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Hanson is Iowa FFA Star in Agribusiness

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 05/20/2013 9:30 AM

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LA PORTE CITY, Iowa —Selling pumpkins, squash, gourds and chrysanthemums grew into a state award for Natalie Hanson.

The La Porte Dysart FFA member is this year's Iowa FFA Star in Agribusiness. She received the honor at the Iowa FFA Leadership Conference last month.

When she applied for her Iowa FFA Degree, her FFA advisor and agriculture instructor Louis Beck encouraged her to fill out an additional page to apply for the star award. A few months later, she learned she was one of six finalists. During the Stars over Iowa Ceremony, she learned she was the winner.

"I was so excited," said Hanson, an 18-year-old senior at Union High School in LaPorte City.

Hanson's family started growing and selling pumpkins, gourds and squash about 11 years ago. When she started FFA, she took on more responsibility and also added potted chrysanthemums to the mix.

Her parents and five younger brothers and sisters also are involved.

"The whole family helps with harvesting," Hanson said. "It's definitely a family experience."

Adding chrysanthemums was a real learning experience.

"I started out with way too many," she said. "Last year I had 55, and that was about right."

She buys them in four-inch pots, transplants them and grows them until fall.

"I didn't really know what I has doing when I started," Hanson said. "When I look at pictures from when I started until last year, I can see how much better the mums look."

The family sells pumpkins at the Cedar Falls Farmers Market, the Autumn Fair at the La Porte City Ag Museum and at the community garage sale day. Hanson sells squash at a small Albion grocery store that features locally grown products. When she has extra, she sells at the Wapsie Valley Produce Auction.

A few years ago, the family set up a display on their lawn and brought new customers. Their farm is on Highway 218. They recently constructed a new building, and next year plan to convert to selling mostly on-farm.

Hanson shows dairy heifers and dairy steers for 4-H and FFA.

She has participated in many career development events and her dairy products team won at the state and competed nationally. She has been chapter reporter, secretary and president and Northeast District reporter and secretary.

"I met so many awesome people and learned so much about leadership through being a district officer," she said.

Hanson said she has many mentors, but her parents, Maureen and Robert, and her advisor, Louis Beck, are at the top of the list.

"They have been so wonderful getting me to do different things and encouraging me," she said.

Her parents were active in FFA, but it wasn't until Hanson was in eighth grade that she learned they were both state officers.

"They didn't make me join in FFA," Hanson said. "It was up to me. FFA helps kids be better leaders and learn about agriculture."

She also looks up to friend Josh Earll, who is State FFA president.

"He is a great role model," Hanson said.

Hanson will attend Iowa state University to major in biological systems engineering. She is a National Merit Scholar and received a perfect score on her ACT test. At Beck's urging, she teamed up with fellow district officer Dustin Smith of Decorah to win the Iowa Beef Extravaganza scholarship.

Beck said that Hanson deserved the Star in Agribusiness.

"She is an all-around good FFA member," Beck said. "She's participated in all kinds of skill contests. She has an outstanding SAE, and she is such a good role model and leader for younger members. They look up to her for her leadership."