The moment that his name was called, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Spencer Hartman of Imperial, Neb., had a memorable convention. He was named the state Star in Agribusiness, received his state degree and now he was the new state FFA president.
“Immediately I was in a state of shock. Now that I’ve had time to let it set in I am deeply humbled by the honor to serve an organization which has given so much to me. I am a firm believer that God has placed me in this role for a purpose and I look forward to being an ambassador for agriculture this upcoming year,” he stated.
His goal as president is to help members. “First and foremost to serve the membership of Nebraska FFA, but most importantly to have a positive influence on members and help them discover their potential and purpose as individuals,” Hartman said.
He first began applying for the state star award when he applied for his state degree. “The way the process works is that we fill out state degrees in early January. The degree itself requires information as far as hours of service, contests and information pertaining to your SAE. Then I filled out a star application in addition to the degree. The Star application asks specific questions about what we have learned, goals and skills and competencies we’ve gained through our SAE,” he said.
He continued, “The applications are then judged on the district level, and the top two in each area advance to state. There are four areas; Agribusiness, Placement, Production and Agriscience. The area I was in was Agribusiness, and could be referred to as entrepreneurship. The applications are then judged in mid-February on the state level, and the top five then interview one day at the state convention in April. They are honored with a star-finalists dinner, our parents and advisors are then introduced on stage, and then one winner is announced in each category.”
To win this award, Hartman has worked countless hours on his Supervised Agricultural Experience, or SAE. “My project is growing vine-ripened hydroponic tomatoes. I got started four years ago when a lady in the community who had been growing tomatoes for 30 years decided to retire. By making connections with her, and her generosity to help and to teach me, I ordered a 16-by-30-foot greenhouse kit with money I had saved from my 4-H livestock projects. The first year I endured a major learning curve, it was April by the time I had the structure built and was forced to order plugs of a conventional variety, which did not grow well in a hydroponic system,” he explained.
He continued, “Then second year I was prepared and planted a hydroponic variety from seed in late December, and had ripe tomatoes by early June. I grew 85 plants and grossed about $3,000 that year. Seeing the high demand in the local area and the opportunity to expand I built a 30-by-60-foot greenhouse where I was able to grow 350 plants and gross nearly $20,000 in only my third year of operation. Finally, this last fall I purchased another greenhouse which will give me the opportunity to grow nearly 700 plants this year. I will be expanding my market to include a few more local grocery stores as well as another farmers’ market.”
He credits FFA and his advisers for helping to shape who is he today. “FFA is an amazing organization that has been the catalyst to make me into the person I am today. However, I credit my ag advisor with instilling in me the values I’ve gained through my experience. The two largest I can say with confidence are character and integrity,” he said.
His advisers are Jason Speck and Jeremy Vlasin. His future plans include attending college, and pursuing a career in politics. “I am preparing to graduate from Chase County Schools in a couple weeks as valedictorian of my class, and have hit the ground running with training for my year of service as state president. My future plans are to attend UNL in the fall and major in Ag Economics with an option in Public Policy and minor in Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Longer term I want to be a venture capitalist and someday pursuing a life of service in politics,” Hartman stated.
The Nebraska State FFA convention is a place where FFA members from across the state gather to compete in various events, receive awards, listen to motivational speakers and participate in leadership workshops. The 85th convention was held on April 3-5, at The Cornhusker Marriott, Pershing Center Auditorium and University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus.
“The Nebraska State FFA Convention is special because students and chapters are recognized for the programs, activities and work they do in their local schools and communities. There are opportunities for leadership development as well as time to meet other FFA members from across the state,” said Donelle Johnson, Executive Director for the Nebraska FFA Association.
According to Johnson, the 84th State FFA Convention had 3,642 FFA members in attendance. A total of 468 State FFA Degrees were award to FFA members, which is the highest degree the state can bestow upon its members.
The Star Placement winner was Cody Kuester of the West Point FFA Chapter. Kuesters’s SAE consisted of working on his family farm raising crops and livestock. Kuester developed skills in taking hay samples, marketing alfalfa and operating equipment. He plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and major in Agronomy. His adviser is Lee Schroeder.
The Star Agriscience winner was Jordan Paine of the Southern Valley FFA Chapter. Paine’s SAE consisted of beef production, agricultural education, and agriscience. Her agriscience SAE involves two nutritional experiments on bucketcalves, testing the feed quality of honey locust beans, and the impact of ascend and nutrisphere on wheat. Paine plans to attend either Purdue University or the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and double major in Agricultural Education and Political Science. Her adviser is Jon Lechtenbery.
The Star Production winner was Logan Went of the Leigh FFA Chapter. Went’s SAE includes breeding ewes, 15 breeding cows, and 72 ducks. Went developed skills in livestock selection, marketing, and implementing a herd health plan. He plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and major in Agribusiness. His advisor is Don Tyser.
The FFA advisers of the year were Brent Nollette from Amherst and Dana Hall from McCool Junction. There were also six new FFA chapters that were chartered, and that included chapters in Bridgeport, Bruning-Davenport, Chambers, Omaha Bryan, Paxton and Sutherland.
The state convention is very important to FFA members and advisors from across the state. “Agriculture is Nebraska’s number one industry. FFA prepares young people for careers in the agricultural industry. It is critical to the future success of Nebraska that FFA members be ready to be engaged in agricultural opportunities but also serve as the leaders in the industry,” said Johnson.
The convention did feature a new event this year. “A new addition to convention was a large tent that was put up on UNL’s East Campus. Sponsored by UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the tent added a new venue for leadership workshop, competition and sessions. On Wednesday night, FFA members could attend Wildlife Encounters and learn about exotic animals. On Thursday, the 1st Annual Nebraska FFA Agriscience Fair was held in the tent and almost 60 members competed with their research projects. On Friday, the Husker Headquarters Tent hosted an FFA Talent show, Tailgate hotdog feed, a session featuring Aaron Davis and Curt Tomasevicz and the Career Development Event Awards Ceremony. On Friday, over 2,140 FFA members attended the events,” she said.
“My favorite thing about FFA is the people, and the opportunities that I have got to experience,” Hartman added. ❖