By STEVE BINDER
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — It couldn’t have been a sweeter day for Clayton Carley, now a dual student at the University of Illinois and Parkland Community College who grew up on his family’s farm in Milford, Ill.
In front of thousands of people, who set a record for attendance of about 56,000 at this year’s National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Carley was the sole American Star winner from the Farm World coverage area.
Just four Star winners were named, and Carley received the Star Farmer award for his sweet corn startup business in and around Watseka, Ill., and for his research project, “Finding Optimal Inputs for Corn,” which evaluated corn varieties that were genetically modified to control insects.
Carley said he didn’t expect to win, given the projects submitted by the three other finalists.
“I was incredibly excited. I don’t think anyone could have wiped the grin off my face if they tried. One of the other projects was much more in-depth than mine, so I thought he would win,” the student said.
Sponsored by the Cissna Park FFA chapter, Carley was selected over Andrew Kenneth Edson, of Iowa; Alexander L. Richardson, of Kentucky; and Jeremy Weichel, of Oklahoma. Carley received $4,000 for the award.
He began his sweet corn venture in the eighth grade after he convinced his parents to let him till a small portion of the family’s front yard. This year’s Sweet Corn Shack operation took up seven acres, and Carley also grew about 400 acres of soybeans and corn.
He sold nearly 2,500 sweet ears this year, has already purchased his first vehicle with proceeds and plans to graduate from college debt-free when he enters the ag industry hoping to help improve crop genetics.
Also from the local region was American Star finalist in agriscience, Kayliegh Warner, of Waterloo, Ind., who received an Agricultural Proficiency Award in Agriscience Research – Integrated Systems during the conference. This was for her work in studying the safety of foundry sand mixed with moderately clayey soil.
She and Carley were featured in Farm World articles last month.