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Illinois student is a FFA Star Farmer finalist
Illinois Correspondent

ONEIDA, Ill. — Andrew Bowman, 20, was raised on his father’s and grandfather’s farms in Oneida, Ill., a small village near Galesburg. At an early age he developed a love for the rich, fertile soil of his homeland. It didn’t take long for young Bowman to realize that farm living was the life for him.

He started small, renting five acres of planted corn and five of soybeans from his father. Today, Bowman is a full-fledged farmer, overseeing a 316-acre operation. At the same time, Bowman is a junior at the University of Illinois, pursuing a degree in crop sciences, emphasizing in agribusiness management.

He’s also a longtime member of the R.O.W.V.A. FFA Chapter. In honor of the young man’s accomplishments, he has been named as a 2006 American Star Farmer finalist by the National FFA Organization and will compete with three other finalists at the 79th FFA Convention, Oct. 25-28, in Indianapolis.

“Being nominated for the Star Farmer of America Award is an honor that I can barely articulate,” said Bowman, who is considering a Master’s Degree in agricultural economics or agricultural policy. “I am proud that I am being recognized for a lifestyle, business and family tradition that I have a devoted passion for. More important, it is a testament to all who have had an influence in my life. I had help, guidance and support from family, friends and faith. I won’t just be representing myself in Indianapolis.”

Bowman’s parents, sister, grandparents, aunt, uncle and girlfriend will be among those he represents when he takes to the podium in his blue and gold jacket; they all plan to make the trip to Indianapolis. Being nominated for Star Farmer, the premier accolade for young agriculturists, was a goal Bowman had set as a freshman in high school. Since then, he’s filled his FFA resume with awards, accolades and achievements. But Bowman said that as recognition for his accomplishments grew, he found their importance began to diminish in his own mind.

“As my leadership ability grew, I realized that there is more to success than the number of awards hanging on your wall. My grandfather and my experiences in FFA and beyond have taught me that there is no greater aspiration than service to others,” Bowman told Farm World. “As such, winning the award will mean a great deal to me; it (represents), after all, six years of dedication and pride. I would be honored to be the Star Farmer of America, but the success in my life will be measured by what I give back to others, not what I do for myself.”

Bowman has big plans to diversify his farm by venturing into supplemental operations. He hopes to step up the technology on his farm by installing accounting and record-keeping software and an updated filing system. He also expects to purchase chemical and fertilizer application equipment with the goal of making the farm more profitable and efficient, allowing for acreage expansion.

Andrew, the son of Lynn and Sally Bowman, doesn’t underestimate the influence FFA has had in shaping his character. “I know that I am a better person, student and leader because of experiences FFA and my SAE program has provided me,” he said.

An SAE (supervised agricultural experience) program is one of three components that comprise the agricultural education program.

Bowman’s SAE program led him to apply for and earn the American FFA Degree, in which a student must invest $7,500 or have earned and productively invested at least $1,500 and worked 2,250 hours in excess of the classroom.

During the convention, Bowman will participate in interviews by a panel of judges who will name the top finalist. The winner will be announced during an onstage ceremony and will receive a plaque and an award of $2,000.

But whether he wins Star Farmer or not, Bowman will undoubtedly have a bright future ahead of him. His long-range plans include entering the agribusiness field in some manner. In whatever capacity he chooses to pursuit, agriculturist or agribusinessman, Bowman will always be a “star farmer” in the eyes of his family, friends, and peers.

This farm news was published in the Oct. 18, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.