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Peterson earns state Star in Production Placement

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 06/20/2013 10:35 AM

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NORTHFIELD, Minn. – If it wasn't for his cousin getting him interested in FFA and the neighbor giving him rides to Randolph, John Peterson may not have walked onstage in April to receive a top FFA award.

Peterson was turned on to FFA by his cousin, Andrew. His neighbor, Sara Bultman, gave him and her sister, Christa, rides to Randolph for a monthly evening FFA meeting when they were freshmen and sophomores.

They started attending the meetings in fall 2008. Randolph FFA adviser Ed Terry holds monthly evening outreach classes that run three hours, Peterson said. Students come from across the region. He was in class with students from Cottage Grove, Hampton, Hastings, New Prague, Northfield and Jordan. They come to be in FFA because their schools don't offer the program.

Once he went to his first meeting, he was hooked on FFA, Peterson said.

It was during one of those early meetings that adviser Terry mentioned keeping records for his supervised agricultural experience, which was working on his family's Far-Gaze Farm. Peterson started keeping records in 2008.

He started picking rock when he was 13 or 14 and soon graduated to running the field cultivator, stock chopper and other equipment. He learned to drive the semi-trailer and started hauling grain from the field to the farm. Next, he began delivering grain to elevators, feed mills and ethanol plants. In 2012, he invested some of his earnings to rent 115 acres where he raised corn. He rented the same ground this year and managed to get his corn planted.

When Peterson was a junior and senior, he drove to Randolph during the school day to take agricultural education classes. Northfield Public Schools and Randolph Public Schools have an agreement whereby students from Northfield High School can take agricultural education classes at Randolph, Peterson said.

He, Christa and Mary Liebenstein, all Northfield students, were chapter officers in 2012.

Peterson found his niche in FFA. He helped at the children's' barnyard at the Dakota County Fair and the Rice County Fair, developing leadership skills and advancing his agricultural career.

He tried sports in junior high and as an underclassman, but remembers seeing farm equipment drive past the golf course in spring and wishing he were home in the tractor.

"A lot of these kids have a passion for sports. ... I have passion for farming," Peterson said.

He was named the state's grain production placement proficiency winner in 2012, the same year he graduated.

The paperwork he completed for his proficiency application rolled nicely into the applications for a state degree and star placement award. Sixteen star finalists are selected from the applications received, four in each of four star categories.

The star selection process includes a phone interview and site visit. Peterson, a student at South Central Technical College in Mankato, was interviewed via telephone in February while he was in Marshall for a Post-Secondary Agricultural Student Organization event. In April, a group of three made a site visit to the farm.

His adviser learned that he was the state Star in Production Placement on April 10, but Peterson didn't learn until he was onstage at the Minnesota FFA Convention. He's the first person from the Randolph FFA chapter to be named a state Star.

It was pretty cool being onstage at Mariucci Arena, Peterson said. The Star in Production Placement award recognizes his growth in income, personal knowledge, skills, investment and record keeping.

He's interning this summer at Central Valley Co-op and hopes to transfer to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls after he completes his studies at South Central. His career goal is to be a farmer.

"I don't know what I'd do if I didn't farm," Peterson said.