience).”


As part of her swine production entrepreneurship SAE, Williams has held two successful online pig sales and has placed three boars in boar studs across the country. She says that, coupled with her love of feeding and showing pigs, has only further developed her passion for the industry.


“Over the past few years, I have learned countless lessons,” Williams says. “From health and disease to feeding and breeding, I have tried my best to be a sponge.”


With lofty goals in mind, Williams hopes to continue learning from mentors in the industry. She says building relationships with others not only helps her troubleshoot potential problems in her operation, but also is key to building a network of customers.


“Hard work pays off,” she says. “Moving forward in life is dependent on learning from where you have been. Over the years I have been able to pursue my passion for the livestock industry, but my journey is far from over.”


by Joann Pipkin

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Cory Word, 2020 national finalist in the Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management Placement Proficiency Award area
Jan 20 2021

Successful Stewardship

Land improvements, cover crops help Cory Word become national finalist in the Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management Placement Proficiency Award

Cory Word, 2020 national finalist in the Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management Placement Proficiency Award area

Land stewardship. It’s top of mind for Cory Word, and it helped him become a 2020 national finalist in the Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management Placement Proficiency Award area. Working for his grandfather at Hellwege Farms LLC, Word helps maintain and improve land quality for the row crop, hay and beef cattle operation.


In his role there, Word repairs and creates new waterways and integrates cover crops to improve soil health and prevent erosion. He also assists with manure management for the farm’s feedlot.


“My SAE (supervised agricultural experience) has taught me environmental stewardship as I take care of the land the most effective way, and my engagement in natural resource management has helped me achieve my goals in my diversified agricultural production experience.”


With little forehand knowledge of natural resource management, Word began by maintaining the farm’s current waterways. He then worked to repair and reseed those areas with wheat and fescue to prevent soil erosion and future washouts.


“One challenge I faced with my SAE was bad field conditions for planting due to increased rainfall in the fall and a lengthy harvest due to weather conditions,” Word explains. “The lengthy harvest left crops in the field during the time the cover crops should have been planted. When field conditions finally improved, I did not have much time to plant the cover crops.”


Word says his knowledge of environmental science and natural resources increased dramatically throughout his SAE. While he began his project with an academic knowledge of cover crops, waterways and erosion, he says his placement SAE helped him implement that environmental and natural resources knowledge.


“My SAE has taught me to be responsible with my time and passionate about agriculture and environmental practices for the future,” Word says. “Good stewardship of the land and the future viability of the land is something I have become very passionate about.”


by Joann Pipkin

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Carley Esser, MO FFA Alumnus
Jan 20 2021

Launchpad for Learning

FFA helped sharpen Carley Esser’s career development, relationship skills all while cultivating her passion for agriculture.

Carley Esser, MO FFA Alumnus

Carley Esser didn’t grow up on a farm. But that didn’t stop her from learning the impact of the agriculture industry and from making the most of her FFA experience.


Today, the former Boonville FFA member is a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., for Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04). In her role, Esser researches and develops policy, engages with constituents and works with agencies to help influence policy and regulations that impact Missouri and the fourth congressional district. She also works on trade, energy, environment, education, transportation and foreign aid policy.


“Having not grown up directly on a farm, FFA helped me gain a basic knowledge of the agriculture industry, take advantage of hands-on experiences I would have otherwise not been exposed to, and develop a love for public speaking — all while building a national network of amazing individuals,” Esser explains.


As an FFA member, Esser held officer positions, participated in as many career and leadership development events as possible and admits rushing through art class projects so she could speed extra time in the agriculture classroom. Her Supervised Agricultural Experience project focused on raising chickens and helping her dad in his construction business while also working with the local parks and recreation department.


Looking back on her time in the blue jacket, Esser says FFA helped her build a resume´ and sharpen her interview skills by competing in a variety of contents and experiences. The same preparation helped her apply for agriculture-related internships and experiences that all assisted her in preparing for her current career.


“My first trip to our nation’s capital was because of FFA’s Washington Leadership Conference, and now every year I get to see the flood of blue jackets across our city,” Esser says. “Even after adding a few more trips to Arlington Cemetery, I am just as excited when I get to explore the monuments today as I was then.”


