Farm Horizons, May 1999
FFA students win state awards
By Andrea Vargo
Students at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) take preparation for life seriously. Honored with the Region IV Star awards at the State FFA banquet, April 26, in Northrup Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus were HLWW students Rachel Bakeberg of Waverly and Nic Workman of Howard Lake.
Bakeberg was honored for her work in agricultural production, while Nic Workman made his mark in agribusiness.
There are three parts to the agriculture program, said their teacher Jim Weninger.
The students have classroom/lab experiences, FFA, and Supervised Ag Experience (SAE).
Weninger explained, "Through their SAE, students develop a project at home. Rachel could easily do a dairy project, because her family has a dairy farm.
"But fewer students come from the farm anymore. That is why there are other areas for students to explore."
In FFA, there is a degree program, said Weninger.
"The first degree is the greenhand, and hopefully, through this, students become interested in some form of agriculture," he said.
The second degree is a chapter degree. The student must productively invest or earn $50 with their SAE.
The state degree has more requirements and the amount of money productively invested or earned increases to $1,500.
The last stage is an American degree, and it has more rigorous guidelines. The student must invest $5,000 and fulfill leadership roles and display community involvement.
Workman started on his project when a friend of his parents, Dennis Butterfass, got him interested in working on the farm.
"I did a variety of chores and field work. Whatever Dennis did, I did," he said.
During the winter, Workman needed a job, and he worked at the Country Store.
His big opportunity came when his mom got a job with Paul Mielke, owner of Tree Top Service in Delano.
Workman always preferred outside work. When the storms went through St. Peter last spring, he got a chance to work with the tree service.
He spent five days at Gustavus Adolphus College and enjoyed the camaraderie with the other workers.
This kind of job is something you don't hear much about, said Workman.
From work in St. Peter, Workman moved through different areas of the company, including lawn maintenance and commercial lot clearing for developers.
Then the Shorewood area had high winds and Workman got into residential storm clean-up. He did some stump chipping for a couple of months.
A transition to the spade truck gave Workman a chance to plant trees for a change, rather than tear them down.
"Winter came, and to keep me busy, Mielke had me paint and do the trim finish work on his new house," stated Workman.
This coming summer, he has chosen to work with the commercial crews again, clearing land for developers.
He hopes to get training in all phases of operating a business like Tree Top Service.
"The FFA and work study program have allowed me to get practical experience in the workplace.
"You can learn only so much from a text book," said Workman.
"The work study has given me practical experience. It allows me to put all I have learned from the seminars and the competitions into practice.
"I can see how the text isn't quite the same as real life, and the whole experience makes me a more marketable product," said Workman.
FFA teaches leadership, confidence in yourself, organizational skills, and how to work as a team, he explained.
Workman feels the FFA and ag programs at HLWW don't get a whole lot of recognition, but they have been the most important factors in his academic life.
Through the program, he has earned a number of proficiency awards at the chapter level and attended the National FFA Convention.
Workman plans to become a licensed arborist through night classes and would like to work in sales for his company.
Bakeberg is the not-so-typical farm girl. This enthusiastic young lady will not only receive a Region IV Star award for agricultural production, she was recently crowned a Wright County Dairy Princess.
Showing dairy cattle in 4-H at the age of eight was just the start.
She said she got started in FFA and 4-H because her older siblings were active in those organizations, and it was a natural way to go.
One of the things she learned at an early age was not to leave your wash sponge in front of your animal, while washing it. The sponges get eaten and all that is left is the hope everything will come out fine in the end.
Bakeberg started with six dairy animals and a couple of dairy steers.
"If my cow has a heifer calf, it goes into my SAE dairy herd. If it is a bull calf, it goes into my herd of SAE dairy steers and will be fattened for sale," she explained.
She has about 12 animals in her herd right now.
Her herd may not have the size of some of the competition, but Bakeberg said she has other attributes that helped her win the ag award. The student's whole school record is examined, and she is involved with many activities, including National Honor Society, and athletics.
Even with all the school activities that keep her busy, Bakeberg is part of a farm family.
Her responsibilities on the farm have grown to include daily chores, such as feeding animals and milking cows, vaccinations, record keeping on the herd, ear tagging, and freeze branding.
She is so good at what she does, that the rest of the family is free to do the heavy spring and fall field work, while she preforms the daily operations.
Keeping records can be a bit of a chore, though.
For her SAE, there is a 20-page booklet that keeps track of her project. One page is a summary of the whole four years of the project, and her numbers did not come out right, she said.
My dad, Weninger, and I spent many hours trying to figure that computer program out.
"Weninger has taught me to open up and not be so serious. He has pushed me to go past my normal limits.
"I would never have gone to Washington, D.C. by myself," she stated.
"The FFA alumni have helped teach me the interview process, and now I'm comfortable in most any interview situation," said Bakeberg.
The University of Wisconsin River Falls is her destination this fall. She intends to major in agriculture and hopes to work as an extension agent with all sizes of dairy operations to promote the dairy industry.
Bakeberg recommends the FFA program to everyone.
"It is not just for farm kids. It is a leadership program that teaches you responsibility and helps prepare you for real life," she explained.
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