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Edson is a National FFA American Star Farmer finalist

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:17 PM

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NASHUA, Iowa —Andy Edson knows the roads well between Iowa State University and his home near Nashua.

The ISU senior operates a 675-acre corn and soybean farm and cow/calf herd while attending college full time. While many students relax on the weekends, Edson arranges his schedule so that he can spend Friday through Monday on his farm.

The National FFA Organization named the 22-year-old Nashua Plainfield FFA member a 2012 American Star Farmer finalist, one of the organization's highest honors. He will compete with three other finalists at the National FFA Convention Oct. 24 to 27 in Indianapolis.

Each year, 16 finalists — four in each category — vie for the organization's top awards: American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience.

Judges will interview Edson and the others Oct. 25 to select the top candidate in each area. Winners will be announced in a convention ceremony Oct. 27. As a part of the event, Edson's parents David and Connie will receive Honorary American FFA Degrees.

Edson recounts how he and his sister fed bucket bottle calves, putting pails in a wagon that they pulled with the lawn mower. He purchased his first livestock when he was 10, with the goal of starting his own club calf operation. Since then, his herd has grown to 10 heifers, 13 cows and two bulls. At 17, Edson began renting land from his father to grow crops. Two years later, he began renting nearly 700 acres from a neighbor and plans to continue that arrangement in the future.

Edson is majoring in agricultural business with a minor in agronomy. He plans to return to the farm upon graduation this spring.

"After working at home last summer and making many trips home on the weekends during college, I remember the moment I sat in class and had a feeling of pure joy come over me," Edson wrote in an essay that accompanied his star application. "It was the first time I was 100 percent sure that there was nothing I would rather be doing but returning home to farm for the rest of my life."

To be considered for star honors, an FFA member must complete a lengthy application process. Edson spent the past couple of months preparing for his national convention interview. On Sept. 15 and Oct. 6 more than 20 area agriculture, business and education leaders spent several hours helping him prepare with mock interview sessions.

Edson and Caleb Smith, son of Kevin and Dianne Smith, also a member of Nashua Plainfield FFA, will receive their American FFA Degrees at the convention. They are only the 10th and 11th members of the chapter to earn FFA's highest degree.

Edson is humble about his successes.

"I am incredibly fortunate to have been given the opportunities that I have been presented in my Supervised Agricultural Experience to grow," Edson said. "The past two years have been a profitable time in agriculture, and I fully understand that production agriculture will not always be this prosperous."

Edson says his father, Dave, is his biggest mentor.

"His relentless work ethic and generosity to help me get started have been immeasurable," Edson said. "He has been there for me as a teacher and guide."

His FFA advisor Ron Zelle has also mentored him.

"When I was a freshman, Mr. Zelle talked to me about my goals and he said, 'It's better to shoot for the stars and miss than to aim at the cow pies and hit.' I took that to heart," Edson said.

Zelle has mutual admiration for his student.

"Andy is an outstanding leader and has developed one of the most extensive SAE programs I have had the opportunity to work with in my 29 years of teaching agricultural education," Zelle said.