Esser is quick to note you get out of an activity what you put into it. In fact, she remembers feeling devastated when she passed up for a chapter officer position. The experience taught her both humility and time management.


She explains, “It was brought to my attention that I was putting more time into sports, and I could not expect to reap the benefits of being an officer if I wasn’t willing to also put in the effort of supporting a team. I needed to better manage my time if I wanted to succeed on the ball field and the FFA field.”


To Esser, FFA provides a launchpad for students to develop into well-rounded, contributing members of society.


“You don’t have to be going into production agriculture to benefit from the FFA,” she says. “While that is an important and valuable route, the industry is so diverse and needs advocates both inside and outside the industry.”


Esser encourages FFA members to be active in the organization as well as other opportunities. She says exposing yourself to all you can while focusing on building and keeping genuine relationships is key.


 “While experience plays a large role in getting jobs, I am where I am today because of exposure to opportunities and the people who helped get me here,” Esser says. “Every career door opened because of genuine relationships with people who believed in my ability and trusted that I would not let them down. FFA helped expose me to various career paths, people and opportunities to put learning into practice.”

by Joann Pipkin

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Dec 17 2020

10 Tips for Scholarship Apps

College bound? Now is the time to get financial assistance!

The excitement of graduating from high school and beginning a collegiate career is among the most celebrated milestones in life. But, along with the excitement comes figuring out how to pay for school, which can be a burden for some students. Scholarships are the ideal option to help pay for college, and the amount of financial assistance available for students entering higher education is vast. Scholarship applications do require time and commitment, but the task pays off when you put your best effort into them. To help with the application process, consider these tips to improve your chances of obtaining scholarships.


  1. Start early. The earlier you begin the scholarship application process the better. If you begin applying your junior year, you will have plenty of practice and enough time to secure enough scholarships to hopefully pay for the first year of school by the time your freshman year of college rolls around.


  1. Don’t avoid essays. It might seem like a daunting task, but do not skip over applications that require an essay. Take your time, review the required content for the essay, edit the draft and edit again before submission.


  1. Watch deadlines. Be sure to keep track of all scholarship deadlines. Write the dates on a calendar that you will see daily. Your hard work on the application will be for nothing if you don’t submit it by the deadline.


  1. Look for unique opportunities. Scholarships for specific things like heritage, for example, can help boost chances of receiving more financial assistance. There is even a scholarship available for getting inspiration from a Branson show.


  1. Let the small scholarships add up. You don’t necessarily have to apply for the scholarships with the most amounts. It’s okay to apply for small amounts and let those build up over time. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive the largest amount, because any scholarship should be celebrated!


  1. Request letters of recommendation from people outside your family and friend circle. Try to reach outside your usual circle when asking for letters of recommendation. Think of anyone in your academic career such as, teachers, coaches or advisors. Also, consider your work history and associated coworkers, bosses, etc.


  1. Use the academic resources around you to find scholarships- advisors, teachers, etc when looking for scholarships. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information. Advisors and teachers are great resources for this and likely have more insight on opportunities that you may have missed while doing online searches.


  1. Research the school before you write your essay and align your goals and values. Every school you apply to will be unique in its own way. Be sure to cater your application essays to the goals and values of the specific college or university. Your essay will stand out and show you have done your research.


  1. Get help proofreading your essays and applications. Ask your school counselor or a trusted teacher assist with reviewing your essays and applications. The most important part of any scholarship application is making sure it is error-free, including spelling and grammatical mistakes. Have trusted professionals review your applications and essays before submitting.


  1. Have a positive online presence. You never know when they’re going to look! Anyone can see your social profiles, including those reviewing your scholarship applications. Conduct a personal social media audit and consider whether or not your posts would help or hurt your chances of receiving a scholarship.



Looking for a scholarship opportunity? Check out the listing on our website at

from Missouri State University Agricultural Communications Dept.

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Keith Coble, former Missouri FFA member
Dec 17 2020

Unlocking Ambition

Former FFA member Keith Coble tells you how his time in the blue jacket impacts him still today.

From an agricultural education classroom in Missouri to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the skills learned, and memories made, during his time in FFA have followed Keith Coble throughout every step of his professional career.


