Fruitland will see four teams of students head to the 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana on Oct. 30. The Expo will feature speakers, activities and resources for the rising generation of farmers.
The Independent-Enterprise dropped in on the agriculture class on Oct. 1. For agriculture teacher Mike Tesnohlidek, it’s humbling having consistent performance by his students.
“It always feels good when you have competitions and they win those on the state level; Since I’ve started teaching here … we have yet to have a year when we didn’t have a team win a state competition.”
Students of the agriculture program are automatically enrolled as FFA members.
“We have an FFA workday which allows members the opportunity to get a job and earn money for their dues,” according to Tesnohlidek.
Fruitland FFA chapter President Ellie Tesnohlidek says the Expo brings in more than 70,000 FFA members from across the country.
“In order to compete at nationals, you have to win your contest at your state level,” said Ellie. “Every team competing there is also really good at what they do, because they won in their state.”
In the competition, students test their ability to identify various plant species, including their seeds. Much like Napoleon Dynamite did in high school, these students also identify defects in various dairy products. Cows often do get into onion patches, according to Ellie.
Despite this task sounding delicious, Ellie says it isn’t always a treat.
“You can taste the different defects,” such as garlic, onion and oxidization, says Ellie. “[Oxidized milk] tastes like putting metal in your mouth. … Your stomach doesn’t feel very good after it.”
In addition to training their palates, students train their minds using samples of various plants, weeds and seeds. They also identify various insect species, demonstrating knowledge of these bugs’ role in growing crops.
For floriculture, there’s more to the challenge than just making bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages, but student Addison Concidine says knowing different flower types is still pretty important.
“We have to take a general-knowledge exam of horticulture, and it’s just like the basics of running a flower shop,” she said, among other applications.
Students’ efforts are verified through the online quiz application Quizlet, as well as through mock job interviews.
The Expo sees students taking part in group challenges which add up to essentially running their own farm for a set amount of time, “which is kind of scary,” says Ellie.
But the Expo also sees plenty of personalities show up.
“Last year, [President] Donald Trump spoke … at the closing session,” Ellie pointed out.
Also at the heart of what these students do is proving there’s more to FFA than just farming.
“A lot of people think they have to be a farm kid or have animals, but really you don’t,” said Ellie. “There’s a ton of leadership opportunities; There are a ton of activities you can go to to build leadership.”
Megan Jensen points out the variety of career options within the scope of agriculture.
“What’s so cool about this [program] is … there’s something for everybody to do.”
‘It’s gonna be so exciting’
Following are what the students said they are looking forward to the most.
Alyssa Murrillo is looking forward to competition in her new segment.
“Agronomy is something new, so I’m sort of excited for that contest.”
Madeline Grubbs is excited for her first trip.
“I just got on the team, so it’s gonna be so exciting that I get to go to nationals. I’m a little stressed out with the studying, ‘cause it’s a lot,” she said. “We have hundreds of terms and things we have to memorize, but it’s really good being able to go.”
Addie Clevenger is happy for the trip itself, as well as competing in Floriculture.
“I like traveling and hanging out with friends.”
Megan Jensen shares Addie’s affinity toward working with flowers.
“I love flowers, I like working with flowers and I like being around flowers. But also I’m just looking forward to the trip.”
Mingling with students from around the country tops Elle Berry’s list.
“I’m looking forward to going on the trip and meeting people from around the country,” she said.
For Addison, it’s like going home again.
“I actually used to live in Indiana, where we’re going,” she said, adding “I’m really excited to go back and seeing it again!”
Ellie wants to lead her teams to victory
“I wanna do really good… bring home, like, a trophy or something,” she said.
Just like sunflowers, Karley Walker is excited to grow her knowledge.
“This is a really great opportunity to ... make new friends. I’m just really excited to learn more plants in the United States.”
More than anything, Tesnohlidek advises his students to simply enjoy the experience.
“When you go to nationals, it a whole ’nother ball game, and it is very difficult. It’s college-level for the most part and my advice to do the best they can, prepare now and then when we go just have fun.”
Also interesting to note is that Grubbs, Clebenger, Concidine and Walker will all be running straight from the Expo to the Idaho state Cross-country race on Nov. 2. Actually, they’ll have a ride to take them there.