Bringing Home the Gold: Area FFA chapters excel at National FFA Convention

Some of the best and brightest students across the country competed at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis Oct. 27-30, and several chapters and individuals from across the Tri-State Livestock News area brought home medals and honors.

Salem, S.D.’s McCook Central FFA earned two top ten team finishes.

They were second nationally in the Veterinary Science Evaluation with team members Grace Digiovanni, Ashtyn Wobig, Ella Stiefvater and Hadley Stiefvater, and third nationally in the Livestock Evaluation with team members Ryan Blagg, Colton Stiefvater, Lane Deutsch and Max Nordlund.

Third place team medal for the Livestock Evaluation contest went to McCook Central FFA, Salem, S.D. From left to right, livestock judge coach Carie Stiefvater, Colton Stiefvater, Max Nordlund, Lane Deutsch, and Ryan Blagg. Blagg finished ninth, individually. Terry Rieckman
Courtesy photo
The McCook Central FFA chapter (Salem, S.D.), finished as runners-up in the Veterinary Science contest at the 2021 National FFA Convention. From left to right, Hadley Stiefvater, Ella Stiefvater, Grace DiGiovanni, and Ashtyn Wobig. Ella finished in eighth place individually; Grace finished in sixth. Photo courtesy Terry Rieckman.

FFA advisor Terry Rieckmann said the Veterinary Science team was coached by Mike Stiefvater, DVM and the Livestock team was coached by Carie Stiefvater.

“I would have to say, most of the credit (for the teams’ wins) goes to those two people.”

In addition, Lauren Rolling with the McCook chapter won the Agriscience Fair Division 1 for social systems.

Trapper Depew, Carrington, N.D., finished as the number one individual in the Agronomy contest, helping his team to a third-place finish.

Trapper Depew, Carrington, N.D., is the high scoring individual in the Agronomy test at this year’s FFA National Convention. His team scored third as well. Melissa Hansen
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The agronomy contest includes grain judging, insect, plant, crop and weed identification, a written test on soils, crops and fertilizers, soil testing, current events, and other areas. This year’s test included judging classes of hay and green bell peppers.

“This group has worked at this really hard for three years,” said Melissa Hansen, FFA advisor at Carrington High School. North Dakota did not host a state agronomy contest in 2020, due to the pandemic, so this team has been studying for this contest since 2019.

The Carrington team, with members Depew, Elizabeth Lee, Jacob Rexin and Joe Lindberg, was coached by Bruce Bachmeier, an FFA alumni member who is an agronomist, and Joel Lemer, a retired ag teacher and county agent.

The Carrington, N.D. Agronomy team finished nationals with a third place win. From left to right: Trapper Depew, Jacob Rexin, Elizabeth Lee and Joe Lindberg. Photo courtesy Melissa Hansen. Courtesy photo

Bachmeier and Lemer “have so much industry knowledge, that helps immensely,” Hansen said.

Winning at the national level is a feat, she said. “If you’re in the top ten at nationals, you’re in a very elite group.”

Students who compete at the FFA National Convention benefit not only from the knowledge they’ve gained, but from other skills they’ve learned as well. “Working together as a team, setting goals,” Hansen said, “I think those are skills you need, no matter what career path you follow.”

Her FFA students are driven, she said.

“I joke that I just drive their bus. That’s my job with this group. They’re pretty self-motivated. They’re a bright group of kids,” Hansen said.

Depew is a freshman at Iowa State University, majoring in ag engineering.

He didn’t become an FFA member until his sophomore year, when he transferred to Carrington.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” he said.

He’s learned more than the agricultural aspect.

“It’s helped me not only understand agronomy stuff, but it’s helped me with public speaking. There are some aspects of the contest where you have to do an oral presentation to judges. It’s made me a more well-rounded person, all together.”

The number one team in the nation in the Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems Contest is from the Rugby, N.D. High School FFA Chapter.

The Rugby, N.D. High School FFA team is all smiles after being awarded the championship in the Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems contest. From left to right, Kordell Kraft, Thatcher Volk, Zach Jaeger, and Carson Mattern. Kasey Okke
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Members Carson Mattern, Thatcher Volk, Zach Jaeger, and Kordell Kraft worked together on contest subject matters: small and large engines, electrical wiring, structures, farm machinery, farm technology, map applications, and more.

FFA advisor Kasey Okke said the contest in Indianapolis included a team welding project and hydraulics work on a skid steer.

The four team members have been friends since seventh grade and communicate well, said Jaeger. “The night before the contest, we were talking, saying we had to communicate. Because in school we tend to have some fun, but we knew in competition we had to get to business and communicate what people needed to do, and I think we did it fairly well.”

The Rugby, N.D. national champions came home to a hero’s welcome after winning the Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems contest at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. Kayce Okke
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Math is a crucial part of the contest, Okke said. Students “have to not only know the stuff about mechanics and understand farm-related things, but they have to be pretty darn good math students. A lot of credit goes to the other teachers in our school for teaching, and credit to their parents for exposing them to different things, and having them work on the farm.”

All four team members work outside of school in an ag related job.

The team got a vehicle escort into town as they returned from convention. “Our parents put signs along the highway, and made a big deal of it, and it was super cool to see that. The cops and firefighters escorted us into town,” Thatcher Volk said.

“It’s one of those life time deals and we’ll remember it forever.”

Scranton, North Dakota students Karady Evans and Ella Anderson earned a 4th place finish and a gold with their Agri Science fair project on Effects of Fertilizers on Plants.

The 2021 American Star Farmer is a Nebraskan.

