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FFA planting seeds for the future
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Dawson Countys Future Farmers of America (FFA) members have been plowing through the school year with purpose and passion.

Chapter advisor Reggie Stowers reports he and nine Dawson County High School students attended the 84th annual National FFA Convention, held last month in Indianapolis, Ind. Three Dawson County High School (DCHS) graduates were awarded the prestigious American FFA degree. And Dawson County Chapter members have participated and placed in numerous state competitions and other activities during Fall Semester.

FFA members who went to the convention said it was mind-boggling to experience it, the largest student convention in the country, with some 54,000 members attending. There were leadership-oriented addresses presented by inspiring, nationally-recognized speakers. There were seminars, educational booths, a career fair, and plenty of opportunities to meet and socialize with fellow FFA members.

When it came time for the organizations leadership to consider the business agenda, Dawson County High School senior Zachary Gerrells was there as a Georgia delegate to cast votes on policy issues like national dues, officer elections and program recommendations. Zachary is a Georgia FFA Chapter Area 1 President and local FFA vice president. He had attended the national convention the previous three years, but this was Zacharys first year as a voting state delegate.

The convention-goers couldnt have had a better guide than Stowers. A Dawson County High School alumnus whos been teaching agriculture at his alma mater since 1982, Stowers was a Georgia delegate to the National FFA Convention himself as a student back in 1974. He has returned to the convention most years since.

Stowers says the Dawson County Board of Education understands the value of the convention experience for students who earn the opportunity to go and supports the chapters participation, even though funding assistance isnt always in the budget. The Dawson County Farm Bureau has also shown tremendous support, including donating money to cover vehicle rental and half the fuel bill to get chapter members to the past two years conventions. Students and their families are responsible for room and meal expenses.

FFA isnt just about farming, Stowers says. Its about exposing students to the wide array of agriculture-related occupations available to them today. The professional and technical career opportunities in agriculture are plentiful for those who prepare themselves, Stowers adds. In fact, about 20 percent of todays students will work in some agriculture-related capacity. The founding mission of the FFA in 1928to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing populationis as relevant today as it was then.

Beyond that, the organization uses agricultural education as a platform to help students develop their potential for leadership and personal growth.

Although they were unable to attend, DCHS alumni Caleb Ayers, Ben Pruitt and Kale Scott were among those awarded American FFA degrees during the national convention. Stowers will present their degrees to them at this months Board of Education meeting Nov. 14.

Competing with other chapters is a major part of the FFA program. Land Evaluation team members Kayla Schandera, Zachary Gerrells, Chris Hamby and Seth Banks recently came in First Place out of 19 teams, qualifying for the state contest in Tifton Nov. 12. In addition to the team win, Kayla edged out 75 other contestants to win First Place, Individual. The Land Evaluation team will compete for the opportunity to represent Georgia at the National Soil Conference in Oklahoma City next May. Other competition results:

Junior Land Evaluation team5th Place in Area. (Stephen Hermann, James Holton, Dylan Heller)

Tractor Operation 9th Place in Area (Jared Stokes)

Farm Business Management5th Place in Area (Josh Moore, Zachary Gerrells, Abbigale Brown, Heather Hensley)

Environmental National Resources10th Place in Area (Jared Stokes, Eric Leonard, Braxton Hubbard, Matthew Reeves)

Floral Design8th in Area (Mary Anna Pearson)

In other FFA activities, Zachary Gerrells and Mason Bennet, FFA area president and junior representative, respectively, attended a leadership event on FFA Day at the Georgia National Fair in Perry. Eight members attended the region FFA rally. Hayley Gilreath and Logan Gilreath have exhibited beef cattle in five different shows around the state. And, finally, the chapter kicked off its annual Citrus and Meat Sale last week.