CLEMSON, S.C. — You might not expect something profound from a meeting of teenagers unless you know FFA.
“What we do over and over again becomes who we are. The good news is we get to decide what that is,” Adrian Shum, a Michigan State University sophomore and national FFA vice president, told his colleagues gathered at Clemson University for their annual FFA summer convention.
“We can choose what gets etched into our character,” Shum said. “Every day we have a chance to etch new lines.”
It’s easy to see what’s etched into the character of FFA members. It’s not stitched with gold thread into the blue corduroy fabric of their well-known jackets. It goes a lot deeper than that.
You see it in the reverence these young people show at the presentation of their nation’s colors at the start of every annual meeting and in the energy and resolve they bring to every duty thereafter.
“Whatever you do, don’t lose the energy, enthusiasm and passion I’ve seen here tonight,” Keith Belli, dean of Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, told the more than 900 attendees as he welcomed them to campus. “Wherever you go, if you channel that, you will be successful.”
Noting that more than 90 percent of the two million farms in the United States are family owned, Belli stressed the family nature of the industry.
“Farm means family in this country,” he said. “I can’t overstate how important you are. You are the future of agriculture. Even as the number of farmers has declined in this country, the need for leaders in agriculture and agribusiness continues to grow. Even the elevators in the Statue of Liberty use soybean oil. Agriculture is literally everywhere.”
FFA went by its original name — Future Farmers of America — for generations. But as agriculture has changed, so has the organization. FFA is not just for students who intend to become farmers. You’re as apt to find a future teacher, doctor, scientist or business person in this convention as you are a farmer.
The students are as varied as the environments from which they come: rural, small town, urban, suburban. But they are united through the state agricultural education programs that reach every county in South Carolina and teach lessons as diverse as the multitudes of foods and fibers that are necessary to fuel the work of the modern world.
Already preparing for fast-paced, constantly changing careers, FFA students may seem better prepared than most, but they are still teenagers, subject to the same angst and consternation as any other.
Enter Richie Contartesi.
“It’s OK to feel fear. Just feel the fear and do it anyway,” Contartesi advised the youth in the convention’s keynote address. “It’s OK to fail. You have to fail your way to success.”
Contartesi should know. He stood a mere 5 feet 7 inches tall when he earned his Division 1 college football scholarship at Ole Miss. Now an author and motivational speaker, he briskly paces the stage with energy to match any teenager in the room.
“You don’t have to be the most gifted, the most talented or the smartest,” he said. “The reason I made the team isn’t because I was the best. It was because I wanted it more. You want to leave practice with the dirtiest uniform on the field.”
It was in this atmosphere that leadership changed hands for the year: One team of young leaders — led by their president, Erica Wearing of the Seneca chapter, and vice presidents Payton Busbee (Abbeville), Jessie Comer (York), Emily McDaniel (McBee), Mariah Swygert (Batesburg-Leesville) and Amanda Taylor (Battery Creek) — reluctantly relinquished their corduroy jackets.
To succeed them, new officers took their stations: Kylie Cathcart (Lexington-Richland 5 chapter) is the 2019-2020 FFA president. She is teamed with state vice presidents Virginia Kackley (Ashley Ridge), Sydney Gambrell (Pendleton), Matthew Brownlee (Laurens), Cooper Brown (Wagner-Salley) and Jake Faulkner (Indian Land).
Now in its 92nd year, the annual convention also recognizes individuals and chapters for achievement in the past year, including scholarships and state and national degrees, which are among the highest awards in FFA:
Mackenzie Jones of the Anderson chapter; Callie Barnhill, Brandon Craig, Brandon Floyd, Kendall Herring, Holden Turner and Zachary Vorp of Aynor; Mariah Swygert of Batesburg-Leesville; James Faulkner of Indian Land; and Allyson Sanford of Swansea.
