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Nearly 800 high school FFA members converged on North Dakota State University on Feb. 9 to compete in contests as part of the 92nd Little International event. The NDSU FFA and other groups helped run the annual contests, including agronomy events at the Memorial Union ballroom. Photo taken in Fargo N.D., on Feb. 9, 2018. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

Collegiate FFA hosts high schoolers

FARGO, N.D. — Many North Dakota FFA members got a headstart on National FFA week, Feb. 17-24, by participating in high school ag contests at North Dakota State University's 92nd Little International event in Fargo on Feb. 9-10, an event ramrodded by the NDSU Saddle & Sirloin Club.

Calvin Aichele, president of the NDSU FFA chapter, says his group of about 25 active members partners with the NDSU Judging Club to put on the Little I high school events on the Friday of the event. Events drew nearly 800 high school students from dozens of local chapters.

The collegiate FFA hosts an ag sales contest, held in the NDSU Alumni Center. The contest includes a written test, then a face-to-face sales pitch to judges — some college students, others industry sales and marketing professionals. Students could try to sell a number of products or services.

One volunteer judge was Anne Nalewaja, a Bayer CropScience field representative in southeast North Dakota. Nalewaja says she didn't have the opportunity to be in FFA, but "as I've lived rurally I understand how important FFA is, how it mentors students into a future of farming and agriculture."

High-tech sales

Isaac Volk lives with parents, Philip and Lisa, and siblings on a cattle and crop farm near York, N.D., and is a member of the Rugby, N.D., chapter. Volk, a high school sophomore, has cattle and ag sales projects and was "selling" a "VetGun" — an insecticide delivery system that allows him to shoot an amount of insecticide onto pasture cattle for flies without having to bring them into the yard.

"I personally like it a lot," Volk said. He tempted Nalewaja and fellow judge Troy Kind, general manager of core accounts for RDO Equipment Co. of Fargo, with features like its push-button safety, "so you don't shoot your horse when you're bombing across the field." The gun works with adjustable, pressurized carbon dioxide and has a capacity of holding up to 12 capsules in the chamber.

"I don't even have a large head of cattle, and I want to buy one," Nalewaja joked, after the sales pitch.

Emily Boehm of McClusky, N.D., a member of the Turtle Lake-Mercer High School FFA, "sold" a Parmak electric fencer to Courtney South, a management student from Lakeville, Minn., and Dalton Reiter, an ag systems management student from Clara City, Minn.

Little I tradition

NDSU FFA also organized the agronomy contest, where students identify crop disorders, crop mounts and crop seeds, in the NDSU Memorial Union ballroom. They staged a new wildlife contest as well as a small animal care contest. The NDSU Judging Club was in charge of a student livestock judging contest at Shephard Arena.

Aichele says collegiate FFA members often have been in high school chapters, but some have not. The college club is more about professional development than competition.

"We bring in speakers and professional development from the area industries," he said.

Aichele is a junior in agriculture and biosystems engineering from Beulah, N.D., who hopes to work within the North Dakota agricultural industry in the machinery and production someday.

Aichele's father, Tim Aichele, was a high school vocational agriculture teacher and one of two FFA chapter advisers.

"It wasn't long ago that I was participating like this. I know it has benefited me," Calvin said.