By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN For the first time in the history of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA chapter, one of its teams, food and science technology, placed first at the national convention, which took place Oct. 19-22 in Indianapolis, IN.
Representing the school well, the chapter also earned a National Chapter award, and was the only team from Minnesota to reach that accomplishment.
Earning American degrees, the highest achievable degree for FFA members, were Justin Crowley, Crystal Jones, and Trevor Christensen.
In order to earn an American degree, a member has to have $7,500 in supervised agriculture experience; less than 1 percent of all FFA members earn their American degrees.
Sabrina Kieser placed in the top eight with her agricultural literacy speech for prepared public speaking.
Two other HLWW FFA teams placed eighth at the national convention; the agricultural communication team, and the nursery and landscape team.
In order to get to the national convention, each team that participated from the HLWW FFA chapter had to place first at the state level.
Food and science technology
Members of the food science team included Kyla Mauk, a sophomore, who placed third individually; Sarah Marketon, a senior, who placed ninth individually; Katie Hirsch, a senior, who placed 17th individually; and Ariel Kocher, a senior, who placed 26th individually.
For its project at the national convention, the food science team had to make a shelf-stable coffee beverage.
“We were shocked because we had never practiced with a coffee beverage, but we went right into it,” Hirsch said.
Throughout its hours of practice, the team had made juice boxes, even pop, but never a coffee beverage, Hirsch added.
On top of making a coffee beverage, it had to be seasonal, so the team made a pumpkin spice coffee beverage.
Within its allotted time of one hour, the team produced a shelf-stable coffee beverage that earned it first place at the national convention.
“We were shocked. Going into a national contest, you can’t be too assured you’re going to just kick-butt and win,” Marketon said. “Each of the other teams had already won its state competition it’s an extremely high competition level.”
About 45 other teams, and 160 individuals from throughout the US, participated in the competion.
Members of the agricultural communications team included HLWW juniors Rebecca Zander, who placed eighth individually; Emily Mages, who placed 44th individually; Chris Marketon, who placed 61st individually; Jared Schmieg, who placed 63rd individually; and freshman at college Rebecca Groos, who placed 90th individually.
In agricultural communications, the team presents information in the form of a press conference.
HLWW’s team presented information about Wright County’s Breakfast on the Farm, and each member was assigned a role to play.
Zander played the role of a news writer, Mages was the web designer, Marketon was the graphic artist, Schmieg was the radio broadcaster, and Groos wrote the press release.
“Once we competed, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off our shoulders,” Zander said.
Team members also took individual tests on grammar and their knowledge about agricultural communications.
Although the team was hoping for a better place, it was happy with finishing eighth, said Zander.
“All I know is I didn’t want to be second or 11th,” Mages added.
Since they can no longer compete the category (state champions are not allowed to compete again), team members are looking forward to coaching a new team to compete next year, Mages said.
Nursery and landscape
Members of the nursery and landscape team included Josh Laxen, a junior, who placed 24th individually; Ryan Gailey, a sophomore, who placed 25th individually; Raechell Bayerl, a junior, who placed 26th individually; and Jacob Scherping, a junior, who placed 35th individually.
For the nursery and landscape competition, team members participate in nine practicum.
The two major practicum are a general knowledge exam about nursery and landscape, and identification of nursery and landscape plants, tools, diseases, disorders, and insects that may infect plants.
The other practicum includes a team activity, landscape estimating, landscape drawing, verbal customer assistance, written customer assistance, nursery production, and assessment and solution of nursery and landscape problems.
“We practiced all summer and were pretty sure we’d be in the top 10,” Gailey said.
This is the first time each member of the team had ever been to the national convention.
All but one of the team members were in their second year of competition in the category, and the other member was competing for the first time.
“It was fun. The information we learned will stick with us a long time and be useful,” Gailey said. “I have a greater appreciation of all the time the advisors (Jim Weninger and Seena Glessing) have put into helping us study for the national convention.”