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2019 National FFA Convention – Missouri Highlights

National FFA Convention Attendance over 68,000

Record National Membership Announced – 700,170


Missouri specific highlights below:

Highest number of American FFA Degrees by a state – 520 recipients

The American Degree is the Highest Degree that can bestowed on a FFA member – Less than one half of 1% receive the degree.  As the highest degree achievable in the National FFA Organization, the American FFA Degree shows an FFA member’s dedication to his or her chapter and state FFA association. It demonstrates the effort FFA members apply toward their supervised agricultural experience and the outstanding leadership abilities and community involvement they exhibited through their FFA career.  American FFA Degree recipients show promise for the future and have gone above and beyond to achieve excellence.


Honorary American FFA Degree – 7 MO recipients

Individuals who have provided exceptional service on a national level to agriculture, agricultural education, or FFA are eligible for the Honorary American FFA Degree. Additionally, teachers who have created high-quality agricultural education programs which inspire and motivate their students to strive for success are eligible.


Jackie Carlson, Conception Junction; Scott Gardner (FCS), Chillicothe; David Higgins (DESE), Mountain Grove; Jill Nagel, (EAG Labs), Columbia; Diane Olsen (MFB), Jefferson City; Dr. Alan Wessler (MFA), Columbia; Jon Wilson, Gainesville.


The National Chapter Award Program is designed to recognize FFA chapters that actively implement the mission and strategies of the organization. These chapters improve chapter operations using the National Quality Chapter Standards (NQCS) and a Program of Activities (POA) that emphasize growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture. Chapters are rewarded for providing educational experiences for the entire membership.


TROY FFA  was also recognized as the National Winner in the Premier Chapter – Building Communities Division within the National Chapter Award Program. This includes the body of work in the Building Communities Division of the Program of Work.


SWEET SPRINGS FFA was also recognized as a TOP TEN CHAPTER in the Nation in the Premier Chapter – Strengthening Agriculture Division within the National Chapter Award Program. This includes the body of work in the Growing Leaders Division of the Program of Work.


30 Chapters received the highest chapter rating awarded – 3 Star – (Ashland, Audrian Co. R-VI, Aurora, Boonville, Braymer, Bucklin, Carrollton, Centralia, Clark County, El Dorado Springs, Eldon, Elsberry, Exeter, Higbee, Marshall, Mexico, Monroe City, Montgomery Co R-II, Mount Vernon, New Franklin, Russellville, Sarcoxie, Seneca, Seymour, Sweet Springs, Tipton, Trenton, Troy, Union and West Plains)

Career and Leadership Development Events Summary


FFA members focus on skill development and career preparation through participation in Career Development Events and Leadership Development Events. These competitive events develop individual responsibility, foster teamwork and promote communication while recognizing the value of ethical competition and individual achievement. Successful members expand their knowledge base by interacting with peers, teachers, as well as business and community leaders to gain a complete and comprehensive knowledge about specific career and leadership areas.


