GROWMARK awards 25 FFA jackets to Illinois students


For many FFA members, the blue corduroy jacket is much more than a piece of clothing — it is a connection to something bigger than themselves. To help students make that connection, the GROWMARK Foundation awarded 25 FFA jackets to Illinois students in honor of Mike Builta, a GROWMARK vice president and long-time employee who passed away unexpectedly in 2019.

Students submitted essays explaining what an FFA jacket means to them and their goals as an FFA member. For example, recipient Allee Bunnell of West Prairie FFA wrote in her essay, “The FFA jacket means many things to me but one of the most important is that I get to be closer to my dad. He was killed in a car crash when I was six and one of the few things I have of his is his FFA jacket.”

Tyler Horstmann of Wesclin FFA emphasized the connection when he said, “The FFA jacket stands for faith, honor, and pride. It means that you are a part of something bigger than yourself.”

Finally, Keizer Tome of Macomb FFA wrote, “Having the FFA jacket means I am officially part of the team. Moving around every year I had to borrow a jacket at whatever school I went to and always felt out of place. This is my senior year and I want to have the feeling of owning one.”

The 2021 recipients, all from Illinois, are:

  • Lilliana Bernabei Marquette FFA, Ottawa
  • Allee Bunnell West Prairie FFA, Colchester
  • Mackenzie Dandridge Sparta FFA, Sparta
  • Karleigh Ellis Cobden FFA, Alto Pass
  • Kylee Faupel Donovan FFA, Donovan
  • Tyler Horstmann Wesclin FFA, Trenton
  • Kaelannie LaFond Donovan FFA, Beaverville
  • Riley Matsko Streator FFA, Streator
  • Wyatt Parks West Prairie FFA, Colchester
  • Isabel Pistorius Meridian-Macon FFA, Blue Mound
  • Violet Potter Odin FFA, Odin
  • Kathryn Scharf Gibault Catholic FFA, Waterloo
  • Dakota Schober-Kramer North Boone FFA, Poplar Grove
  • Kristina Smith Meridian-Macon FFA, Blue Mound
  • Lucas Staggs Normal FFA, Bloomington
  • Ryleigh Taylor Fairfield FFA, Mill Shoals
  • Leah Thanepohn Newark FFA, Newark
  • Keizer Tome Macomb FFA, Macomb
  • Hannah Treme Newark FFA, Newark
  • Joyce Walkling Streator FFA, Streator
  • Zack Walkling Streator FFA, Streator
  • Benjamin Wamsley Taylorville FFA, Taylorville
  • Destiny Zeeb Lebanon FFA, Trenton
  • Caleb Zwilling Fisher FFA, Fisher
  • Dylan Zwilling Fisher FFA, Fisher

Mike Builta was raised on a family farm near Bellflower, Illinois. He was an active FFA member and lifelong supporter of agricultural education. Builta’s family has played a key role in helping shape this project as part of his legacy, along with judging the student essays. The Foundation has given 75 jackets to FFA students to-date as part of this project, with the final 25 jackets planned to be awarded next year.

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