FFA chapter wins contest thanks to community
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 04/05/2012 1:57 PM
NEW YORK MILLS, Minn. —New York Mills farmers took to the polls early this election year, but they weren't voting for any political office. They voted to support the school's FFA chapter in the national FFA Chapter Challenge.
Their 154 votes were tops in Minnesota and earned the chapter a $2,500 FFA Certificate of Credit in the Monsanto-sponsored contest. The certificate is good for FFA-related costs including supplies, registration fees for the national leadership conference and more.
It's a great honor for a small school and chapter, said ag instructor and FFA advisor Luke Becker. The chapter has 33 FFA members with 100 to 125 students enrolled in the school's ag program.
Becker knew about the FFA Chapter Challenge, but learned the chapter had to register when a farmer contacted the school.
Becker registered and chapter members took the next step to get the word out.
Chapter historian Logan Milligan made cards with voting information. He talked to service groups and businesses. Although chapter reporter Jenna White doesn't have her drivers license yet, she traveled with her mom, Tonja, to inform farming neighbors.
"She is growing so much through the FFA program," Tonja White said. "She is becoming more confident with herself and her abilities. Doing something like this for the chapter was the least I could do. Jenna talked to the farmers herself. They were very excited and said anything they could do to help support the kids in the community, they were for it."
Their efforts were in full gear by mid-January. The contest ended Feb. 29.
"I must've checked the running totals ten times a day," Becker said.
More than 10,000 votes were cast nationally during the final week of competition. The National FFA office says 856 chapters from 12 states took part in the challenge. The top vote getter was the Lawrence County FFA Chapter in Moulton, Ala. They will send six FFA members and one advisor to the 85th National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis in October. The grand prize is valued at $6,500.
New York Mills will use its certificate to purchase FFA jackets and meeting paraphernalia, Becker said. Some of its officer post items are cracked and worn, Becker said. The old items will remain, but new ones will be used at the meetings.
It's a great title for the chapter to receive the FFA Chapter Challenge, Jenna White said.
Its members exhibited 105 animals at the 2011 state fair. Getting that many cows, pigs, sheep and chickens to the fair takes parental support, Becker said.
"I couldn't take the students plus all those animals," he said. "Parents and the program's supporters help."