Wyoming FFA encourages students to Ride for the Brand | TheFencePost.com

Wyoming FFA encourages students to Ride for the Brand

Story by Robyn Scherer, M.Agr. Kiowa, Colo.
Photos courtesy of Wyoming FFA

Each year FFA students from around Wyoming gather to compete in career development events, participate in leadership workshops and delegate business sessions, as well as take in inspirational and motivational speakers at the Wyoming FFA Convention. It also provides an opportunity for Wyoming FFA members to be recognized for their achievements, run for a State FFA office and meet members from across the state.

One of the biggest awards that can be earned is the State Star Farmer, the State Star in Agribusiness and State Star in Agricultural Placement. Each year, the Wyoming FFA recognizes its outstanding young agriculturalists with the Regional Star Awards.

"These students are selected each year from the pool of State FFA Degree recipients. They have excelled in their supervised agricultural experience, demonstrated outstanding management skills and met other leadership and scholastic requirements," explained State FFA Advisor Stacy Broda.

When students enroll in agriculture education and FFA, they select a hands-on program of work, known as a supervised agriculture experience program (SAE). These programs help solidify concepts learned in the classroom or through FFA experiences, and incorporate the student's individual interests and goals.

"The SAE is a student's project that he or she will undertake to grow and give the opportunity to gain experience in agriculture and other fields," said Tate Chamberlain, State Parliamentarian. "Some students raise livestock or crops as their SAE. Other students have SAEs that include working for a ranch or business or they start their own business. Each student's project is unique and they gain valuable work experiences they can use in a future career."

In January, the Wyoming State FFA Officers conducted project visits in each applicant's hometown, asking questions about the applicant's SAE, FFA involvement and leadership skills. The officers then reviewed the paper applications in February before selecting the regional star recipients from 188 students who applied.

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Each finalist receives $100 from the Wyoming FFA Foundation. The state stars receive $500 from the National FFA Foundation.

The State Star Farmer was Austin Burkett, who has grown up with pigs and lambs his entire life. Burkett raises market and breeding swine and market lambs and works on the family farm. He has expanded his breeding herd to 22 sows, and developed an organic farming operation with his father and grandfather. Burkett plans to major in agriculture and work toward a Ph.D. in animal science.

The State Star in Agribusiness was Kaylee Greenwald, Torrington/Lingle FFA. Greenwald owns her own business of custom swathing and wood splitting. This last year Greenwald cut more than 650 acres with her custom swathing business and split six cords of firewood. She has plans to be part of the future of her family's farm and the future of agriculture.

The State Star in Placement was Brace Pingetzer, Shoshoni FFA. For the last three years, Pingetzer, has worked for Pingetzer Farms and Bovagene Angus Herd where he works to plant, plow, irrigate fields, cut and bale hay, as well as all aspects of the working with the cattle. Pingetzer has recorded more than 7,200 hours of placement in these areas. He plans to earn a master's degree in agricultural business and minors in veterinary science and agriculture economics.

The State Stars were selected from the 188 State Degree recipients that were honored at convention at convention. The State FFA Degree is the highest degree the state association can bestow on its members.

For students, earning the degree is an accomplishment they work toward with pride. "To me, earning my state degree was a reward," explained Lauren Hedges, 2013-2014 State FFA Secretary. "Filling out the application is a long and challenging process that requires a lot of detailed and accurate records. The State Degree application definitely shows the importance of keeping good records and being responsible with your finances."

She continued, "I remember being on the stage, shaking hands and smiling for all of the lights and pictures coming from the audience," said Hedges. "I had walked across that stage numerous other times and had several other accomplishments through FFA, but receiving my State Degree was different. It's really the kind of thing that you have to work for and put in the honest time and dedication, over a three or four year period."

To receive the degree, a student must have earned and productively invested at least $4,000 or have worked at least 2,000 hours in an ag-related business. Other requirements include receiving the chapter FFA degree, delivering a six-minute speech, serving as a chapter FFA officer or committee member, having a satisfactory academic record and completing at least 25 hours of community service.