  • 13 of 25 teams/individuals received Gold rating


  • 15 members placed in the Top 10 Individuals in their respective CDE
    • Agricultural Communications – Columbia FFA-5thPlace-Gold rated team
      • Kate Thompson, 5thhigh individual
    • Agriculture Mechanics – North Shelby FFA – 1stPlace – Gold rated team
      • Youssef Fransis – 1sthigh, Kirby Latimer – 2ndhigh, Mason Uhimeyer – 3rdhigh, and Grant Coe – 4thhigh individuals
    • Agricultural Sales – Columbia FFA-10thplace – Gold rated team
      • Madison Holmes – 8thhigh individual
    • Agricultural Issues Forum – Centralia FFA – Bronze rated team
    • Agronomy – Skyline FFA — Gold rated team
    • Conduct of Chapter Meetings – Eldon – 2ndplace – Gold rated team
    • Creed Speaking – John Miles – Marshall FFA – Silver individual
    • Dairy Cattle Evaluation – Billings FFA – Gold rated team
    • Dairy Cattle Handlers – Lila Wantland – Niangua FFA – Bronze individual
    • Employment Skills – Olivia Brune – Clopton FFA – Silver individual
    • Environmental Natural Resources –Pleasant Hope FFA – Silver rated team
    • Extemporaneous Public Speaking–Brenden Kleiboeker, Pierce City FFA – Silver individual
    • Farm Management – Hermann FFA – 7th place – Gold rated team
      • Lucas Bader – 8thhigh individual
    • Floriculture – Palmyra FFA – 7thplace – Gold rated team
      • Zachary Rosenkrans – 9thhigh individual
    • Food Science – Cassville FFA – Silver rated team
    • Forestry – Forsyth FFA – 2ndplace Gold rated team
      • Nathan Gray-2ndhigh, Ashley Matthews-5thhigh, and Bryce Collins-8thhigh individuals
    • Horse Evaluation – Ozark FFA – Silver rated team
    • Livestock Evaluation – Pleasant Hope FFA — Silver rated team
    • Meat Evaluation – Cassville FFA – Silver rated team
    • Milk Quality and Products – Miller FFA – 7thplace Gold rated team
      • Alexia Smith – 7thhigh and Tori Parnell 9thhigh individuals
    • Nursery/Landscape – Aurora – 9thplace Gold rated team
    • Parliamentary Procedure – Troy FFA – Silver rated team
    • Poultry – Paris FFA – 6thplace Gold rated team
      • Marlena Long – 9thhigh individual
    • Public Speaking – Dakota Pemberton, Richland FFA – Bronze individual
    • Veterinary Science – Columbia FFA – 5thplace Gold rated Team
      • Heather Snow – 8thhigh individual


  • 49 of 93(52%) individuals received Gold rankings (approx.. top 10 percent of the CDE)


Agriscience Fair

  • The National FFA Agriscience Fair recognizes student researchers studying the application of agricultural scientific principles and emerging technologies in agricultural enterprises. The agriscience fair is for middle and high school students. Participation begins at the local level and progresses to state and national levels.
  • 10 out of 21 agriscience fair projects placed in the top twelve in the nation
  • 5 of 10 received a gold rating in the nation
    • Ashley Freiburger & Courtney Freiburger – Verona FFA – 5thin Food Products Division 6
    • Alexis Wilkinson – Sikeston FFA – 3rdin Plant Systems Division 5
    • Jay Hagemeier & Dane Culbertson – Troy FFA – 9thin Power, Structural Tech Division 4
    • Allison Harris – Tuscumbia FFA – 3rdin Power, Structural Technical Division 5
    • Gabe Simmons – Tuscumbia FFA – 3rdin Social Systems Division 3


Proficiency Awards

  • Agricultural Proficiency Awards honor FFA members who, through supervised agricultural experiences, have developed specialized skills that they can apply toward their future careers.Nationally, students can compete for awards in nearly 50 areas ranging from agricultural communications to wildlife management (see areas below). 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.
  • 10 National Finalist – top four in the nation based on their work based program
  • 2 National Winners
    • Agricultural Education – Elizabeth Brooks – Ashland FFA
    • Agricultural Processing – Teresa Yoder – Trenton FFA
    • Agriscience Research – Animal Systems – Jacob Toombs – Bolivar FFA
    • Agriscience Research – Integrated Systems – Addison Burns – Gallatin FFA
    • Dairy Production Entrepreneurship – Jared Parrigon – Sarcoxie FFA
    • Diversified Livestock Production – Amelia Liebhart – Bucklin FFA – NATIONAL WINNER
    • Equine Science Entrepreneurship – Griffin Holliday – Centralia FFA
    • Grain Production Placement – Brock Aylward – Memphis FFA
    • Nursery Operations – Kylynn Mallen – Cameron FFA – NATIONAL WINNER
    • Vegetable Production – Ethan Hilgedick – Ashland FFA


