Canton FFA members who attended the Pennsylvania State FFA Association Mid-Winter Convention included (top, from left) Tyler Engel, Hannah Kendall, Aubree Route, Kathryne Kilbourn, Mitchell Wooster, Hunter Hartford, Lucas Drever, Oliver Kelley, Noah Gibble, Tyson Bedford, Camille McRoberts, and Faith Vogel. Above, Athens FFA members (from left) Brooke Geiger, Hannah Rathbun, and Cayden Moss enjoy PA Farm Show milkshakes and get a sneak peak at the New Holland Arena prior to the Jan. 11 convention.
Story and photos by Rick Hiduk
(originally published in the Daily Review)
While dozens of Bradford County FFA members entered livestock and other projects in the 106th Pennsylvania Farm Show held in Harrisburg last week, the high point for many of them was the Pennsylvania State FFA Association Mid-Winter Convention. The event, which involved hundreds of FFA members from chapters across the Commonwealth and thousands more spectators was held in the New Holland Arena in the massive PA Farm Show Complex.
Bradford County has four very active FFA chapters, and 16 members from Athens, Canton, Northeast Bradford, and Troy received their FFA jackets to officially start their FFA progression. Another 15 county members received their Keystone Degrees which acknowledge their ongoing accomplishments as FFA members.
“During the FFA convention, I watched a lot of people put their jackets on for the first time. This was very exciting to me, as these people were beginning their journey in the FFA,” Canton FFA member Lucas Drever related. “I also watched many others receive their Keystone Degrees. Between the jackets and Keystone Degrees, I was shown where you begin, and where you can end up in your FFA career.”
“This year, I got to watch my chapter’s freshman receive their jackets at mid-winter convention,” stated Canton FFA member AuBree Route, who received her jacket during her first convention a few years ago. “To me personally, farm show means dedication. From the FFA students who put in the time and hard work from their onstage presentations to landscape designs to receiving their jacket or Keystone degree.”
Those receiving their jackets on Jan. 10 included (from Athens) Lillian Barnes, Zachariah Earls, Ethan Elliott, Annaleise Geisinger, Olivia Lane, Aiden Miller, Emma Renninger, Dakota Rosh, Isaac Wilcox; (from Canton) Tyler Engel, and Mitchell Wooster; (from Northeast Bradford) Quentin Johnson, Abigail Keeney; (from Troy) Katie Lackey, Brady Spalding, and Ryleigh Voorhees.
Receiving their Keystone Degrees were (from Athens) Emma Lou Brown, Brock Dawson, Laceylynn Isham, Curtis Kellogg, Josiah Stringham, Charlsey Walters, Charity Wampole; (from Northeast Bradford) Natalie Blagg, Julia Brown, Destany Chilson, Megan Kovacs, Maisie Nueben, Ava Neville, and Molly Pifer.
“The things that we get out of FFA are things that we cannot get in a whole lot of other places,” Lucas remarked. “The practical skills and knowledge that we receive and the relationships and memories that we make, will live on with us throughout our lives.”
“It also teaches you about leadership, quality life skills, and helps build self esteem which prepares us for outside of high school success,” AuBree added.
Outside of the pomp and circumstance, the FFA members also had ample time to explore the Farm Show Complex, which opened their eyes to the many facets of agriculture that make it the biggest industry in the state in terms of economics.
“It can be hard to explain all of the excited crowds, the educational booths and displays, the plethora of animals, the tasty food, the many events hosted,” Athens FFA adviser Sarabeth Alderfer suggested. “It makes it pretty exciting then to see students experience Farm Show for the first time. Attending allows them to see first hand so many parts of what we talk about in our classes.”
“The highlights of the farm show experience with the students are that they are willing to step out of the comfort zones, put in the effort, and enter in the experiences,” said Canton FFA adviser Tom Hojonowski. “FFA offers numerous opportunities only if one chooses to take on the opportunities and challenges. And these students did just that.” Additionally, Hojonowski feels that the Bradford County youths offer to the farm show a different perspective that comes from the area of the state where they live which reflects their own community.
“As an Agriculture Educator, many people think that my goal is to teach students how to be a farmer,” Alderfer related. “However, my main goal is to educate my students on all facets of agriculture and to help them be an educated consumer. To teach them to appreciate the hard work that farmers all over the nation do so we can have healthy food and much more.”
“I appreciate all that they learn through the opportunities. It extends way beyond the week, but involves lots of thinking, planning, and execution over months,” Hojonowski maintained. “None of it is about winning or where the placings lie, but in what is learned by going through the experiences.”
“I feel I gain much more than an agricultural background from FFA,” AuBree concurred.
“This does not end at any degree or when you graduate from high school,” Lucas added.