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National FFA announces Agricultural Proficiency Award winners

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Agricultural Proficiency Awards honor FFA members who, through supervised agricultural experiences (SAEs), have developed specialized skills that they can apply toward their future careers. Students compete in areas ranging from agricultural communications to wildlife management. Proficiency awards are also recognized at local and state levels and provide recognition to members exploring and becoming established in agricultural career pathways.

Get all the latest news from the 94th National FFA Convention & Expo here.

The winners were announced throughout general sessions of the 94th National FFA Convention & Expo. 

These recipients are:
Agricultural Communication — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Lashawna Vogel
Lashawna Vogel of the Denmark FFA Chapter in Wisconsin has become an expert at communicating information and ideas with her larger community and FFA chapter. Leading up to National FFA Week, she writes articles reflecting on each of her chapter’s annual events for a newspaper to educate her village about FFA. Using Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, she manages the social media outlets to tell the story of agricultural education. Vogel is supported by her parents, Patti and Steve, and her FFA advisors, Marty Nowak and Mary Handrich. Bader Rutter and Associates, Inc., and Red Brand sponsor this proficiency.

Agricultural Education — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Kendra Goplin
Kendra Goplin of the Whitehall FFA Chapter Wisconsin began her supervised agricultural experience (SAE) by helping teach third-graders about agriculture safety for an agricultural literacy program. She assists in coaching a middle school quiz bowl team and creating educational displays at both the county and state fairs. She also coordinates ag literacy activities in her school district, reaching students from pre-kindergarten to sixth grades. Goplin is supported by her parents, Melinda and Shane, and her FFA advisor, Melinda Goplin. CHS and Harris Products Group-A Lincoln Electric Company sponsor this proficiency.

Agricultural Mechanics Design and Fabrication — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Benjamin Olander
Benjamin Olander of the Staples-Motley FFA Chapter in Minnesota has been interested in the functions of crafting and building structures for as long as he remembers. He began working for a machine shop owned by his grandfather and uncle and learned MIG, TIG and Arc welding, along with learning how to operate the cutting torch and plasma cutter. These tools have helped him create landscape rakes, feed wagons and excavator thumbs. Olander is supported by his parents, Denise and Keith, and his FFA advisors, Kerry Lindgren and Joe Ramstad. Carry-On Trailer Corporation and Lincoln Electric/Harris Products Group sponsors this proficiency.

Agricultural Mechanics Repair and Maintenance — Entrepreneurship
Case Edwards
Case Edwards of the Wetumpka FFA Chapter in Alabama owns a business that repairs two- and four-cycle small engines on agricultural equipment and larger equipment like tractors. In the first two years of his supervised agricultural experience (SAE), he repaired approximately six pieces of equipment including push mowers, string trimmers and riding mowers. These repairs built his confidence and led him to repairing and painting a 1950 John Deere Model M, a 1947 Farmall Super A, and a 1965 Massey 135. Edwards is supported by his parents, Jamie and Joey, and his FFA advisors, William Norris and Keith Lucy. Kubota Tractor and Tractor Supply Company sponsor this proficiency.

Agricultural Mechanics Repair and Maintenance — Placement
Justin Preece
Justin Preece of the Urbana FFA Chapter in Ohio became passionate about this supervised agricultural experience (SAE) area after driving his grandfather’s John Deere 3020. He jumped at the chance for a job at his local Case IH dealer, even though they only needed someone to clean about the shop. After two months, however, he began detailing new and used farm equipment for the shop. Preece has since advanced into assembling augers. He has accepted a full-time position as a lead technician for their Kubota line and certified welder. He is supported by his parents, Michelle Adams and Brian Preece, and his FFA advisors, Stephen Wilhelm and Mallory Zachrich. John Deere sponsors this proficiency.

Agricultural Processing — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Rachyl Kitten
Rachyl Kitten of the Slaton FFA Chapter in Texas owns and operates a swine feed milling business. She started her operation when she was in the eighth grade and the price of feed started to increase. Through in-depth research and interviews with numerous individuals in the feed and livestock industry, she has developed a line of feed that offers 16 percent, 18 percent, and 20 percent protein-medicated and un-medicated feeds. Kitten is supported by her parents, Bonnie and Kurt, and her FFA advisors, Adam Westbrook and Casey Jones. The National FFA Foundation and National FFA Organization sponsor this proficiency.

