Simple agriculture promotion project puts North Dakota FFA chapter in national spotlight
The FFA chapter at Richland 44 High School in the southeast North Dakota town of Colfax is one of three finalists for their project on promoting agriculture. They will be competing in Indianapolis at the FFA national convention that starts Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022.
COLFAX, N.D. — Sometimes it pays to keep things simple.
For a North Dakota FFA chapter, what they call a simple project has given them a chance to be the nation's premier chapter in the category of Strengthening Agriculture.
The FFA chapter at Richland 44 High School in the southeast North Dakota town of Colfax is one of three finalists for their project on promoting agriculture and will compete at the upcoming national FFA convention. In addition to Strengthening Agriculture, FFA names premier chapters in the categories of Growing Leaders and Building Communities.
The 95th National FFA Convention & Expo will be held Oct. 26-29 in Indianapolis. FFA members from across the country will meet to compete, learn, participate in service projects, honor award winners and more. A new slate of national officers also will be chosen during the convention.
The Richland 44 chapter for years has designed a placemat featuring information about agriculture and FFA for use at FFA events and to distribute to local restaurants.
“It’s a really, really easy project that we love to do,” said Eric Moen, a junior at the school and current FFA president.
Moen and Kiersten Boehm are the team that will be making a presentation about the project for judges in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Oct. 26.
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They are given 16 minutes to discuss the project, with about half the time for their own presentation and the other half to answer questions from the judges.
The chapter each year designates an “appointed officer,” a point person to lead the project, deciding what facts will be featured and what interactive games, such as a crossword puzzle, to include on the placemat.
“It’s a simple project but it’s so monumental and has such a huge positive impact on people,” Boehm said.
Competing at nationals started by submitting a short summary of the project at the state level. After Richland 44 was chosen as the state winner, the placemat idea was chosen as one of 10 national finalists. Moen and Boehm then had to take part in a video presentation and question-answering session and earned a spot in Indianapolis as one of three finalists.
The point person for the placemat this year was Cora Hermunslie. But she is competing in a different category at the national convention, part of the school’s Small Animal Care team. That created the opportunity for Moen and Boehm.
Boehm is actually a graduate of the school who now is a sophomore at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
High school graduates can stay active in FFA for four years after graduation. For Boehm, this will be her sixth trip to Indianapolis and the national convention.
“It’s 50,000 students who are also passionate about FFA,” Boehm said.
Boehm gets some of the passion from her father Tony Boehm, who has been teaching agriculture and serving as the FFA advisor for 26 years.
Tony Boehm said the fact that it is simple and easy to replicate by other chapters is likely one of the things judges liked about the placemat project. He said the placemat project has actually been around for about a dozen years.
“There’s a pretty strong culture that we’ve built here,” Tony Boehm said.
That culture and alumni involvement means there are 103 FFA members in a school with only 133 students.
Two more Boehm children, Kalie and Cody Boehm, are competing on the Small Animal Care team with Hermunslie and Nick Wulfekuhle.
Kalie and Cody also are top 10 finishers in agriscience, having already completed a virtual competition, and will find out how high they finished at the convention.
Most of the team will be leaving Sunday, Oct. 23, to make the drive to Indianapolis. Along the way, they will stop at colleges with veterinary science programs where they can use some lab equipment and get more hands-on experience than the resources at Richland 44 allow.
Tony Boehm said he recently bought some chicken breasts so the small animal care team could inject the tissue with some barbecue sauce to simulate using a syringe on an animal. Of course, the chicken then could be cooked and enjoyed.
Moen said the strong culture and routinely being successful in FFA competitions is a credit to Tony Boehm.
“He puts a lot of time and effort into us kids,” Moen said.