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Spotlight on Youth - February 14, 2018

Students across the country to celebrate FFA Week

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Agriculture is part of our daily lives, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. Next week, more than 653,000 FFA members will celebrate the role agriculture plays in our lives while sharing the message of agricultural education as part of National FFA Week.

National FFA Week always runs Saturday-Saturday and encompasses Feb. 22, George Washington's birthday. This year, the week kicks off on Feb. 17 and culminates on Feb. 24. The National FFA board of directors designated the weeklong tradition, which began in 1948, in recognition of Washington's legacy as an agriculturist and farmer.

Today, FFA continues to help the next generation meet new agricultural challenges, develop unique talents and explore a broad range of career pathways. Today's members are tomorrow's future biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers and entrepreneurs.

During National FFA Week, the six national officers will visit chapters across the country; for instance, Piper Merritt, national secretary, will visit Indiana. Next week is also a time for alumni and sponsors to advocate for agricultural education and FFA. And next Friday, FFA members and supporters are encouraged to wear blue and show their FFA pride.

 Sponsored by Tractor Supply Co., National FFA Week will be featured on social media – follow #FFAweek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and don’t miss @NationalFFA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat posts.

Also, Tractor Supply stores across the country will collect donations to support grants for FFA chapters in their communities. Customers can donate $1 or more at checkout Feb. 16-25 while shopping in-store or online at

Donations will fund the national Grants for Growing program, supporting local FFA chapters that are making a difference in their communities through unique and sustainable agricultural projects. The program is coordinated through a partnership with the National FFA Foundation and Tractor Supply, the country’s largest rural lifestyle retailer.

IDEM’s free Earth Day presentations for Hoosier students

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Beginning in April, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) will offer hands-on, interactive classroom presentations to Indiana elementary schools. Every year, IDEM employees volunteer to present Hoosier students with a fun and engaging STEM-based learning opportunity focusing on the environment.

Earth Day presentations are available for elementary schools, grades K-4, and vary in length from 30-50 minutes. The interactive presentations offer activities such as a recycling relay race and traveling through the water cycle as a water drop.

Programs are available on a first-come, first-served basis through the month of April, and each school may request up to four presentations. Registration is now open, and teachers can request a presentation by visiting

The deadline to register is Feb. 21. Educators may direct questions to Deanna Garner, IDEM’s environmental education outreach coordinator, at or 800-988-7901.

FFA Members return from cultural visit to South Africa

 INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — In January, 74 FFA members visited South Africa for a 12-day educational and cultural experience. Members participated in the 2018 International Leadership Seminar for State Officers (ILSSO) as an annual, international opportunity through the National FFA Organization.

The seminar allows FFA members to experience a foreign culture, learn about international agriculture and become more knowledgeable on the global marketplace. Past and present state FFA officers representing 24 states left the United States on Jan. 4. The group traveled throughout South Africa while surveying the agricultural landscape.

FFA officers met with government and U.S. Embassy officials to learn about U.S. and South African trade relations; toured crop and livestock operations; met with business and industry leaders; and explored a private game reserve that is home to lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo. The group also met with fruit exporters, abalone producers and more.

“We hope that through a structured experience like ILSSO, students will not only see the importance of agriculture on an international level but understand it is essential to feeding the world,” said Eric Nelson, program manager with the National FFA. “This seminar exposes students to culture and food production practices beyond what they are accustomed to in the United States.”

Prior to departing the United States, the students completed eight weeks of online coursework related to cross-cultural adaptability. The program was made possible by corporate sponsors Bunge North America and John Deere. Students shared their experiences throughout the trip on Twitter and Instagram.

Those Farm World area students who participated in the trip were: Cassandra Bond, Caleb Finnegan, Carli Grau, Peyton Schmitt, Antonia Wallin and Rachel Zumbach of Iowa; Madeline Meyer of Michigan; Marleigh Kerr, Ryan Matthews and Kolesen McCoy of Ohio; and Elizabeth Arwood, Erin Bacon, Kenzie Bastian, Julia Knaggs, Mary Minatra, Alletress Shankle and Ahmon Watkins of Tennessee.

Red Gold award winnings donated to five FFA chapters

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LA PORTE, Ind. — Harold and Tom Parker of Parker Farms in La Porte were recognized as the 2017 Red Gold Stewardship and Conservation Award recipients. The award is presented each year to one of Red Gold’s growers who exemplify exceptional stewardship and conservation of their land and natural resources on their entire farming operation.

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) partners with Red Gold to receive applications and score each farm on their efforts to enhance sustainability and good farming practices. On-farm visits are then made to the finalists by the ISDA staff and the winners are determined.

Chris McDonnall of McDonnall Farms in Delta, Ohio, received the second-place award of a $500 scholarship given in their honor.

The Parkers received a $1,000 scholarship award and are naming five local FFA Soil Judging teams to receive $200 each – South Central FFA, Westville FFA, New Prairie FFA, La Porte FFA and John Glenn FFA – as their designated recipients, to promote knowledge and good practices in taking care of our most important natural resources, land and water.

PRESENTING THE CHECK for $1,000 to representatives of Parker Farms is Steve Smith (left), director of agriculture for Red Gold.

(Photo provided)

Amanda-Clearcreek FFA hosts annual Leadership Night

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AMANDA, Ohio — On Nov. 15, 2017, the Amanda-Clearcreek FFA Chapter hosted its annual State FFA Officer Leadership Night. During this event, 288 students from 13 FFA chapters came to Amanda-Clearcreek High School to better their leadership skills and take the new things they learn back to their home chapters.

This time, five state FFA officers attended, including President Ryan Mathews, Treasurer Emily Mullen and vice presidents at-large Marley Kerr, Phillip Eberly and Emma Sterwerf.

To start the event off, the state officers had the members in one large group where they explained what their night would entail. They then split them up into two groups, each of which had multiple state officers. Within the groups, members participated in multiple leadership activities and learned how to better themselves as FFA members.

Students learned about great icons like John Glenn, looked at how to make their dreams more than just dreams and how to lay the groundwork for their future. They also played a game that requires members to fill up a cup with feathers, beads and string – members learn that we all have a bucket to fill in life, and how determined we are will determine if our bucket will get filled or not.

After the group activities, everyone returned to the cafeteria, where state officers talked about what was learned and how the night went. Members were then excused to enjoy a great meal, along with talking to friends from other FFA chapters. This event gives FFAers a one-of-a-kind experience to meet with other students from across the state.