INDIANAPOLIS — Farming is a family business for many, but for folks like Peter Bliss, it’s more than that — it’s a lifelong dream.
“I definitely am going to farm for the rest of my life,” Bliss said. “I was about six years old when I told myself I was going to farm, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
Bliss is a member of Merced-Golden Valley FFA in central California, and his supervised agricultural experience (SAE) project sees him farming cotton, almonds and wheat. He started with only 30 acres inherited from his grandfather, but his operation has since grown to exactly 417 acres.
“I’m a fifth-generation Bliss farmer,” he said. “We started in the 1880s … and I want to continue this tradition.”
Specifically, Peter has 212 acres for cotton, 105 acres for almonds and 100 acres for wheat. Most of his land is rented, he said, but he wants to own it all someday.
In the future, Bliss plans to expand his operation by planting new kinds of crops in addition to his usual big three. In fact, he said he’s already planted corn silage just recently.
“I plan to diversify a little bit more, get into other crops like corn and hay,” Bliss said. “I’d like to grow in size. That’d be really nice.”
Although his SAE is successful now, Peter said he had a rocky start with FFA. He wasn’t satisfied with the program at his first high school, so he moved to a different high school between his sophomore and junior years.
“I just wasn’t comfortable inside the ag program,” Bliss said. “I’d say I switched [schools] solely for the purpose of FFA, and then my opportunities took off.”
He didn’t build his SAE alone, though. He said his biggest supporters are his family, his FFA advisor Cody Jacobsen, and a family friend named Scott Apupel — or, as Bliss likes to call him, “Dad Number Two.”
For FFA members starting their own SAE, his best advice is to give it your all.
“You’ve got to put in 100 percent effort,” Bliss said. “You can’t come in competing in an SAE contest … only doing 50 percent effort and trying to get 100 percent out of it. It just doesn’t work.”
About the American Star Awards
Each year at the National FFA Convention & Expo, four FFA members are honored with American Star Awards for outstanding accomplishments in FFA and agricultural education.
The American Star Awards, including American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience, are presented to FFA members who demonstrate outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through completion of an SAE. A required activity in FFA, an SAE allows students to learn by doing, by either owning or operating an agricultural business, working or serving an internship at an agriculture-based business, or conducting an agriculture-based scientific experiment and reporting results.
Other requirements to achieve the award include demonstrating top management skills; completing key agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements; and earning an American FFA Degree, the organization’s highest level of student accomplishment.
Sixteen American Star Award finalists from throughout the U.S. were nominated by a panel of judges who then interviewed the finalists this fall. Four were named winners during the 95th National FFA Convention & Expo this year, which was held in Indianapolis. Winners received cash awards. Case IH, Elanco Animal Health, PepsiCo and Syngenta sponsor the awards.
General convention sessions will be aired live on RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel. FFA members and supporters can tune in and watch gavel-to-gavel coverage of the event. To learn more, visit Convention.FFA.org.
The National FFA Organization is a school-based national youth leadership development organization of more than 850,000 student members as part of 8,995 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
–National FFA Organization