National FFA Band– 16 of approximately 100 members selected nationally:

Jena Schwartze, Vienna; Yanci Aschwege, Galena; Gavin King, Pierce City; Olivai Sloan, Salisbury; Tara Schnelting, Owensville; Chloe Moss, Crocker; Christine Kussmann, Burnswick; Samantha McNealy, Warrenton; Cory Word, Saxony Lutheran; Kimberly Niemeyer, Bowling Green; David Welter, Stewartsville; Aubrey Bunge, Van-Far; Annabell Morris, Bronaugh; Christopher Ochoa, North Platte; Hayden Schapeler, Rich Hill; Layla Beyer, Slater


National FFA Chorus– 7 of approximately 75 members selected nationally:

Connor Pfaff, Monroe City; Logan Lucas, Monroe City; Ryan Altman, Winfield; Grace Williams, Winfield; Colin Wilburn, Van-Var; Macie McNeely, Gallatin; Sydney Stundebeck, Salisbury.



National FFA Talent Performers – 4 selected from Missouri

Kaitlin Caldwell, South Shelby; Owen Kloeppel, Vienna; Zach Evans, Richland; Ashlee Martin, Green Ridge


Hall of States — Represents agriculture in our state in the Expo Show – Centralia FFA

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Rooted in Agriculture

From his fourth-generation Southeastern Missouri farm to directing executive policy from our nation’s capital, U.S. Congressman Jason Smith keeps his corduroy jacket close at hand.


“If you come into my office, the first thing you’ll see is my FFA jacket framed on the wall,” Smith said. “It was given to me the night I was elected into office. My friend who served on my chapter officer team helped do that.”


Smith is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 8th congressional district. His district comprises 30 counties, including around 20,000 square miles of southern and southeastern Missouri.


He also was president of the Salem FFA chapter and served as Area XIII first vice president.


According to Smith, when he got involved in FFA, it altered the course of his life in a multitude of ways.


“When I started FFA as a freshman, I was shy and quiet and couldn’t even do all five paragraphs of the creed,” Smith said.


That might not be what you’d expect to hear from a politician, but Smith said his determination to stay involved in speaking competitions, contest teams and leadership events is what helped him continue to push himself out of his comfort zone.


“The key to success is not to give up,” Smith said. “You’re not always going to accomplish everything you set out to do the first time. Try to learn through that and work hard to change the outcome the next time.”


Smith said above all, FFA members should remember the three Ds: direction, determination and dedication.


Those three Ds have carried him through many opportunities, including the very experience that inspired him to become involved in politics. For his Supervised Agricultural Experience, Smith began a canine breeding program with four dogs his first year of high school.


“When I was a freshman, the city council summoned me to go before them because of my FFA project,” Smith said. “They said I was running a commercial business in a residential area. I had to go before the council a couple of times, and they ultimately said I couldn’t have it. We had to move out of town. After that, I paid attention to politics, because I felt like what happened to me was ridiculous and I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else.”


After moving to a more rural location, he eventually grew his business so much that it helped pay his way through college and gained him the title of the state winner in specialty animal production in Missouri.


Smith attended the University of Missouri-Columbia where he earned degrees in agricultural economics and business administration. After attending law school at Oklahoma City University, Smith returned home to purchase his grandfather’s farm.


Today, he fills his weekends doing what he says is the most relaxing thing in the world: farming.


This farm now includes registered Angus and Red Angus cattle, sheep, bison, ducks and a donkey named Hillary.


According to Smith, growing up in agriculture taught him a lot, which is why he found it important to keep the farm in the family.


“You’re taught so much through the risks you take as a farmer,” Smith said. “You invest in animals, and they may not produce. You learn to juggle markets when prices plummet or when there’s a drought or floods.”


During the week, Smith spends his days either in Washington, D.C., or traveling to one of the 30 counties he represents. He says every day is different, whether that includes committee hearings, discussion and debate or even meeting with the president of the United States.