Agricultural Sales — Entrepreneurship
Drake Williams
Drake Williams of the Cherokee FFA Chapter in Oklahoma has been buying and re-selling various breeds of goats, sheep and exotic animals for three years. He attends sales throughout the area to purchase bred nannies and replacement bucks for resale helping his customers build superior herds. He’s sold to families in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri. He has resold more than 1,000 head of sheep, goats and exotic animals. Williams is supported by his parents, Dana and Aaron, and his FFA advisor, Christy Snider. Nutrien Ag Solutions and Valent USA Corporation sponsor this proficiency.

Agricultural Sales — Placement
Emily Wise
Emily Wise of the Bakersfield-Bakersfield Christian FFA Chapter in California works for Redhouse, an integrated agricultural family operation specializing in producing and selling grass-fed beef, poultry, almonds and honey. Her responsibilities include customer relations, product marketing and branding, processing online orders, and overseeing distribution to local companies. Today, she is a team leader, starting just four years ago in shelf-stocking. Wise is supported by her parents, Debbie and Geordy, and her FFA advisor, Tanya Bidabe Love. Cargill, Fastenal and Wilbur-Ellis sponsor this proficiency.

Agricultural Services — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Cassie Carter
Cassie Carter of the Habersham Central FFA Chapter in Georgia works for Trophy Taker Taxidermy during summers and after school. There, she works with mounts for clients. She washes the animal hides, dries them, and applies the preservatives to each part of the hide. After this, she’ll sew up any noticeable holes to ensure a good-looking final product. Carter said that her greatest challenge was learning to mount a deer, a process she has since perfected. She is supported by her parents, Kathy and Chris, and her FFA advisors, Amy Crump, Aaron Newton and Willie Crump. Helena Agri-Enterprises sponsor this proficiency.

Agriscience Research — Animal Systems
Lizzie Schafer
Lizzie Schafer of the Taylorville FFA Chapter in Illinois had her interest in bovine reproduction sparked when, at the age of seven, she held a cow’s tail as it was artificially inseminated. She has engaged in producer conversations at cattle production sales and shows, discussing successes and failures in bovine reproduction. This led her to reach an agreement with Schafer Stock Farm to use recipient cows, elite donor females, and their facility and equipment to conduct bovine reproductive research. She has recently studied to determine if lower quality grade embryos had a higher probability of being female progeny. Schafer is supported by her parents, Suzanne and Aaron, and her FFA advisors, Sue Schafer, Lori Parks and Katie King. Zoetis sponsors this proficiency.

Agriscience Research — Integrated Systems
Harrison Falcofsky
Harrison Falcofsky of the Stewarts Creek FFA Chapter in Tennessee has completed seven research projects in high school. These include concrete strength experimentation, the feed efficiency of goat kids on a “Robo-Mom” feeder versus traditional feeder, a literature review on sexual misconduct in the agriculture industry, and the analysis of employability skills development through Tennessee FFA Career Development Events. Falcofsky is supported by his parents, Rana and Ari, and his FFA advisors, Amy Olt and Gina Stewart. The National FFA Foundation and the National FFA Organization sponsor this proficiency.

Agriscience Research — Plant Systems
George Frees
George Frees of the Case Career Center in Missouri conducted two experiments which examined the physical, chemical and genetic effects of the application of gibberellic acid on the productivity of agriculturally important commodities from the sugarcane species Saccharum offinarum. Frees’ main ambition was to investigate the effects of gibberellic acid application on ethanol production. He is supported by his parents, Laura and Karl, and his FFA advisors, Jackson Dieckhoff and Marshall Streit. The National FFA Foundation and the National FFA Organization sponsor this proficiency.

Beef Production — Entrepreneurship
Gracey Pitchford
Gracey Pitchford of the Eustace FFA Chapter in Texas owns and manages a 36 head herd of registered Santa Gertrudis cattle on 160 acres of high-quality coastal pastureland, allowing her to run one head of cattle on 4.3 acres. Her herd began with a registered heifer named Daisy Duke gifted by her grandfather. After her show career, Daisy Duke became the foundation female of Pitchford’s herd, which now sits at 36 head. She is supported by her parents, Shana and Darrell, and her FFA advisors, Theresa Tindel, Steve Stegall, Makayla Arnold and Cyler Frost. Merck Animal Health and Rabo AgriFinance sponsor this proficiency.

