FFA Beekeeping Winner

Area FFA members shine in Indy

Rachel Gabel  

Blue and gold jackets are wall to wall in Indianapolis, Ind., during the National FFA Convention. The posted results are not complete and simply competing at the national level is an accomplishment, I want to highlight a few.

Kyelynn Coombe, winner of the Beef Production – Entrepreneurship contest, is a member of the Joliet FFA Chapter in Montana. She started her project in 2006 when her parents gave her one polled Hereford cow. Since then, she has increased her herd to include 131 females and three bulls. She has 38 yearling heifers in her parents’ feedlot. Her project goal is to have 140 cows, make more money than it costs to raise them, sell 20 bred heifers, sell 20 bulls in a genetics bull sale, and produce the best registered Simmental and Angus cattle. Coombe is supported by her parents, Kelli and Chris, and her FFA adviser, Chad Massar.

William Paxton, who won the Specialty Animal Production – Entrepreneurship/Placement contest, is a member of the Stuart FFA Chapter in Nebraska, established his own beekeeping business after shadowing a professional. Keeping them on his uncle’s ranch, he started with two hives. His primary responsibility as a beekeeper, he said, was to keep honey bees healthy enough to survive and produce a substantial amount of honey each year. Paxton is supported by his parents, Sara and Darby, and his FFA advisers Katie Nolles and Patty Hanzlik.

SoRoCo FFA is well represented in Indy this year. Kayla Rossi is making her way through the national officer selection process, Emily Rossi earned second place in the Creed Speaking LDE, and Carmen Anarella is representing the chapter in the National FFA Convention Choir. Olivia Rossi finished in the Silver Category for Public Speaking.

Big Timber (Montana) FFA and Torrington-Lingle, Wyo., livestock evaluation teams finished second and fifth, respectively with South Dakota’s Brookings FFA in sixth.

Caleb Most of Ogallala FFA won the Extemporaneous Public Speaking contest, bringing that national championship back to Nebraska.

Our region was well represented in the Farm and Agribusiness Management CDE with Wheatland (Wyoming) FFA in third, Carrington (North Dakota) FFA in fourth, and Pender (Nebraska) in seventh.

I spoke to the Frontier FFA (Wyoming) chapter ag Issues team as they prepared for the Sweet 16 round of the contest. Coached by Sarah Falen Tate and Karen Budd-Falen, the team spoke eloquently about their topic, whether the Monarch butterfly ought to be listed under the Endangered Species Act and whether the listing ought to be incentivized. While they didn’t reach the final four round, we can all be incredibly proud of them and all of the thousands of FFA students from the region who competed in national competitions. That’s nothing to scoff at, I assure you.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a room full of high school aged girls about agriculture and writing their own ticket in the industry, as it were. I failed to mention the keynote speaker in my article, though she is another young woman who excelled in the FFA program. Emma Mortensen of Brush, Colo., is a past state FFA president and continues to be a mentor and a leader and a great person past the corduroy jacket.

In my article this week about the Custer County FFA chapter, I quoted Dean Riggs, who owns the Riggs Ranch which is operated by the chapter. The Riggs family is generous with the property and provide incredible learning opportunities to the members. Dean said: “I’m a realist to know that just because they’re in FFA and wear the blue corduroy jacket, doesn’t mean they’ll end up employed in agriculture, but they’re all going to vote — I hope they vote,” he said. “I hope they get something out of it that will leave them when, for instance, animal rights-type folks take a run at something, they can lean back on that experience somehow and think and make the right decision on the ballot.”

As an industry, we’re building and raising good kids and those good kids will lead the industry in the coming years, so this is no mission for the weak hearted. I believe in the future of agriculture and I know you do, too.

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