SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Star Awards were announced Tuesday, June 8, during the 93rd annual Illinois FFA State Convention, hosted in-person and virtually throughout the state over two weeks this summer.
With a 2021 theme of “Dare to Be,” the convention annually recognizes achievements of Illinois FFA members, elects the major state officer team, and celebrates agriculture. In response to continuing coronavirus concerns, Illinois’ FFA State Association officer team and staff adjusted the convention to honor achievements in-person, at various outdoor venues for smaller groups.
Illinois Star Awards honor FFA members who have developed the organization’s most outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through their Supervised Agricultural Experience, demonstrated outstanding management skills, and earned the State FFA Degree – the Illinois Association FFA’s highest degree of membership. Eligible FFA members must also have met other agricultural education, scholastic, and leadership requirements.
State Star in Agribusiness: Toby Winans is the son of Jacob and Laura Winans of Blue Mound. Toby is a member of the Taylorville FFA Chapter and his FFA advisors are Katie King, Lori Parks, and Sue Schafer. For his Supervised Agricultural Experience, Toby uses a drone to scout crops for insect pressure, weather damage, and drainage issues. When flying the drone, Toby and his farmer customers look for problems that stick out to them and then upload the high-resolution images into their software for further analysis. Winans Drone Service assists customers and agronomists make decisions to improve their yields and adjust their farming practices. Toby looks forward to furthering his skills in the agriculture technology industry.
State Star in Agricultural Placement: Tyler Gerdes is the son of David and Stacey Gerdes of Bartelso. Tyler is a member of the Central at Breese FFA Chapter and his FFA advisor is Harley Carlson. For his Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), Tyler works for a local dairy farm. His duties include mixing feed rations for the cows, administering vaccinations, and milking the cows. Tyler also runs equipment and performs other small maintenance jobs around the farm. He makes sure to work safely when running equipment and working with the cows. Tyler is thankful for the support and help from his parents, employer, and teachers to continue his SAE through high school.
State Star in Agriscience: Delana Erbsen is the daughter of Kevin and Wendy Erbsen of Lanark. Delana is a member of the Eastland FFA Chapter and her FFA advisors are Cynthia Feltmeyer and Breden Schultz. For her Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), Delana has performed several scientific experiments. The goal of her first experiment was studying the effect of silage inoculant on mold growth and testing the effect of Profresh on silage temperatures. In both studies, Delana’s aimed to increase her knowledge on dairy feedstuffs and how to economically keep feed fresh for as long as possible. She then expanded her research into plant science with a trial on germination rates in fields with different levels of residue. The knowledge and experience Delana gained through her SAE will help her improve her own dairy herd and when she becomes a large animal veterinarian in the future.
State Star Farmer: Shana Lueking is the daughter of Doug and Sheila Lueking of Centralia. Shana is a member of the Christ Our Rock Lutheran FFA Chapter and her FFA advisor is Doug Lueking. For her Supervised Agricultural Experience, Shana owns a herd of 39 cows from six breeds – Holstein, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, Jersey, Ayrshire, and Red and White Holstein. Shana spends a lot of her time working with bottle and weaned calves to ensure good health and development. She is in charge of all breeding decisions for her herd, helps with milking, and shows her dairy cattle at the local, state, and national levels.
Discovery Star Farmer: Wyatt DeAth is the son of BJ and Laura DeAth of Indianola. Wyatt is a member of the Salt Fork FFA Chapter and his FFA advisors are Jodie Boen and Stacey Rickard. For his Supervised Agricultural Experience, Wyatt keeps records on his beef cattle cow/calf operation, sweet corn patch, and soybean production projects on the family farm. He manages seven head of cattle year-round, a sweet corn patch in the summer, and a little more than 10 acres of soybeans throughout the growing season. Wyatt makes it a priority to work safely and reflect on his work so he can make better decisions when expanding his project in the future.
Discovery Star in Agribusiness: Wyatt Arnold is the son of Tim and Eliza Arnold of Galatia. Wyatt is a member of the Galatia FFA Chapter and his FFA advisors are Tim Arnold and Jim Richey. For his Supervised Agricultural Experience, Wyatt repairs and restores farm equipment and services lawn mowers. He focuses on minor repairs, paint work, and service to equipment that he can do on his own. Wyatt’s father was able to assist him with his project and taught him how to perform these tasks properly and safely. Wyatt is excited to gain more business and learn how to work with customers in the future.
Discovery Star Agricultural Placement: Lauren Johnson is the daughter of Nic and Amy Johnson of Lanark. Lauren is a member of the Eastland FFA Chapter and her FFA advisors are Cynthia Feltmeyer and Breden Schultz. For her Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), Lauren works on her family farm, Johnson Show Cattle, where they raise show stock. Lauren’s responsibilities have grown over the years from normal feeding and watering to running tractors and other farm equipment. The main goal of Lauren’s SAE was to learn more about breeding schedules, how to fit and prepare cattle for shows better, and how different feed rations affect the cattle. Lauren makes sure she works safely around the cattle to protect herself and keep the animals safe.
The business session was livestreamed May 28. Individual district sessions including State and American FFA Degrees, statewide awards, and the 2020-2021 Illinois State Officer Team retiring addresses were held June 1, 4, and 9 throughout the state at outdoor venues including Bloomington, Carbondale, and Springfield. Stars Over Illinois awards were presented June 8 in Springfield.
— Illinois Association FFA
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