For one member of the Dawson County Future Farmers of America Chapter, agribusiness has led to a prestigious national award.
Former Dawson County High School student Bradley Weaver was named the American Star in Agribusiness at the recent National FFA Convention & Expo, held Oct. 27 in Indianapolis. Weaver was one of four winners of the American Star Awards, out of the 16 finalists for the top four awards.
To kind of put it in perspective, we recognize the most outstanding FFA members with the American FFA Degree, said Reggie Stowers, director of the program at Dawson County High School. We had 3,245 that received the American FFA Degree. Thats point 6 percent of the FFA membership nationally.
There were 16 Star finalists, with four for each award given out. The experience was just really special, Stowers said. They wined and dined them all week. They took them on tours of agricultural facilities.
Besides winning $4,000, Weaver is invited on a 10-day trip to Costa Rica to tour farms and agribusiness in that area. Were going in June, he said. Were just visiting all the pineapple farms, fruit and vegetable farms.
The money will be going to a special project, Weaver said. I just want to save it and reinvest in the company for a special project, when that comes up.
I didnt really realize how rare it was, but in the 85-year history of FFA, there have only been 156 people who have received Star recognition, Stowers said. We have over 7 million former FFA members. There have only been five from Georgia who have received it (including Weaver).
Weaver is a junior at North Georgia College & State University, majoring in business management.
In my business, I made some bad business choices, he explained. I was going for horticulture at the University of Georgia, and then I switched to business management. I need to learn the business, because horticulture I can learn on the job. The business management part of it, you cant really learn on the job.
Following graduation, scheduled for 2014, Weaver plans to keep growing and expanding his several businesses. The 21-year-old has been building the Bradley Brand since he was 5, beginning with Bradleys Pumpkin Patch. Then he moved on to Christmas trees, daffodils, peanuts and daylilies. He is also the owner of a successful landscaping business. He has a strong client base.
Thats probably the most enjoyable part of what he does, said Stowers, who likes being outside.
The pumpkins are my favorite, Weaver said, the pumpkins and the landscaping. But I like the pumpkins, because thats where it all started. Ive seen a lot of families coming out for 10, 12 years. They keep coming back year after year, and thats always fun.
He started growing pumpkins at the age of 5, and he saved his profits for college. He lived on a farm, and his grandfather and cousins tended to cattle. But Weaver preferred plants.
I just decided, Hey, lets grow pumpkins and lets sell them. That entrepreneurial spirit led his joining the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce when he was 8 or 9 he couldnt remember exactly when. I was young! he said, laughing.
Bradley has accomplished amazing things for many years, starting when he was very young, said Keith Porter, superintendent of Dawson County Schools. This particular accomplishment is so very unique, but I am not at all surprised by anything he accomplishes.
Also, Bradleys parents are outstanding examples of the manner in which we should support the efforts of our children, Porter added.
Weaver was not the only student from Dawson County recognized at the national convention. Receiving the American FFA Degree were Eli Kesting, Kenneth Houseal, Nick Reynolds and Seth Stowers.
Weve only had about 1,400 people in Georgia receive the degree, and thats an 85-year history, Stowers said. We have 33 from Dawson County.
Students can remain members of FFA past high school, up to the age of 21. The American Star awards are open to FFA members beginning at age 19. According to our bylaws, the earliest they can apply is April the year following their graduation, Stowers confirmed.
The winners for the other three American Star Awards include Clayton Carley from Illinois for American Star Farmer; Kurt Parsons from California for American Star in Agricultural Placement, and Taylor Runyan from Oklahoma for American Star in Agriscience.