State Degrees, by chapter
Abbeville: Brandon Henderson, Dalesia Moss, Jamilah Smith, Lillian Smith
Andrew Jackson: Daniel Doster, Gaven Gooch, Greyson McKoy
Ashley Ridge: Lillian Jeter, Virginia Kackley
Aynor: Haley Britt, Joshua Duke, Lucas Damian Graham
Barnwell CCC: Kaitlynn Cook, Kyle Kinard, Justin Moore, Britney Williams
Batesburg-Leesville: Abby Blume
Belton Honea Path: Jade Ashley, Carissa Branyon, Jake Buffington, Chase Cox, Trevor Gorman, Hunter Hanks, Alyssa Levasseur, Chandler Mitchell, Austin Moore, Hunter Richey
Blythewood: Madison Mullins, Janina McDiffie
Buford: Yancey Dingler, Tristan Miller, Justin Stillwell, SaVanna Walters
Calhoun Falls: Rebecca Fleming, Anna Grace Rhodes, Olivia Rodriguez
Central: Kessla Clark, Samuel Dresser, Payton Evans, John Haigler, Raheem Lindo, Isabel Martinez, Aleah Nicholson, Kylie Sims
Cheraw: Luke Dixon, Amber Gainey, Jacob Goddard, Kris Little, Ethan Quick, Donovan Thompson, James Whitaker
Chester County: Jason Bowman, Lane Gerbers, Hunter Penland, Gage Rousseau
Clinton: John Michael Lapomarda, Nicholas Smith
Clover: Blair Denise Abernathy, Mary Mason Carpenter, Sophie Kuhn, Martha Ann Robinson
Colleton County: Christina Knapp, Olivia Langdale
Conway: Tristin Gilliam, Austin King, Katie Lewis, Sydney-Grace Lewis, Tempest Reck, Keon Singletary
Crescent: Kaetlin Carnes, Abi Clinkscales, Rachel Eades, Michaela Herring, Jesse Willis McGee, Hannah Wooten
Crestwood: Allison Foxworth
Dixie: Theron Brodie Evans
Fort Mill: Tanita Tembaak, Sarah Pierce
Gilbert: Lynsey Dawkins, Henry Gunter, Kelly Rauch
Green Sea Floyds: Keegan Davis, Caleb Hewitt, Jacob Strickland
Indian Land: Brianna Bishop, Kelton Bloxham, Abigail Chamberlain, Jared Collins, Calvin Currie, Christopher Russell Daniels, Rebecca Davis, Anna Juarez, Mason Mazurek, Dustin Thomas, Shayla Valdez, Jacob Wiltsie
Laurens: Lillian Pruitt
Lexington-Richmond 5:Cameron Blankenship, Adriann Halbisen, William James, Emma White
Loris: Gage Conner, Madison Cox, Chloe Holmes, Tyler Lamb, Rachel Tyler, Mason Tyler,
Manning: Lillian Gillard
McBee: Cliffton Fedorchek, Lee Griffin
Nation Ford: Kira Maier, Nadia Maier, Katherine Silver
Ninety-Six: Hannah White
Pelion: Lane Lanigan, Ryan Rucker, Tanner Shumpert
Pendleton: Sydney Gambrell, Chance Parker, Jasmine Riggins
Pickens CTC: Brooke Alexander, Ivy Bryan, Kali Chandler, Ian Gourdin, Augusta Holder, Chloe Holliday, Victoria Hudson, Abbey Huff, Desire Lawson, Shyann Oglesby, Lydia Owens, Bradale Purser, Samantha Sanders, Amber Schintzius, Tyler Sowell, Elizabeth Talley
RD Anderson: Desiri Blanchard, Madison Weeks
Ridge Spring-Monetta: Kelson William Palmer, Hunter Waters
Saluda: Cody Clary, Alexis Gunter
Swansea: Rucker Krasselt
Thurmond: Benjamin Guess, Carrie Herlong, Anna Kate Hightower, Johnathan Kemp, Bradley Kemp, Merissa MacDonald, Ashley Mims, Truett Taylor, Bryson Thompson, Haleigh Timmons, Elizabeth Verdery
Travelers Rest: Hunter Capps
Union County: James Benton, Cailey Edwards, Hunter Inman, William Long, Bailey Long, Patrick Long, Austin Christopher Millwood, Donasia Nash, Floyd Owens Jr., Emily Reeves, George Spencer, Jasmine Suggs
Walhalla: Avery McCall, Abbie Worsencroft, Zoe Zimmerman
Wagener-Salley: Cooper Brown, Dalton Fields, Mason Klimek, Taylor Love, Tristan Nisbet, Abel Valdivia-Mendiola
Ware Shoals: Will Calvert, Adger Vanadore
West Oak: Braden Bowen, Connor Brock, Adisyn Belle Lyles
WJ Keenan: Reese Bacote
Woodmont :Alex King, Laura Mahaffey, Hannah Hancock
York: Gunnar Black, Shaw Littleton, Samuel Starnes, Janna Thompson, Trenton White, Blakelee Wisher
Regional Star Winners
Jake Buffington – BHP – Placement
Abi Clinkscales – Crescent – Farmer