However, he says one of the most important things he does is advocate for the agricultural industry and those who are involved in it.


“The numbers are against us in D.C.,” Smith said. “There are fewer than 75 rural congressional districts, and you need 218 votes to pass anything. I must constantly talk about the importance of our way of life. Four out of four people eat. Our farmers feed and clothe the world. You can’t miss an opportunity to tell about our industry. Agriculture has changed my life and is the way of life for so many of the people I represent.”


No matter where he is this week, one thing is for sure—he believes in FFA and what it does for young people.


“I think one thing many people don’t understand is that FFA is not just about farming,” Smith said. “It’s about leadership. The skills you can develop in FFA will change your life and alter the course and direction of your life forever whether you live in a big city or on a family farm.”

—By Alexa Hunziker

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Hands-On Learning

For a 17- or 18-year-old, procrastination often comes easy. Yet digging in and getting the work done is what helped Trenton FFA member Teresa Yoder become a national finalist in the agricultural processing proficiency award area.


T.K.’s Processing is a 50/50 joint venture Yoder owns with her mom. The supervised agricultural experience project came about through Yoder’s on-going desire to own a butcher shop. Her mom had experience with that type of a business and agreed to be her partner. Once Yoder turns 18, she will become the sole proprietor.


As a processing facility for deer and chickens, Yoder serves customers in her community. She spends time after school and on weekends processing deer from the carcass down to burger, steaks, roasts and jerky. Snack sticks, summer sausage and trail bologna are also fabricated.


While the business initially only processed deer, this past summer chickens were added to the mix. In addition to handling the processing duties — including trimming, cleaning and packaging — Yoder also tackles pricing products, ordering supplies and calling customers once orders are ready for pick up.


“It really is a lot of work, but it is something I enjoy being a part of,” Yoder says.


Having enough capital to pay for supplies, equipment and the building set up was Yoder’s biggest challenge when she began the business.


Because her parents once owned a processing facility, Yoder was able to purchase some of that equipment.


“In 2017, I spent a lot of time and money working on the shop to get it ready to use,” Yoder explains. “The facility hadn’t been in operation for several years and needed a number of repairs and modifications.”


The experience her parents brought to the table was invaluable, Yoder says. “During the first year of operation, (my mom) was often looking over my shoulder, guiding me in what was right and wrong,” Yoder says. “In the fall of 2018, she began trusting me with more responsibilities and even had me handle a few days running the cleaning of the shop and managing the business on my own. This confirmed that I had gained enough experience to manage my own agribusiness.”


Gaining the trust of her customers has been the most important accomplishment for Yoder. “During my first year, I had a customer that arrived early and watched me package all of his order,” she explains. “He didn’t say much to me, but watched everything I did and went through his box to count how many rolls of summer sausage he had, bags of jerky, etc. This past year, that same customer came back and the first thing he did was compliment me on the quality of the summer sausage and jerky. It made me feel good to know I had done quality work and earned his trust and respect.”

—By Joann Pipkin

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Bridging The Gap

It’s all about engaging young people in agriculture. National FFA proficiency award finalist Elizabeth Brooks says that alone was the most challenging aspect of her agricultural education supervised agriculture experience project.


The Ashland FFA member says her ag education SAE focuses on educating people about the various sectors of the industry. For the past two years, she’s been an educator for the Agriculture Education on the Moveprogram through Missouri Farmers Care.


“I used this curriculum, in combination with my own lessons, to teach agriculture to 50 third grade students during a 10-week program,” Brooks explains. “I also organized an agriculture literacy program for first grade students for which I developed a four-week curriculum based on four different agriculture story books to education 25 students about agriculture commodities.”


In addition to teaching in the classroom, Brooks worked with the Ashland Learning Garden to educate students about vegetable production by helping develop lessons and activities. Brooks organized a middle school agriculture club for the Ashland FFA chapter and also led her local 4-H Clover Kids program. She also led a summer camp called Farmhouse for Fun for local day care children to learn about livestock and tour different farms in the area.


