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Minnesota has 11 national FFA proficiency finalists

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:18 PM

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More than 1,000 Minnesota FFA members will attend the 85th annual National FFA Convention, Oct. 24-27 in Indianapolis.

Minnesota is sending 11 national proficiency finalists to national convention, including five from United South Central FFA.

The students are David Stenzel, Dustin Dylla, Hayden Feist, Jared Eilertson and Jake Knutson. USC had two finalists in one year twice before, last year and back in the 1990s, but having five is very exciting for the chapter, said Dan Dylla, USC's FFA adviser and agricultural education instructor.

Chaska FFA is sending two national proficiency finalists: Adam Olson and Matt Abraham. The last time Chaska had two finalists was 10 years ago when Adam's brother, Corey, and Matt's boss, Mike Wellens, were finalists.

Redwood Valley FFA is sending its first ever national proficiency finalist to convention. Jaclyn Dingels is a finalist in the sheep production entrepreneurship/placement proficiency.

The state's three remaining finalists are Christopher Seifert from the Sleepy Eye FFA with a dairy production entrepreneurship proficiency, Austin Davis of the Dassel-Cokato FFA with a dairy production placement proficiency and Taylor Neal of the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg FFA chapter with a home and/or community development, entrepreneurship/placement proficiency.

There are 49 proficiency areas in 2012 and four national finalists for each proficiency.

The finalists will have an orientation on Oct. 24, interviews on Oct. 25 and find out how they did on Oct. 26.

More about the finalists:

Seifert has been a very active member and chapter officer of the Sleepy Eye FFA since he was a high school freshman. He is now a sophomore at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities majoring in agricultural education.

His supervised agricultural experience involves owning and raising 20 Holsteins. Some of the skills he has learned include: balancing feed rations, proper milking procedures, calf raising, heat detection, record keeping and mastitis detection and treatment.

Jake J. Knutson is a sophomore at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, Iowa. This is the second year he is a national proficiency finalist. Last year, he was named the national winner in the grain production placement proficiency.

An FFA member can compete in a different project area every year, Knutson said. This year, he is a national finalist in the diversified crop production placement proficiency.

He raises corn and soybeans for processing into feed and biofuels.

Knutson started working on his supervised agricultural experience when he was a high school sophomore. Proficiencies are not the same as supervised agricultural experiences, rather they are an outgrowth of SAE enterprises, according to the FFA.

He credits his adviser, Dan Dylla, for helping him along the way, offering encouragement when needed and a helpful hint here and there.

"I gotta give a lot of credit to our instructor, he doesn't settle for alright, it has to be perfect," Knutson said.

He is part of the group of five national finalists going from USC to the National FFA Convention.

"It's a big honor for me to be part of the five," he said.

The number reflects positively not only on the FFAers themselves, but also on their chapter, their adviser and the community itself.

The whole community supports us, Knutson said.

It is Knutson's last year being able to compete for a proficiency award. He hopes to yet earn his American FFA degree.

Dustin M. Dylla is the national finalist for the turf grass management entrepreneurship placement proficiency. He will also receive his American FFA degree this year.

The proficiency includes: mowing and managing lawns, repairing and reseeding lawns and just in general making lawns look better. He worked for another company and took care of his grandparents' lawns on his own.

Last year, Dylla was second in the diversified horticulture entrepreneurship placement proficiency.

He has worked for a landscape company, doing yard work and did the same type of work on his own for his grandparents and other clients.

He said his adviser, who is also his father, is so influential to everyone in agricultural education at United South Central. He encourages everyone to be active in the FFA and to keep their records up-to-date. He pushes them to do their best.

The elder Dylla knows a great deal about how to write a proficiency award application, his son said, similar to knowing how to write the ideal resume for the job being sought.

Dylla said he is excited to return to convention.

"It was a great experience last year," he said.

He enjoys seeing how people do things in other places and making connections with people from other parts of the United States.

Dylla is a sophomore at South Dakota State University studying agricultural education and agronomy.

The other United South Central finalists: Hayden Feist is a national finalist for agricultural mechanics design and fabrication entrepreneurship placement. Jared Eilertson is a finalist for diversified crop production entrepreneurship and David Stenzel is a national finalist for forage production entrepreneurship.

Matt Abraham is the national finalist for environmental science and natural resources entrepreneurship and placement. He will also earn his American degree this year.

Abraham works for Wellens Agronomics of Carver, Minn. Wellens Agronomics does erosion and sediment control work.

Abraham's boss, Mike Wellens, encouraged him to apply for the national proficiency. Wellens won a national award when he was in FFA.

"He helped a lot," Abraham said.

He also credits his FFA adviser, Denny Bjorklund, for pushing him to apply for the national award.

Last year, he was a state finalist for the Star in Agriscience.

Abraham joined FFA as soon as he was able and enjoyed participating in the many competitions.

He will be a student in the lineman program at Dakota County Technical College next year.

Adam Olson is the national finalist for fiber and/or oil crop production entrepreneurship placement.

Translated, that means soybean production, Olson said.

He started his SAE in 2008, growing his corn and soybean enterprise from 45 acres to 350 acres.

He also works for his father, Ron Olson.

His brother, Corey, who was a national finalist in 2002, offered advice on record keeping. His adviser, Denny Bjorklund, also helped him pull his records together and made sure they looked good before he submitted them to nationals.

Olson is preparing for the national convention interview by going over his records and practicing interviewing. He is excited for his second trip to the National FFA Convention. He last went in 2010.

Next year, he hopes to submit an application for the diversified crop production proficiency.

Olson is a freshman at South Central Technical College in Mankato.

Jacyln Dingels is excited to make her fourth trip to the National FFA Convention.

"I love going to the National FFA Convention," she said.

It's different every year, yet each year she sees friends from across the nation.

Dingels has a 52-head ewe Hampshire Suffolk sheep flock. She raises feeder lambs and also sells lambs to 4-H'ers and FFA members who show sheep.

She's raised sheep for 10 years and shown them for 14, starting as a 4-H'er. She's a third generation 4-H'er.

Her mother showed hogs in 4-H and her father showed cattle, but she selected sheep and has stuck with the project, turning it into her FFA supervised agricultural experience.

This is the second year in a row that Dingels will be competing in some fashion at national convention. Last year, she was a member of the Redwood Valley ag mechanics team that placed second in the nation. She placed 26th individually.

Dingels joined the team three weeks before national convention because the team needed a fourth person. She supported the team in areas where they were weakest.

Dingels is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Erin Daninger of Forest Lake is Minnesota's national officer candidate.

Daninger, 20, is the daughter of Pat and Sharlene Daninger. She is a junior at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities majoring in agricultural education.

Daninger is involved with the Agricultural Education Club, Beta of Clovia Sorority, Gopher Dairy Club, Minnesota Royal Executive Team and University of Minnesota dairy judging. She was the Minnesota FFA secretary in 2010-11.

Her career goal is to pursue a career in agriculture.

Jason Troendle of St. Charles FFA, the national FFA secretary, will give his retiring address at noon on Oct. 26 during the fifth session.