Coble’s first degree was in agricultural education. After teaching high school ag in Carl Junction, Missouri, he went back to school to obtain a degree in agricultural economics. Coble had the opportunity to work in Washington D.C. at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and on the Senate Agriculture Committee on Capitol Hill before settling into his current role.


Today, as the Mississippi State University agricultural economics department head and assistant to the vice president of the division of agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine, Coble works with the college’s teaching, research and extension programs.


Though his job titles have changed over time, the skillset he calls upon to succeed has remained the same.


“I constantly use leadership skills here at the university, as well as when I was working on Capitol Hill,” Coble says. “There were experiences I gained in FFA around working with people, speaking to people and trying to make progress on something as a team. I learned those skills in high school, and I often think of them when I meet other adults who didn’t learn those lessons along the way.”


Coble most enjoyed the competition fostered by Career Development Events and Leadership Development Events in FFA. He participated in several speaking events and participated on teams like livestock judging.


Even as an advisor, Coble enjoyed training students for contests. Leaning on his interest in agricultural business and economics, he even trained a national-winning farm management team.


In addition to the tangible skills he took away, Coble says his experiences in the organization unlocked something that would ultimately change his trajectory. 


“I grew up in southern Missouri in the Ozarks,” he explains. “My father did not graduate from high school, but my uncle was a state FFA officer, a role I got to hold later on. The thing my dad always taught me was that education would give me opportunities he did not have. Though my father did not graduate from high school, he was a strong champion of getting an education.


“Then, FFA came around, and I got the chance to go to National FFA Convention,” he says. “I got to go speak at different events as an officer, and I got to go to the Washington program. It opened my eyes to the things I could do and to the things I could be.”


FFA unlocked his ambition and belief in himself, he says.


“I had no idea at the time that I would become a university professor, that I would work on Capitol Hill, that I would travel and speak at conferences,” Coble continues. “But, FFA gave me the confidence that I could do and be those things.”


Though he couldn’t see it at the time, that confidence brought on by his experiences in the organization furthered Coble’s growth by encouraging him to keep showing up.


“I really wanted to win the state public speaking contest, I really wanted to be the state president of Missouri FFA, and I kind of got second in both events,” he says. “I was second place in state speaking and the first vice president of the organization. But, if I look back at my life, the difference between being first and second was minimal. It was the fact that I was there. My life has gone on, and I think I’ve gotten to do the most amazing things because of the confidence I gained from those situations.”

by Brandelyn Martin Twellman

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Dec 17 2020

Drive to Feed Kids Donates 1 Million Meals in 2020

Missouri Farmers Care and Missouri agriculture keep children and communities at the forefront during challenging times.

Paris FFA chapter

Like many activities this year, the 2020 Missouri Farmers Care (MFC) Drive to Feed Kids looked a little different. However, the mission – to raise awareness of childhood food insecurity and raise support for food banks across the state – became more critical in the midst of a global pandemic.


“Farmers and ranchers work 365 days a year to produce abundance from our farms and ranches,” said Ashley McCarty, Missouri Farmers Care executive director. “The Drive to Feed Kids addresses the disconnect where that abundance doesn’t reach our neighbors’ dinner tables. Adjusting to the challenges of 2020, this yearlong Drive encompassed numerous impactful activities. We are again heartened by the generosity of Missouri agriculture that shines through the Drive to Feed Kids.”


In May 2020, the Missouri Pork Association and Missouri Farmers Care united to create the Pork Partnership. The mission of the Partnership was to help bridge the gap between Missourians in need and pork producers who faced a reduction in processing availability due to coronavirus-related slowdowns. All told, Missouri pork producers donated 611 hogs to the effort, providing 69,670 pounds of ground pork — 318,000 servings of much needed, high-quality protein — to Feeding Missouri, the association of Missouri’s six regional food banks.


“Protein is a significant need at food pantries, even during normal times,” said Scott Baker, state director of Feeding Missouri. “In 2020, that need was greater than we’ve ever seen. As demand has spiked at food banks and pantries across the state, so too has the help provided by Missouri’s farmers.”


Agricultural youth organizations were also key partners in this year’s Drive to Feed Kids campaign. Missouri 4-H and FFA initiated major community service activities. This spring, 4-H members from across the state provided 297,132 meals for Feeding Missouri during their four-month 4-H Feeding Missouri campaign.