“My experience with Ag Education on the Moveinspired me to develop my own ag ed program,” Brooks says. “As the coordinator for the agriculture literacy program, I selected four ag-related story books and created lessons and activities for each one. By the third year of my SAE program, my experiences had made me a confident, passionate teacher and inspired me to take charge of several other ag ed programs in my chapter.”


Taking time to get to know her students is vital in ag education, Brooks says. She makes a point to learn about her students’ abilities, interests and behaviors. “This helps me develop techniques for keeping my students engaged and overcoming that challenge,” she says.


By working in her SAE, Brooks says she’s recognized that agricultural education must start at an earlier age. Although she hasn’t identified a specific age, she says teaching agriculture before high school will greatly improve agricultural involvement and success in the future.


“During my time as an educator, I have seen the desire that students of all ages have for learning, and that has inspired me to connect with them and create learning opportunities that will spark enthusiasm in the next generation,” she says. “Teaching about agriculture and inspiring youth to stay interested in it has been my biggest accomplishment through my SAE program because I have done my part in preparing the next generation of agriculturalists.”

—By Joann Pipkin

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2019 National FFA Convention – Missouri Tidbits

•  520 American Degree Recipients 


•  National Officer Candidate – Sydney Mason 


•  2 Teachers receiving Honorary American Degree – Jackie Carlson, Jefferson; Jon Wilson, Gainesville 


•  15 National Delegates 


• 4 National Talent Performers
Kaitlin Caldwell, South Shelby; Owen Kloeppel, Vienna; Zach Evans, Richland; Ashlee Martin, Green Ridge 


National Nominating Committee Member – Chad Laxton, Miller 


• 7 National Chorus Members
Connor Pfaff, Monroe City; Logan Lucas, Monroe City; Ryan Altman, Winfield; Crace Williams, Winfield; Colin Wilburn, Van-Var; Macie McNeely, Gallatin; Sydney Stundebeck, Salisbury 


• 16 National Band Members
Jena Schwartze, Vienna; Yanci Aschwege, Galena; Gavin King, Pierce City; Olivai Sloan, Salisbury; Tara Schnelting, Owensville; Chloe Moss, Crocker; Christine Kussmann, Burnswick; Samantha McNealy, Warrenton; Cory Word, Saxony Lutheran; Kimberly Niemeyer, Bowling Green; David Welter, Stewartsville; Aubrey Bunge, Van-Far; Annabell Morris, Bronaugh; Christopher Ochoa, North Platte; Hayden Schapeler, Rich Hill; Layla Beyer, Slater


• 5 Individuals receiving Honorary American Degree
Scott Gardner, Chillicothe; David Higgins, Mountain Grove; Jill Nagel, Columbia; Diane Olson, Jefferson City; Alan Wessler, Columbia 


• Hall of States – Centralia FFA 

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2019 National FFA Convention – National Finalists

Agriscience Fair - 10 Finalists

Animal Systems – Division 6 – Caroline Green/Rachael Love – Troy 

Environ Services/NRS – Division 4 – Katelyn Damron/Emma Skouby – Troy 

Food Products – Division 6 – Ashley Freiburger/Courtney Freiburger – Verona 

Plant Systems – Division 4 – Dylan Sparks/Jacob Raines — Troy 

Plant Systems – Division 5 – Alexis Wilkinson – Sikeston 

Plant Systems – Divison 6 –Abygale Higgins/Daman Morton – Troy 

Power, Structural, Technical Systems – Division 4 – Jay Hagemeier/Dane Culbertson – Troy

Power, Structural, Technical Systems – Division 5 – Allison Harris — Tuscumbia

Power, Structural, Technical Systems – Division 6 – Will Robbins/Clayton Winkler – California

Social Systems – Division 3 – Gabe Simmons – Tuscumbia

Proficiency Awards - National Finalists (10)