Beef Production — Placement
Amanda Annett
Amanda Annett of the Utica FFA Chapter in Ohio works for her family’s cattle feedlot operation. They run approximately 300 head of Holstein dairy steers, starting them from two days old on milk replacer and raising them to market weight. The bull calves are raised from bottle to finished in five different barns. All cattle are marketed and sold on a contract through United Producers. Annett is supported by her parents, Tatum and Kevin, and her FFA advisor, Gina Neff. Zoetis sponsors this proficiency.

Dairy Production — Entrepreneurship
Hartley Silva
Hartley Silva of the Modesto FFA Chapter in California owns “Flying Hart Jerseys.” Today, she has 88 head of cattle. She trades labor with her parents to offset the cost of her vet bills, labor and use of facilities. She is charged with mixing feed, washing out lanes, cleaning water troughs, and raking turn-out pens during the dry months. Silva employs the Dairy Herd Improvement Association to track breeding, milk test score and more. She is supported by her parents, Jennifer and William, and her FFA advisors, Scott Layne and Julie Schellhase. New Holland sponsors this proficiency.

Dairy Production — Placement
Renea Schmitmeyer
Renea Schmitmeyer of the Versailles FFA Chapter in Ohio works on her family’s farm, milking 180 Holstein cows in a double ten parlor and thirty breeding age heifers with three herd bulls. She also bottle-feeds 200 baby calves. Her tasks include morning and evening milking, feeding calves, scraping and bedding heifer pens, hauling calves, and checking for irregular health issues. Schmitmeyer is supported by her parents, Brenda and Douglas, and her FFA advisors, Dena Wuebker and Taylor Bergman. The National FFA Foundation and the National FFA Organization sponsors this proficiency.

Diversified Agricultural Production — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Hunter Holdgrafer
Hunter Holdgrafer of the Easton Valley FFA Chapter in Iowa came into his freshman year of high school with eight cows and a desire to learn more about growing corn and soybeans. He began with a small number of acres that he rented from a neighbor. When he began his project, he relied on the advice of professionals. He’s since learned to do everything from setting his planting date, determining fungicide application, scouting, and when to combine. Holdgrafer is supported by his parents, Keri and Brian, and his FFA advisor, Jennifer Marion. The National FFA Foundation and the National FFA Organization sponsor this proficiency.

Diversified Crop Production — Entrepreneurship
Peter Bliss
Peter Bliss of the Merced-Golden Valley FFA Chapter in California was operating tractors and harvesters by the sixth grade. The family operation grows cotton, corn, wheat and almonds. When he entered high school, he inherited thirty acres of his own and began leasing more. He has farmed 212 acres of Alcala cotton, 75 acres of Durum wheat, and 60 acres of Monterey/Carmel almonds. Bliss is supported by his parents, Jeannie and Michael, and his FFA advisors, Vikki Davis, Coby Jacobsen, Karl Montague, John Olson, Madison Zittel and Rebecca Mendonza. Valent USA sponsors this proficiency.

Diversified Crop Production — Placement
Gage Slagell
Gage Slagell of the Hydro-Eakly FFA Chapter in Oklahoma works for Triple S Farms and his job descriptions all depend on the crops they’re growing at any particular time. The operation grows everything from sweet potatoes to cotton and spinach to peanuts. The crop rotation is focused on soil health, high-yielding crops and sustainable agricultural practices. Slagell is supported by his parents, Kendra and Chris, and his FFA advisor, Chris Klaassen. AgReliant Genetics sponsors this proficiency.

Diversified Horticulture — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Devin Boyer
Devin Boyer of the Franklin County High FFA Chapter in Georgia has a placement at Broad River Blooms, a place that was just an overgrown field when he began. It has transformed into a 6,000-plant dahlia farm that includes nursery decorative trees and shrubs throughout his time at the operation. The dahlia blooms are harvested and sold to florists. His daily responsibilities include walking the field to ensure that plants are growing straight and correctly, checking for rot and disease, inspecting the irrigation system, and more. Boyer is supported by his parents, Jamie and Michael, and his FFA advisors, Cale Watkins, Taylor Brown and Trey Harris. The National FFA Foundation and the National FFA Organization sponsor this proficiency.

