FFA at nationals

Jacob Lane · Tuesday, November 7, 2017
West Liberty FFA, whose members are no strangers to competition, traveled to the 90th National Convention and Expo Oct. 25-28, in Indianapolis, Ind.

There are 653,359 members of the National FFA Organization divided into over 8,500 clubs. Only the best of the best make it to compete in the national convention.

“I think they did a tremendous job, they all worked really hard,” said FFA Club President Lauren Aird. “They worked hard in the Ag room after school.”

Gracie Danner, now a freshman in college, came in the top four in Beef Production in the National Agricultural Proficiency Awards for a project she started while at WLHS.

She was a state winner in Beef Production and gold recipient.

“She’s actually the first national finalists in West Liberty’s history,” said FFA Director Zach Morris of Proficiency Awards.

Meanwhile, Morgan Peterson, junior, earned a bronze emblem in the National FFA Creed Speaking Leadership Development Event.

West Liberty’s Floriculture Team, consisting of Cora Wickham, Katie Schneider, Olivia Crook and Parker Werling, took ninth in the country. All in all, the West Liberty FFA Club sent 23 members, including those who competed, to the National Convention and Expo.

The West Liberty FFA is advised by Zach Morris and Megan Rauen.

It gives students an opportunity to better themselves in agriculture, business and as people.

“Those who competed got a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn things they normally wouldn’t learn and improved their speaking skills,” said President Aird. “The other students got to observe some really good competition, hopefully they can take that knowledge with them into their own future competitions,” she added.

National competition represents the final and highest tier in FFA competition. It all began with district competition back in March, 2017, where 40 West Liberty students advanced. It was at that time West Liberty was ranked the number one chapter in the State of Iowa out of 220 other clubs, where it earned a national chapter award.

At state competition in Ames, Iowa, back in April, 2017, West Liberty chapter members and teams earned several gold ratings. Over 50 members competed, the most qualified members out of the 200 plus programs in the state, according to Director Morris.

In FFA, the progression of individuals and teams varies. However, at state West Liberty’s Floriculture team took number one to advance to nationals.

“I think was more nervous for state than I was for nationals,” says team member Katie Schneider, “Because the stakes were a lot higher in order to make it to nationals.”

The stakes may have felt higher for the team at state, but the competition was much more fierce and involved at nationals. West Liberty Floriculture spent two days competing in several categories that included, but were not limited to, the following:

-Identification of plants materials and equipment

-General knowledge emanation and problem solving

-Floral arrangements, growing procedures and making corsages

-Job interviews, selling plants one-on-one

-Identifying and controlling plant disorders

“I like doing all the flower arrangements and making the designs,” said Parker Werling. “It’s a really good way to be creative and you get to do a lot of stuff in the flower shop.”

The Floriculture Team came in ninth in the nation, earning a Gold Emblem overall.

For individuals, Parker and Katie earned gold, while Cora and Olivia earned silver. The team spent a lot of time practicing, especially with Destiny at Jan’s Flower Yard. They were even responsible for floral arrangements at homecoming and several weddings.

This was Cora Wickham’s first time at state, and first year of competition, in FFA. It was a special experience to make it all the way.

“I’m really glad that I joined because I’ve learned a lot of life lessons,” she said. “I was really nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but I had a good experience.”

For Morgan Peterson, Creed Speaking demands competitors to recite the National FFA Creed on stage with expression and enthusiasm.

Peterson earned a right to compete at nationals after being named the state champion back in April. At nationals she earned a bronze rating.

Gracie Danner submitted a 25 page application last February on beef production, where it won districts and then won state competition.

There are over 47 “proficiencies” available to compete in, of which Danner chose beef. Ultimately she was a national finalist in the proficiency.

Finally, four members qualified for the highest degree that can be bestowed upon a member of the FFA. Elyse Buysse, Chris McMichael, Kayla Kaalberg and Brady Smith earned their American Degrees, which were made official at the National Convention and Expo in Indianapolis.

In order to qualify students must specialize in an agriculture business where they have to make over $10,000, be involved in five local and five above local activities, participate in 50 hours of community service and submit a detailed record book.

However, FFA National Convention and Expo is more than competition. West Liberty’s students heard from special speakers and participated in several events.

On the the way to Indianapolis they stopped at the John Deer Pavillion in Moline, where they toured different tractors, filmed short stories and hands on activities. They also stopped at the Radar Family Farm Pumpkin Patch in Normal, Ill., where they got a special tour of the patch and learned about Agri-tourism.

“I competed last year and it was nerve-wracking,” said President Aird, “This year I got to experience it on a different side were it was just for fun.”

“It was a good opportunity, we got to talk to so many different businesses,” she added. “It’s really cool to talk to different people and integrate that into your life when you live in Iowa.”
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