Each October, thousands of FFA members make the journey across the country to the National FFA convention, held this year from October Oct. 23-27 in Indianapolis. Students come to compete, to visit the various booths at the trade show, gather ideas and to meet new friends.
For some students from Colorado, this convention meant an opportunity to excel in their respective contests. Shauna Brown was one of those students, who competed in the agricultural sales competition.
In this competition, Brown and her fellow teammates, Sammi Barker and Ryan Johanns, were given five different scenarios with five different customers, and they had to match different feeds to the customers.
“We then presented our cases, and our feed solutions for each of the costumers, to a judge that was acting as our supervisor of the company,” said Brown.
The national contest differs from the state contest in that members are competing as a team, as well as individuals. “After the team portion of the contest, we individually met with a judge acting as one of the customers in the scenarios we were previously given. We had to establish rapport, and probed questions to find out which of the costumers they were, and then we presented them the feed or feeds that we thought matched their certain case. We also were given a test that quizzed us on our basic sales knowledge,” she said.
Brown was the high placing member of her team, earning a gold. Barker and Johanns both earned a bronze, and collectively the team also earned a bronze.
“I loved competing at the national level because I was able to meet many people from across the country and was able to learn a little about how their state FFA programs were run,” stated Brown.
Brown grew up in Castle Rock, Colo., where she raised and showed sheep at the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo.
“Douglas County is a pretty urban area, so although I am not involved in agriculture on a large production scale, I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to be involved in agriculture,” she said.
Brown has been in FFA since her freshman year of high school, after following in his sister’s footsteps. “It was by far the best decision that I have made and has impacted my life immensely,” she said.
Brown believes that her experience in FFA has allowed her to gain skills that will help her for the rest of his life. “I could go on for days about the wonderful things that I have learned through FFA, but most importantly I know that the skills I have learned will help me strive in the future and make me stand out among the rest,” she said.
She continued, “Although I don’t know exactly what I want to do in the future I know the basic skills I have learned will be put to good use. By doing the Ag Sales competition, the lesson of how to sell things is extremely useful. This could be selling a product to a company or a lesson to a group of students. Public speaking is also an important skill I have learned in FFA, and will use through out my life. I now have the ability to talk to others, whether they are children, my age, or adults. I know this skill will carry me far.”
To Brown, the FFA was a place where she fit in, and she felt comfortable. “It’s hard to choose one thing I liked most about FFA because I truly loved it all. I guess I would say the sense of belonging to something greater than myself would be my favorite thing about this organization. I have made the best friends and memories over the last four years,” she said.
She added, “The ag room was always a safe place to go when you didn’t have a place to fit it. The group of individuals that were in FFA with me have become a family to me. I would also like to thank my Ag Teacher and FFA Adviser, Timothy Martini, for being a mentor and true friend to me. I will definitely miss being apart of something so great.”
Brown is currently a freshman at Colorado Mesa University, where she is studying Business Administration.
Another student from Colorado who found success at National FFA convention was Emma Scholz of Sterling, Colo. She was awarded a gold in plant systems, division 1, for her experiment with genetically modified corn.
Scholz, who did not grow up on a farm, wanted to test antibiotic resistance in GMO corn. Her experiment showed that the corn she tested, when exposed to E.Coli, showed resistance to tetracycline.
Her reason for the experiment was not to prove that this technology is bad, but to determine how to refine it to make it better.
“I was not out to attack GMOs. I believe this is the future of agriculture, and this is how we are going to feed everyone. I just feel we need to go back and look at the technology that we have, and make sure what we have is helping people and not doing harm,” she said.
Scholz, who is a sophomore at Sterling High School, enjoyed her first trip to National FFA convention. “It was awesome to see so many people come together for one thing that they are passionate about,” she said.
She loves FFA because of the acceptance she feels. “The one thing that I love about FFA is that it doesn’t matter where you come from, once you put on that blue jacket, you are just like everyone else. There is no discrimination. You are apart of something bigger that others are also apart of, and that’s what I love the most,” she stated.
Not all chapters go to convention to compete. Some of them go to learn from other chapters, and just to experience everything the convention has to offer. One of these chapters was the Delta FFA chapter, from Delta, Colo.
“There are a lot of leadership opportunities, as well as a chance to see a different kind of agriculture. Who knows, maybe a kid tours Dow Agrosciences, and it sparks an interest in biotechnology that they could use for a career. Also, seeing the highest achieving chapters and students can motivate them to do something great back home,” said Will Nelson, advisor for the Delta FFA chapter.
He continued, “Most of our kids had the time of their lives, and they’ve already put together a plan to fight hunger in our community that they heard about at convention. They want to help people, and they want to be on stage in the future.”
His favorite part of the convention, however, is the FFA itself. “I love the traditions that we have. There are 55,000 kids at the convention, and every one of them has a respect for history and is enthused about it,” he said. ❖