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South Dakota FFA Convention brings together future ag leaders

BROOKINGS, S.D.—Tomorrow's brightest young leaders in agriculture converged on the campus of South Dakota State University in Brookings for the 91st annual South Dakota State FFA Convention, April 14-16. More than 2,150 members from across the state took part in various contests, including Career Development Events, to develop the skills needed for careers in various areas of agriculture.

State FFA Reporter Carolyn Blatchford says nearly 600 teams took part in CDEs and spent many hours studying and preparing for the contests. "It's very applicable to their career that they want to do later because they're already learning those tools that they are going to have to learn eventually in school anyways," Blatchford says.

FFA members also were rewarded for success in leadership and the countless hours they spend working on their Supervised Agricultural Experience projects or SAE, with 267 members receiving their State FFA Degree. This is the highest degree conferred by the South Dakota FFA Association. Through their SAE projects, these individuals gain hands-on experience and develop technical skills that enhance their potential for future jobs. After review of those projects and records, four finalists were selected in each category and those individuals went on to interview at the convention to determine the winners.

The State Star Awards are the highest honor a student can receive for their SAE. The 2019 State Star Award winners included: Star Farmer, Jarret Haven of Northwestern Area; Star in Agriscience, Sadie VanderWal of Northwestern Area; Star in Ag Placement, Mitchell Healy of Harrisburg; Star in Agribusiness, Kristin Kotas of Bridgewater-Emery.

Sadie VanderWal says her Star in Ag Placement Award was a culmination of all her agriscience projects through high school, which looked at the artificial insemination process for cattle and the factors that affect the viability of bovine sperm. She says, "I was looking at the maximum time that semen could be exposed to the air or any environment and remain viable." VanderWal concluded that the exposure of sperm during the AI process needs to be as short as possible or it increases the likelihood a cow will not conceive.

Mitchell Healy says the Star in Ag Placement Award was based on his many hours of work experience at a farm supply store, Campbell Supply in Sioux Falls. "So I've been able to learn a lot about the ag field and meet many prestigious people within agriculture and learn about the community in general at my position," he says.

Members also are recognized for their project areas through 47 different state proficiency awards in areas such as crop production or dairy production. "It really gives that hands-on experience to FFA members to really excel in what they are interested in in the agricultural industry," Blatchford says.

FFA members attending the convention also gained leadership skills for the growing number of STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—career areas. Shea Booster, national FFA Vice President says, "The field continues to get bigger and bigger and more wide open and the FFA is uniquely positioned to fill that talent pipeline that needs young agriculturalists who want to make a difference."

FFA members also displayed their leadership through the South Dakota FFA Living to Serve Day, where members helped stop hunger by packaging 50,850 meals. South Dakota FFA Foundation President Sandy Osterday says they teamed up with industry and Meals of Hope on the project to help those less fortunate. The meals will be distributed across the state through Feeding South Dakota. "This service project exemplifies the portion of the FFA motto which states 'Living to Serve,'" she says.

To wrap up the 91st South Dakota State FFA Convention six members were elected to leadership as the 2019-2020 South Dakota state FFA officer team. The team includes: President Shelby Ruland, Wall; Vice President Blake Pulse, McCook Central; Secretary Tori Rasmussen, Alcester-Hudson; Treasurer ​Nathan Linke, Sanborn Central/Woonsocket; Reporter Sadie VanderWal, Northwestern; and Sentinel Sami Wiseman, Tri-Valley. The team will travel across the state presenting speeches, facilitating workshops, hosting camps, holding conferences and conducting business for the South Dakota FFA Association.

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