Agricultural Education – Elizabeth Brooks – Ashland 

Agriscience Research – Animal Systems – Jacob Toombs – Bolivar 

Agriscience Research – Integrated Systems – Addison Burns – Gallatin 

Ag Processing – Teresa Yoder – Trenton 

Diversified Livestock – Amelia Liebhart – Bucklin 

 Dairy Production Entrepreneurship – Jared Parrigon — Sarcoxie 

Equine Science – Entrepreneurship – Griffin Holliday – Centralia 

Grain Production – Placement – Brock Aylward — Memphis 

Nursery Operations – Kylynn Mallen – Cameron 

Vegetable Production – Ethan Hilgedick – Ashland 

National Chapter Awards

30 Three Star Chapters – Highest award for a chapter 

Premier Chapter: Building Communities Finalist – Troy 

Premier Chapter: Strengthening Agriculture – Sweet Springs 

CDE/LDE Participants
  •  Ag Communications – Columbia 
  • Ag Issues – Centralia 
  • AG Sales – Columbia 
  • AG Mechanics – North Shelby 
  • Agronomy – Skyline 
  • Conduct of Meetings – Eldon 
  • Creed – John Miles — Marshall 
  • Dairy Cattle – Billings 
  • Employment Skills – Olivia Brune – Clopton 
  • Environmental/Nat Res. – Pleasant Hope 
  •  Extemp Speaking – Brenden Kleiboeker – Pierce City 
  •  Farm Bus. Mgt – Hermann 
  • Floriculture – Palmyra 
  • Food Science — Cassville 
  • Forestry – Forsyth 
  • Horse – Ozark 
  • Livestock – Pleasant Hope 
  • Meats – Cassville 
  • Milk Quality – Miller 
  • Nursery/Landscape – Aurora 
  • Parliamentary – Troy 
  • Poultry – Paris 
  • Public Speaking – Dakota Pemberton – Richland 
  • Vet Science – Columbia 
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National FFA Organization Announces Record Student Membership of More Than 700,000

 INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019/National FFA Organization) – The National FFA Organization is answering the need for more highly skilled graduates to fill job openings in the field of agriculture, and nowhere is this more evident than in the organization’s growing membership. 


Today, the organization announced a record-high student membership of 700,170, up from 669,989 in 2018. The top six student membership states are Texas, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio and Missouri. Interest in FFA and agricultural education continues to grow as membership continues to increase. This year, the organization has more than 100,000 Latino members, 45 percent of the membership is female with 52 percent of the membership being male. Females hold more than 50 percent of the leadership positions. FFA chapters can be found in 24 of the 25 largest U.S. cities. 


“FFA is providing future leaders, and our membership growth reflects continued enthusiasm for agriculture as well as agricultural education,” National FFA Organization CEO Mark Poeschl said. “FFA prepares our student members for careers in agriculture while working to ensure the security of our country’s food, fiber and natural resources systems for years to come. Through real-world experiences, agriculture educators are helping students develop the technical knowledge, skills and problem-solving capabilities to be the industry’s leaders of tomorrow.” 


The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to more than 700,000 student members who belong to one of the more than 8,600 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is also supported by more than 8 million alumni and supporters throughout the U.S. 

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Look at Her Bloom

Six years ago, Kylynn Mallen’s mom made a career move, trading her job managing a local title company to owning a retail greenhouse. It was a move that planted the seeds for what would become Kylynn’s supervised agricultural experience project through FFA.


Before she entered high school, the Kylynn learned the tricks of the trade so that when she was old enough to join the Cameron FFA chapter as a freshman, she had a project that was ready to bloom.


“I lease 50% of the house space of my parent’s retail greenhouse operation and help manage the entire house year-round,” Kylynn explains.


Marketing her plants to landscape professionals as well as local do-it-your-selfers keeps Kylynn busy. In fact, the entrepreneur purchased, grew and sold 7,740 bedding and nursery plants in the spring and summer of 2018. A non-cash exchange of labor serves as a way for her to pay for some of the expenses associated with her percentage of the greenhouse and helps her mom with needed labor.


