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Windom FFA individuals place in top 10 of floriculture convention

By Lisa Young

Date Modified: 02/06/2014 12:12 PM

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WINDOM, Minn. — The members of the Windom FFA floriculture team went to the 2013 National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky., with a singular focus: remaining calm.

The four-person team knew they were well prepared for the trials and tribulations ahead, but they also knew if they let nerves get in the way, all preparation would be for naught.

Focus paid off. The team, consisting of sophomore Spencer Wolter, college freshman Abby Resch, sophomore Natalie Resch and junior Gabby Jensen coached by Windom FFA Advisor Darcy Dahna, placed second in the nation in the National FFA Floriculture Career Development Event.

In addition, Wolter and Abby were among the top 10 placing individuals in the competition.The team lost out to only Georgia, which had all four of its team members place in the top 10 individually.

"The (results) banquet took a couple hours," Dahna said. "They drew it out a long time. It was kind of scary because they lead up to it, and you just pray 'Don't be us.' I think everybody on the contest team was freaking out. They were shooting for top 10. They were just so excited."

To win in Minnesota is difficult given the competition, Dahna said. Participants take identification tests and create one type of flower arrangement.

"There's so many well-prepared teams in the state," Dahna said. "It's so hard to get out of state."

The national floriculture CDE competition, though, had many more facets than the state competition. During the course of two days, the team took exams on plant industry, tools, anatomy, growing and management; participated in a mock job interview, including creating an appropriate resume; worked with a customer/judge to "sell" an item based on the customer's needs; solved various story problems, including insect identification and math; and created individual and team flower arrangements.

"The kids were pretty bummed out after the test day because it was pretty hard, and we had studied a lot," Dahna said. "They felt really good after the second round, though."

Preparations for the contest ramped up during the summer, building on the knowledge the team had gained getting ready for the state competition. The team did timed assignments and learned how to communicate and organize with one another.

Dahna quizzed them on plant identification, insects and diseases. They studied industry manuals like the "Ball RedBook." They visited greenhouses and florists around the area to get exposure to as many plants and practices as possible. Dahna even had her sister living in Oklahoma send some plant samples so the team could see some items that don't grow in the Midwest up close and personal. They also stopped at greenhouses and colleges on the way down to Louisville for more exposure.

They all also had to be committed to putting in their own time as well.

"I knew they had the potential," Dahna said. "You have to have kids willing to put in a lot of time outside of practices and jobs to study on their own. All four have to put it as a priority."

The team likely won't forget their experience soon.

"They worked together really well," Dahna said. "They learned so much, whether it was how to prepare and be focused or communication and leadership skills. They feel like they've been given this incredible opportunity to learn things that not everybody gets. When they left (the National FFA Convention), they were really excited and wanted to figure out where to compete next year."