Diversified Livestock Production — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Kayla Rossi
Kayla Rossi of the Soroco FFA Chapter in Colorado lives on her family’s cow/calf operation and developed an interest in the experience at an early age. She runs her livestock operation on roughly 100 acres of irrigated pastureland, raising cattle, sheep and goats. She irrigates, fixes fences, drags meadows, monitors the livestock and harvests hay. Rossi is supported by her parents, Megan and Tommy, and her FFA advisor, Jay Whaley. CHS and Tractor Supply Company sponsor this proficiency.

Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Tristan Wirkus
Tristan Wirkus of the Stratford FFA Chapter in Wisconsin uses the leadership skills he’s gained from FFA to educate the public about the importance of environmental stewardship in his community. He has served on the Stratford Village Tree Advisory Board, achieving Tree City USA status for the community for the last three years. Wirkus has also constructed and installed lending libraries along the Heritage Trail for the public, in addition to charting a tree identification course. He is supported by his parents, Becky and Tony, and his FFA advisors, Rebecca Wirkus and Troy Bargender. CHS sponsors this proficiency.

Equine Science — Entrepreneurship
Raley Downing
Raley Downing of the Troy FFA Chapter in Texas has a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) in which she purchases, trains, and resells horses for roping and running barrels. She does everything from exercising and training the horses to cleaning the stalls and maintaining daily nutrition. She increased from three to four horses and invested her rodeo winnings into saddles and other equipment to improve her project. Downing is supported by her parents, Carla and John, and her FFA advisors, Mindy Howard and Justin Smith. Zoetis and Red Brand sponsor this proficiency.

Equine Science — Placement
Layton Lee Oswald
Layton Lee Oswald of the Oakdale FFA Chapter in California trains and manages clients’ horses at his family’s business, 3L Performance Horses. He assists in training and working more than 100 horses each year for customers throughout the United States. Customers send their horses of all ages to be trained in various equestrian disciplines, including roping, reining and reined cow horse. The training program includes boarding, giving lessons, and nutrition and health management. Oswald is supported by his parents, Leeann and Les, and his FFA advisors, Grace Tobias, Edward Hartzell, Matt Marshall and Isaac Robles. Tractor Supply Company sponsors this proficiency.

Fiber and/or Oil Crop Production — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Brady Walker
Brady Walker of the Tift County FFA Chapter in Georgia works at Docia Farms, growing 850 acres of peanuts and 1,200 acres of cotton on sandy loam soils. His normal duties include harrowing in front of the peanut planter, planting, spreading fertilizer, and land plaster in the spring. During summers, he works full-time scouting crops, spraying crops, and mowing between fields. Walker operates the nut buggy or bowl bugging during harvest season. He is supported by his parents, Amanda and Gator, and his FFA advisors, Carl Nichols, Lynne Cook, Brittaney Schwing, Heath Cross and Ashley Thoron. Bunge and CHS sponsor this proficiency.

Forage Production — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Cason Love
Cason Love of the Stephenville FFA Chapter in Texas works on his father’s farm. The operation involves producing forage for their cattle and selling to various customers throughout the tri-county area. His responsibilities include cutting hay, running the tractor and baler, and loading hay out of the field with maintaining and repairing equipment in preparation for the next hay season. Love is supported by his parents, Jennifer and Robert, and his FFA advisors, Jordan Smith, Ryan Best, Brock Burch and Savannah Bowers. Claas of America sponsors this proficiency.

Forest Management and Products
Wendon Warr
Wendon Warr of the Early County FFA Chapter in Georgia works for Southeast Forest Industries, Inc. His father and uncle founded the logging business. They actively manage 60,000 acres across Georgia, Florida and Alabama. He’s learned how to manage, mark, and cut timber with the help of his father. Once he loads the timber on the trucks, it is sent to a mill. In the winter, preparations are made for the planting of new trees. Warr is supported by his parents, Brandi and Toby, and his FFA advisors, Lisa Murphree and David Wolfe. John Deere sponsors this proficiency.

Fruit Production — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Luke Hendrix
Luke Hendrix of the Wayne County FFA Chapter in Georgia works for Eighth Day Farms, a pecan farm his family started in 2011. The farm has 1,100 trees and grows five pecan cultivars. He is involved in each production stage, including pest management, equipment operation and maintenance, harvesting and marketing. Hendrix is excited to be a part of this industry that he feels is quickly becoming global. He is supported by his parents, Emily and Lance, and his FFA advisors, Michael Kirkland, Reggie Beasley, Cole Madray and Nick Hodges. Valent USA Corporation sponsors this proficiency.