As one of four finalists in the nursery operations proficiency award program through FFA, Kylynn will be recognized on stage during the National FFA Convention next month in Indianapolis.


Change initially brought Kylynn to her SAE, and that only continues to evolve as her project grows.


“Greater responsibilities have come with increasing my ownership from 10% to 15% to 50%,” she explains. “With owning a larger percentage of the greenhouse each year, not only has the expenses and income increased, but so has the amount of work and number of hours I put in.”


Success in Kylynn’s SAE is driven by having the ability to reach a larger market share. Growing 1,100 cuttings and plugs for her plant broker was an accomplishment for the FFA member. Her handiwork was planted at the Pleasant Valley Golf Course in Iowa City, Iowa. The successfully grown varieties of lantana and impatiens are also being showcased in the plant catalog for McHuntchinson and Dummen Horticultural companies.


Mother Nature dominates as challenges for the young entrepreneur. With the greenhouse accounting for a portion of her family’s livelihood in addition to her own SAE, both are simultaneously affected by weather events which can make it difficult to make a profit.


“For instance, when my town of Cameron had a water shortage in the summer of 2018, residents were advised to not water their flowers,” Kylynn explains. “I knew my sales were going to be affected. However, after it was all said and done, early season sales over-compensated the money lost during the rest of the season, allowing for the return of a profitable amount of money.”


At the end of the day, Kylynn says she’s learned to take her SAE in stride, realizing that even though her plants are raised in a controlled environment, she also relies on the outside environment to help her project grow and provide income.


Because of her hands-on experiences in nursery operations, Kylynn says she’s gained a greater understanding of plants, including their identities and diseases.


“Being able to own such a large part of a business as a young adult has taught me many life skills,” she explains. “I learned how hard one has to work to earn an income and understand the true value of a dollar.”

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Small-Town, Big-Time Rewards

Small but mighty. These three words can be used to describe the state’s Top Chapter, named at the 91st Missouri FFA Convention held earlier this year. Lead by 12chapterofficers and advisor Paige Brock, the Braymer FFA Chapter planned and hosted countless activities and events to grow leaders, build communities and strengthen agriculture. 


“Our chapter is one of the smaller chapters,” said Dustin Davies, 2018-2019 chapter president. “We don’t have a lot of members, but every one of our members works very hard at everything they do through the FFA.”


The smaller nature of their chapter allows each member to participate and remain on the same page.


“It’s a small chapter,” said Keaton O’Dell, 2018-2019 chapter vice president. “We have 45 members in our chapter, and we all know each other. We all know each other’s names. We talk to each other on a daily basis, and we get along great. We’re very cohesive, and we work well together.”


This hard work and cohesion paid off when Braymer was named Top Chapter in the state, a surprise to many of the chapter’s members.


“The student that was on stage accepting the award, he actually thought that there was a mistake and that he wasn’t actually supposed to be standing up there since they hadn’t called our name yet,” Davies said, laughing. “We were very shocked and very excited to win that award.”


This recognition is backed by a year of hard work, starting with the chapter’s Program of Activities (POA).


“At the beginning of the year, we decide what will be in the POA and what activities we are going to do,” Davies said. “A lot of the activities are annual, so we like to keep them the same, but we are also always looking for new things and activities to do.”


From there, the finer details are ironed out to ensure that the POA is organized and well-rounded. While all sections are addressed, members of the Braymer FFA Chapter like to focus a lot of their attention on building communities.


“I think we like to focus primarily on the building communities section,” Davies said. “In everything we do, even if it is in growing leaders or strengthening agriculture, we are still bringing it back to our community and using the events to build our community.”


O’Dell agreed and added, “We’re very involved in our community. I’d say we are a big-hearted chapter.”


From picking up trash to the Teal Pumpkin Project, members of the Braymer FFA Chapter are no strangers to serving others.