Grady Johnson, Holdrege, Neb., is the 2021 winner.

Grady Johnson, Holdrege, Neb., stands with his family and FFA advisor after accepting the 2021 American Star Farm Award. From left to right, brothers Jett and Quinn, mother Holly, Grady, father Blake, and FFA advisor Jeff Moore.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln senior has run his own business baling corn stalks for the past four years, starting with 600 bales his first year, and baling close to 8,000 this year to meet demand.

He drops the chaff spreader behind the combine, leaving a windrow of cobs, husks and leaves. The bales have more nutrition because of that.

His dad, Blake Johnson, won the American Star Farmer Award thirty years ago, and, as far as Grady knows, they are the only father/son duo to have won the award.

The Eustis-Farnam, Neb. FFA Chapter came home with two top ten finishes at the national convention.

The Chase County, Neb. High School Parliamentary Procedure team finished as runner-up at the National FFA Convention last weekend. From left to right, coach Jeremy Vlasin and team members Morel Torres, Carter Leibbrandt, Elizabeth Reeves, Madelynn Hanes, Colin O’Neil, and Kade Anderson. Photo courtesy Jeremy Vlasin.
The Eustis-Farnam, Neb. FFA chapter also placed in the top ten in the Food Science contest. From left to right, advisor Chad Schimmels, Creighton Hecox, Natalie Malcom, Skyler Oberg, and Karissa Hodge. Photo courtesy Chad Schimmels.

The Food Science and Technology team finished fourth; the Agronomy team finished sixth.

The Food Science team consisted of team members Karissa Hodge, Natalie Malcom, Creighton Hecox and Skyler Oberg.

The Food Science tests includes a general knowledge exam, which can cover anything from food physics, food chemistry, food processing, food safety, to food microbiology, said advisor Chad Schimmels. Another portion of the exam requires students to read actual customer letters, complaining about a product, and students have to decide if the inquiry is a safety or quality issue.

Another aspect of Food Science is aromas; students are required to know thirty of them and tell the difference between basil and oregano, raspberry and strawberry, and lemon-lime and orange.

The Eustis-Farnam Agronomy team included Grace Schimmels (Chad’s daughter), Maggie Walker, Dallas Weitzel, and Madison Woehrle.

The entire Eustis-Farnam High School has 49 students, grades 9-12.

There is no class system in FFA, so small schools compete against large schools.

“Some of the teams we compete against at Nationals have several hundred kids (in the chapter) and eight or nine ag teachers,” Schimmels said.

He gives his students advice.

“I tell them, no fear. None at all. Yeah, they’re bigger, bring it on. We just have to outwork them. Our motto is we can compete against anybody, we just have to outwork them.”

Schimmels complimented his teams. “One of the things I tell them, is I’m incredibly proud of their performance but I’m more proud of them as human beings. We have kids willing to work their tails off to be the best. When you compete at that level, it’s a remarkable thing to watch kids succeed.”

Chapters finishing in the top ten in their respective Career Development Evaluation (CDE) or Leadership Development Evaluation (LDE) include Kindred, N.D., sixth in Nursery/Landscape; David Lloyd Lamoure, N.D. eighth in Livestock Evaluation; Richland, N.D., tenth in Environmental and Natural Resources; Stanley, N.D., sixth in Horse Evaluation; Grant County, N.D., tenth in Farm and Agribusiness Management; Turtle Lake Mercer, N.D., seventh in Floriculture; Alliance, Neb., seventh in Livestock Evaluation; Sumner-Eddyville-Miller, Neb., sixth in Meats Evaluation and Technology; St. Paul, Neb., seventh in Environmental and Natural Resources; Imperial, Neb., second in Parliamentary Procedure; Casper, Wyo., fourth in Meats Evaluation and Technology; Snowy Range, Wyo., third in Horse Evaluation and fifth in Livestock Evaluation; Wheatland, Wyo., seventh in Farm and Agribusiness Management and tenth in Agronomy; Tongue River Valley, Wyo., eighth in Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems; Miles City, Mont., fourth in Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems; and Grass Range, Mont., seventh in Veterinary Science.

Top placing individuals include Carson Mattern and Kordell Kraft, both of Rugby, N.D., fifth and sixth respectively in Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems; Ryan Blagg, McCook Central, N.D., ninth in Livestock Evaluation; Laura Muggli, Grant County, N.D., fourth in Farm and Agribusiness Management; Carson Daley, Philip, S.D., fourth in Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems; Grace Digiovanni, McCook Central, S.D., sixth in Veterinary Science; Natalie Malcom, Eustis-Farnam, Neb., sixth in Food Science and Technology; Spencer Walahoski, Sumner-Eddyville-Miller, Neb., seventh in Meats Evaluation and Technology; Sam Thede, St. Paul, Neb., fifth in Environmental and Natural Resources; Jordyn Laible, West Holt, Neb., sixth in Agricultural Communications; Erin Oldemeyer, Norris, Neb., sixth in Horse Evaluation; Silja Alexander, Snowy Range, Wyo., first in Horse Evaluation; Curtis Nickle, Wheatland, Wyo., sixth in Farm and Agribusiness Management; Kolton Lake, Kymber Stinson and Riley Miller, all of Snowy Range, Wyo., finishing first, second and fifth, respectively in Livestock Evaluation; Shaun Billingsley, Missoula, Mont., fifth in Meats Evaluation and Technology; Nolan Muggli, Miles City, Mont., second in Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems; and Morgan Corean, Grass Range, Mont., ninth in Veterinary Science.


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