Chance Parker – Pendleton – Agribusiness
Cody Clary – Saluda – Farmer
Ryan Rucker – Pelion – Placement
Tanner Shumpert – Pelion – Farmer
Proficiency Award Winners
Agricultural Education: Hannah Wooten – Crescent
Agricultural Mechanics Design & Fabrication: Katelyn Robinson – Crescent
Agricultural Services: Nathan Roberts – Aynor
Beef Production–Placement: Michaela Herring – Crescent
Dairy Production–Placement: Cody Clary – Saluda
Diversified Agriculture Production: Matthew Brownlee – Laurens
Diversified Crop: Carson Strickland – Aynor
Diversified Horticulture: Joshua Duke – Aynor
Diversified Livestock: Catherine Faulkner – Clover
Equine Science-Entrepreneurship: Abi Clinkscales – Crescent
Equine Science-Placement: Jordan Meek – Fort Mill
Fiber and/or Oil Crop Production: Bradley Rabon – Aynor
Forage Production: Luke Bowman – Crescent
Goat Production: Lucas Graham – Aynor
Home and/or Community Development: Rachel Eades – Crescent
Outdoor Recreation: Eric Brown – Crescent
Poultry Production: Torry Kelley – Crescent
Small Animal Production & Care: Kelley Miller – Fort Mill
Specialty Animal Production: Danielle Nicholson – Crescent
Specialty Crop Production: Dawton Davis – Aynor
Swine Production-Entrepreneurship: Tabitha Swygert – Batesburg-Leesville
Swine Production-Placement: Kameron Cogdill – Clover
Turf Grass Management: Cale Craig – Aynor
Vegetable Production: Dakota Roberts – Aynor
Wildlife Management: Fisher Owens – Aynor
$1,000 to Callie Osment, Loris
$1,000 to Nick Smith, Clinton
$500 to John Haigler, Central
$500 to McKayla Porter, Saluda
$500 to Jacob Goddard, Cheraw
2019 State Officer Candidates
Sydney Gambrell – Pendleton
Reese Bacote – WJ Keenan
Matthew Brownlee – Laurens
Kylie J. Cathcart – LR5
Nicholas Smith – Clinton
Austin King – Conway
James “Jake” Faulkner – Indian Land
Logan Gore – Green Sea Floyd
Matthew “Luke” Dixon – Cheraw
Rucker Krasselt – Swansea
Cooper Brown – Wagener Salley
Virginia Kackley – Ashley Ridge
National Chapter Awards
Gold: Barnwell County Career Center, Belton Honea Path. Buford, Calhoun Falls, Clover, Crescent, Crestwood, Lexington-Richland 5. Loris, Nation Ford, Seneca.
Silver: Ashley Ridge, Aynor, Batesburg-Leesville. Carolina Forest, Central, Clinton, Dorchester CCTC, Lakewood, Manning, West Oak, Thurmond, WJ Keenan.
Bronze: Conway, Darlington County, Gilbert, RD Anderson.
Superior: Abbeville, Anderson, Andrew Jackson, ATEC- Kershaw, Bamberg-Ehrhardt, Battery Creek, Belton Honea Path Middle School, Blue Ridge, Blythewood, Bryson Middle School, Cheraw, Cherokee County, Chester County, Chesterfield, Colleton County, Fort Mill, Green Sea Floyds, Indian Land, Lake View, Landrum, Latta, Laurens, Lee County Technical Center, Lexington Technology Center, Lowcountry Leadership, Midland Valley, Newberry County Career Center, Ninety Six, North Central, Pelion, Pelion Middle School, Pendleton, Pickens County Career Center, Ridge Spring-Monetta, Riverside Middle, Swansea, Travelers Rest, Union County, Wagener Salley, Walhalla, Woodmont.
Percent Membership Awards
75%: Andrew Jackson, Darlington CIT, Low Country Charter, Ridge Spring-Monetta, West Oak.
85%: Ware Shoals.
100%: Ashley Ridge, Aynor, Barnwell County CC, Belton Honea Path Middle, Central, Chesterfield, Fort Mill, Gilbert, Loris, McBee, Midland Valley, Pelion, Wagener Salley, W.J. Kennan.
100% Plus: Anderson, ATEC-Kershaw, Belton Honea Path, Calhoun Falls, Cheraw, Chester County CC, Clinton, Colleton Country, Crescent, Indian Land, Landrum, Laurens District 55, Lee County, Lexington-Richland 5, Lexington Technology Center, Manning, Pendleton, Pickens County CTC, RD Anderson, Strom Thurmond, Union County CC, Walhalla.
—Tom Hallman, Clemson University