Goat Production — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Connor Pence
Connor Pence of the Veribest FFA Chapter in Texas got his first start in breeding goats with five does his grandparents gave him when he was three years old. Today, he has a herd of forty does and their offspring, managing the breeding goat herd and raising market wethers. The typical sale price he earns is $185 per head. Pence is supported by his parents, Denise and Cory, and his FFA advisor, Travis Lange. Tractor Supply Company sponsors this proficiency.

Grain Production — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Mackenzie Henning
Mackenzie Henning of the Jackson County Central FFA Chapter in Minnesota works for an independent seed corn business in her community. Starting as an intern before becoming a paid employee, her responsibilities were initially simple – hand detasseling seed corn and working in the warehouse. The goal of detasseling is to remove all female tassels from the field of seed corn to allow for cross pollination. Henning is also involved in roguing or removing off-types from the field. She is supported by her parents, Ann and Brad, and her FFA advisors, Laura Bidne, Larry Christopher and Jeff Voss. Topcon, Valent USA Corporation and Wilbur-Ellis Company sponsor this proficiency.

Landscape Management — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Tad Nelson
Tad Nelson of the Rigby FFA Chapter in Idaho owns and manages Nelson Mow and Trim, a full-service lawn and landscape company. He began mowing lawns at the age of eight and had a workload of eight weekly lawns by the time he was twelve. Last year, after his fifth year of operating the business, he had 60 weekly lawn clients in addition to installing and maintaining landscapes. Nelson is supported by his parents, Karie and Keith, and his FFA advisors, Robert Hale, Casey Sanders, Holly Fullmer and Lex Godfrey. Tractor Supply Company sponsors this proficiency.

Nursery Operations — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Matt Malcolm
Matt Malcom of the Morgan County High FFA Chapter in Georgia works on his family’s 100-acre nursery, where he grows 40 varieties of ornamental trees. His duties include planting, spraying herbicides, pruning, setting up irrigation systems, cleaning underbrush and harvesting. The trees that Malcom raises are sold to landscape professionals and some homeowners. He is supported by his parents, Renee and Damon, and his FFA advisors, Rachel Kinsaul and Briana Stoops.
The National FFA Foundation and the National FFA Organization sponsor this proficiency.

Outdoor Recreation — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Cody Bryden
Cody Bryden of the Iron Mountain FFA Chapter in Alaska is employed for a local business that provides outdoor recreational activities such as fishing, whale watching and water taxis. He is one of two crew members on the charter vessel. In this role, he has learned fishing regulations and harvest management of the Alaskan fisheries. Bryden is supported by his parents, Wendy and Jeff, and his FFA advisor, Kim Barhaug. Yamaha Motor Corporation USA sponsors this proficiency.

Poultry Production — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Eli Hallford
Eli Hallford of the Franklin County High School FFA Chapter in Georgia works on his family’s poultry farm. The operation consists of four houses that are 40 x 500 feet, three houses that are 50 x 400 feet, and another that is 36 x 400 feet. He helps produce more than 200,000 births per flock with seven flocks each year. Hallford is responsible for biosecurity, feed management, environmental management, and animal healthcare. He is supported by his parents, Pam and Louis, and his FFA advisors, Taylor Brown, Cale Watkins and Trey Harris. Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, Tractor Supply Company and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association sponsor this proficiency.

Service-Learning — Entrepreneurship/Placement
Addy Stuever Battel
Addy Stuever Battel of the Cass City FFA Chapter in Michigan was twelve years old when her hometown lost its only grocery store, becoming a food desert. As a farm kid, she realized that while her freezer was full of meat, others were not as fortunate. She recruited three of her friends from FFA to raise fifty broiler chickens and a pig for a local food pantry. More than six years later, her organization, “Meating the Need for Our Village” is a nationally recognized hunger relief nonprofit with a $62,611 impact on the community. Stuever Battel is supported by her parents, Sue Stuever and Bob Battel, and her FFA advisors, Leigh Osentoski and Heather Middleton. CHS sponsors this proficiency.

Editor’s note: This post will be updated as the convention and expo continues. 

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