By Audrey Hill, Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
A big congratulations to all FFA students and supporters who were recognized with an FFA award this 2022! There is no doubt that the Future Farmers of America are a high achieving group of high school students, but some go above and beyond their requirements and are rewarded every year. At the national and state levels, large leadership conferences recognize many students across a wide variety of agricultural fields. This year’s California FFA State Leadership Conference was held from March 26th to 29th in Sacramento and recognized roughly 500 students, awarding scholarships to 80.
To win a state or national leadership award, FFA students must first compete with their chapter in a sectional competition, with winners advancing to regionals, then area, and finally, to nationals. California has more than 300 FFA chapters that are geographically divided into six regions. Kern County represents 11 of those chapters and is divided into two different sections. The first is the South Valley section which accounts for areas West of the CA-99 and encompasses Frazier Park to McFarland. The second is the Kern Inyo section which accounts for areas to the East of the CA-99 and stretches as far as Bishop. Students from all chapters compete during sectionals to move up to the San Joaquin regional competition, with winners advancing to compete at the state level. All winners will be recognized at the Washington Leadership Conference in October of 2022.
Many of the competitions and awards given are based off rigorous online record keeping that students do individually. The Agriculture Proficiency Award is given to those who present their projects with accuracy and show high involvement and determination. Projects in this award category range from agriculture communications to viniculture production, turf grass management, and more. Chas McPheeters, a senior at Frontier High School, was awarded the Agriculture Proficiency Award for wildlife management this year at the State Leadership Conference. His early involvement in a Lost Hills duck club sparked an interest in wildlife management. He says that, “from the help of my ag advisors, Mrs. Downs and Ms. Noels at Frontier High School, I learned that the time I spent helping manage the wetland and wildlife could be put towards an SAE.”
SAE is short for Supervised Agricultural Experience and describes hands-on learning environments like research where students can really get involved. FFA students are encouraged to find and get involved in SAEs to enhance their learning and engage in agriculture experiences outside the classroom. McPheeters has around 4 years and over 1500 hours of work at Pintail Slough in Lost Hills. His tasks were culling predators for a better nesting success for waterfowl as well as doing common labor required to maintain a 280-acre wetland such as repairing dikes and irrigation.
This project and his diligence have earned him a spot at the California FFA State Leadership Conference; a huge congratulations to him on his efforts! After McPheeters graduates high school, he will be attending the University of Wyoming and will study Agriculture Business: Farm and Ranch Management. He also plans to add a minor in meat science and hopes to own and operate his own meat packing center. McPheeters plans to “savor my last few months [at Pintail] before I head to Wyoming for college. Hopefully I will be able to someday manage a wetland similar to Pintail Slough. It is where I cut my teeth as a conservationist and learned the importance of sustainable agriculture.”
Agriculture Proficiency Awards like the one awarded to Chas McPheeters made up a large portion of the awards given at the California FFA State Leadership Conference. This year, 121 hardworking students were recognized with this award. Other awards for speaking competitions, agriscience fairs and some that recognize teachers and advisors were also presented. Congratulations to all the students, teachers, advisors, and FFA staff who work tremendously hard to bring all these pieces and people together.