“During harvesting season, we will pack lunches and take them to our local co-op for farmers as they are unloading their grain,” Davies said, “so, they can have food without having to worry about stopping and getting something.”


O’Dell’s favorite event is also community-focused.


“We help with Smoke in the Valley,” he said. “It’s our tractor pull here in Braymer. It gets the FFA name out there and shows we are supporting the community.”


In addition to their full calendar and focus on service, the Braymer FFA Chapter’s family atmosphere makes it unique.


“We are like a family,” O’Dell said. “We’re everything a family should be. We work together, and we work hard together.”


Davies agreed and added that their chapter’s members are especially close.


“Everybody always says that FFA is a family,” he said. “But I feel like our chapter is a really, really close-knit family. If anyone needs any help with their SAE or a contest team, they just need to ask another member, and they are more than willing to help.”

—By Brandelyn Martin

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Homeward Bound

Memphis FFA member Brock Aylward has his sights set on the future, yet he won’t be far from home.


A national finalist in the grain production placement proficiency award area, Brock says working on the family’s farm alongside his father and grandfathers has had the most impact on his future plans to return home and continue a legacy in production agriculture.


“This has enabled me to learn and appreciate the love of the land and the impact I can have by being a good steward of the soil, embracing technology and the value of every bushel produced,” Brock explains.


Four national finalists are selected in each of 45 proficiency award areas to compete for a national proficiency award. Proficiency award winners are announced on stage during the National FFA Convention & Expo, which will be held Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Proficiency awards are based on a member’s Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE).  They recognize individual skills and career-based competencies developed through multiple years of participation in Immersion type SAE projects.


Brock considers himself privileged to learn from two generations that have built a business from shear heard work and smart management decisions. “I’ve witnessed from my family that this job doesn’t mean managing from an office, but from putting in the physical labor and understanding all functions alongside all employees to be profitable,” he explains.


Through his placement experience on Aylward Farms, Brock operates tractors in addition to tillage equipment, planters and grain carts. Guidance systems assist with operating field cultivators, harrow, sprayer and planter — which he says is critical in helping the farm be as efficient as possible and reduce overlapping.


“The investment in planter monitors was a huge financial investment,” Brock says.


The monitors record the population, plant date, speed and hybrid/variety of the crop planted. Understanding how and what the monitors can do and then overlay that data with precipitation data from The Climate platform is then used to make additional informed management decisions, he says.


“With my employment on this row crop operation, I have witnessed the differences between owning land and cash renting ground,” Brock explains. “These differences include increased financial profitability and the ease of providing maintenance and improvements to the land.”


By investing his salary earnings and a previous purchased ground cash rental payment, Brock was able to purchase, with additional financial assistance, a 90-acre bottomland farm that he cash-rents to his family’s operation. Currently pursuing a precision agriculture certificate at the University of Missouri, he hopes to farm the land himself following college graduation.


While Brock’s role at Aylward Farms began in maintaining machinery and equipment, the young farmer now assists with machinery purchases as well.


“Working beside my dad engages me in all management decisions such as fuel purchases, seed, fertilizer and chemical pricing, commodity marketing, crop insurance and employee management,” Brock explains. “I have learned that fertilizer decisions are based off of yield results and soil testing.”


He’s also learned how to read soil tests and implement the best management practices to employ based off of the results.


Perhaps the greatest challenge Brock has been faced with in his role on the farm is understanding the different components that make up the farm. Juggling employees as well as machinery and other factors such as the weather that are out of ones’ control can prove difficult even for a well-seasoned farmer.


Still, through hands-on hard work and his involvement in soils and farm management FFA career development events have helped the aspiring farmer succeed.


“The knowledge, information and experiences that I received from being on these teams has given me immense comprehension into critical components of grain production,” Brock says. “The farm management team was the most challenging, but I think the most rewarding because the information I gained is very practical and critical to becoming a successful grain producer.”



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