"Less than 10 percent of FFA members receive the degree each year," Broda said. "These students are now part of an elite group of FFA members and the future leaders of the agriculture industry."

The state convention is also where the new State Officers are selected. This year, the new officers are Parliamentarian – Jess Oldham, Lander FFA; Sentinel – Caleb Green, John B. Kendrick FFA; Reporter – Baxter Heinert, Powell-Shoshone; Treasurer – Austin Burkett, Burns FFA; Secretary – Lacy Nelson, Ten Sleep FFA; 3rd Vice President – Kyle Webber, Powell-Shoshone FFA; 2nd Vice President – Tyler Clemetson, Shoshoni FFA; Vice President – Heather Loraas, Casper FFA; President – Quade Palm, Bow River FFA.

This year, the theme of the convention was Ride for the Brand, and the convention was held April 7-10 in Cheyenne, Wyo. "The Wyoming FFA Convention is a culminating event for our members and provides the opportunity to compete in 16 different career development events which qualify members for National Convention. These contests range from livestock judging to agronomy to sales and service. We have a contest for every student's interests," said Broda.

She continued, "We also offer two other contests, novice parli-pro and greenhand quiz bowl, at the state level. Members also participate in our leadership day, where they had 20 different leadership workshops to choose from, a career show with colleges and industry in attendance, were able to participate in our delegate business session, and enjoyed a magician, caricature artist and stilt walker as entertainment. Convention really brings the year to a close after members have learned about subjects in the classroom, worked to hone their skills throughout the year and come to convention to compete and showcase their skills."

Nearly 1300 people attended the convention. "This year we partnered with the Cheyenne Visitors and Convention Bureau which helped provide tours for our members. They provided their trolleys and took students on historic downtown Cheyenne tours. We also used the trolleys and partnered with High West Energy where members were given a electricity demonstration, students were able to put safety gear on and were given rides in their bucket trucks and learned about careers in their industry. These tours provided great educational opportunities for our members in areas they perhaps do not get in their hometowns," said Broda.

FFA is important to youth in Wyoming. "We strongly feel FFA is important to our youth in Wyoming to grow and sustain our agricultural industry but produce successful adults in any industry. Our members know the importance of leadership skills, public speaking, community involvement and education," she said.

Her favorite part of convention is the members. "The best part for me is recognizing members achievements, and sharing in their successes. We recognized 188 state degree recipients this year, regional and state stars, our agriscience fair competitors, had 63 proficiency applications, had record numbers competing in career development events, and recognized chapters for their achievements," said Broda.

She added, "Within Wyoming FFA you don't have to look too far to see positive things happening with our members and the good things they are taking part in. Maybe the best thing for me is looking into the crowd of blue jackets and knowing our programs are growing these students into Wyoming's future leaders and citizens." ❖

2014 Regional Star Award Winners

Regional Star Farmers

■ Region 1: Jess C. Oldham, Lander FFA

■ Region 2: Justin Lewton, Ten Sleep FFA

■ Region 3: Tara Stimpson, Tongue River FFA

■ Region 4: Austin Burkett, Burns FFA

■ Region 5: Tyler Pickinpaugh, Torrington FFA

Regional Stars in Agri-Placement

■ Region 1: Brace Pingetzer, Shoshoni FFA

■ Region 2: Grant Kimsey, Paintrock FFA

■ Region 4: Lane Wilson, Snowy Range FFA

■ Region 5: Brett Spencer, Torrington FFA

Regional Stars in Agribusiness

■ Region 1: Tyson Gilles, Lyman FFA

■ Region 2: Cayde Cuprak, Paintrock FFA

■ Region 3: Ashten Marchant, Newcastle FFA

■ Region 4: Colter Unwin, Snowy Range FFA

■ Region 5: Kaylee Greenwald, Torrington FFA