Missouri FFA Association partnered with the Drive to Feed Kids for a fourth year. Even though FFA members were not able to gather for their statewide service day at the Missouri State Fair, a mini-grant program was created. Sixty-three FFA chapters received a $300 mini-grant. Food insecurity projects ranged from local meal and blessing box packing events, raising of broiler chickens for local senior citizens, providing milk for a weekly backpack program and Thanksgiving baskets for families in need. FFA members amplified $20,750 worth of grants for a total $41,500 impact.


In addition, Missourians met a 50,000 meal social media challenge by giving individual donations. These contributions, along with $1,145 raised by FCS Financial employees, allowed Missouri agriculture to reach its goal. Missouri Soybean Association matched every dollar contributed to the challenge for a grand total of $10,000. Thus, providing the purchasing power of 50,000 meals to support Feeding Missouri's efforts in communities during this time of need. According to Feeding America, more than 800,000 Missourians faced food insecurity in Missouri before COVID-19. With increased unemployment and the challenges of this year, Feeding America projects that number has increased by 39% to 1.1 million Missourians, including 335,260 children.


Sponsorship of Missouri Farmers Care’s Drive to Feed Kids was provided by: Brownfield Ag News, Missouri Farm Bureau, American Family Insurance, FCS Financial, MFA Incorporated, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, National FFA Association, Allen P. & Josephine B. Green Foundation, Forrest and Charlotte Lucas – founders of Protect the Harvest, Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Paseo Biofuels, LLC, Biofuels, LLC, Missouri Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, Missouri Pet Breeders Association, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri State Fair, Missouri FFA Association, Missouri 4-H, benevolent individuals and the contributions of many Missouri farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses.


Drive to Feed Kids first launched in 2017 with a goal of building collaborative partnerships among non-profit organizations, farmers and agricultural businesses committed to addressing food insecurity in Missouri. To learn more about Missouri Farmers Care and the Drive to Feed Kids, visit

Mexico FFA Chapter
Carthage FFA Chapter
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Nov 16 2020

Missouri FFA Members Receive National Awards

Two tapped with proficiency award honors 

Nationally, students enrolled in agricultural education can compete for awards in nearly 50 proficiency award areas ranging from agricultural communications to wildlife management. Proficiency awards are also recognized at local and state levels and provide recognition to members that are exploring and becoming established in agricultural career pathways.


While seven Missouri FFA members were national proficiency award finalists last month, two were named national winners during the virtual 2020 National FFA Convention.


Jacob Dierking, Santa Fe FFA, was named national winner in Diversified Crop Production Entrepreneurship. Read more about Dierking’s winning SAE.


Ashland FFA member Amanda Belew was selected national winner in Wildlife Management proficiency. Learn more about Belew’s winning SAE.


Find out more Missouri FFA honors from this year’s national convention.

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Leon Busdieker
Nov 16 2020

State Ag Education Leader Honored Nationally

Leon Busdieker named Outstanding State Supervisor

Leon Busdieker

The National Association of Supervisors in Agricultural Education (NASAE) recently named Leon Busdieker as the 2020 Outstanding State Supervisor. Since July 2011 Busdieker has been the director of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and serves as state advisor for the Missouri FFA Association. 


NASAE annually recognizes a NASAE member who has made outstanding contributions to agricultural education state supervision. Busdieker was nominated by his peers for the award.


During his 42-year tenure in agricultural education, Busdieker has also been a district supervisor for Missouri agricultural education and a vocational agriculture instructor in the Warrenton and St. Charles school districts. He is one of four state supervisors for the National FFA Board of Directors and is a past member of the National FFA Foundation Board of Trustees and the National FFA Alumni and Supporters Advisory Committee. 


According to Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven, “Whether it be in the office in Jefferson City, the sheep barn at the state fair or the State Capitol during national FFA week, his integrity, high expectations and strong work ethic shine through all that he does. He has earned the trust of students, colleagues, farmers and other business leaders and state legislators, resulting in increased support for agricultural education throughout our state.”


by Joann Pipkin
Watch the video congratulating Busdieker on his contributions to Missouri agricultural education.
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