Jerold Pell, 20, of Wayland, was named Star in Agribusiness at the Michigan FFA Convention held last week at the Michigan State University campus.
Pell is a member of the Caledonia FFA chapter and will graduate from the MSU Turf Grass and Landscape Management program at MSU's Institute of Agriculture Technology later this month. His supervised ag experience projects included a combination of entrepreneurship and job placement experiences.
While his friends were off playing at the beach on the weekends in 2013, then 16-year-old Pell was running his own lawncare business, covering fifteen lawns every Saturday, sometimes with the help of his father.
"I worked for my dad one winter, saved the money and bought my first piece of equipment that spring, a 2007 Toro Turf Tracer walk behind mower with a 60-inch deck," Pell said.
While in high school, he grew the business slightly, but had to keep his customer base small enough to service on the weekend.
"I still had school, homework and football."
"I had to grow up at 16 while my friends were still playing because I was in business," he added. "It was the hardest part of the business, but yet the most rewarding at the same time."
"What am I most proud of? I did it myself without loans, without a handout from my parents."
After high school graduation, he grew his account base to 25-35 regular clients. New skills gained from his education at MSU bolstered the services he could offer to include landscape design, building walls, patios, ponds, tree removal and more. Pell and his father would often trade labor for equipment use on projects.
Pell worked in the MSU sports department during his Ag Tech internship, caring for and manicuring all the university sports playing and practice fields, including the Spartan football stadium.
"I am really proud of my internship; it was a great experience," Pell said. "I tried to bring a positive attitude to everything I did no matter what the job during my time there and positive attitude trickles out to everyone. My supervisors were very happy with me and my work. It speaks louder if someone else speaks for you than to speak for yourself."
His supervisors' recommendations, his entrepreneur history, and encouragement he received from family and ag instructor, John Schut, landed Pell a job at the exclusive Oakland Hills Golf Club, where he will tend greens and club grounds. He begins the job early this spring.
"Mr. Schut teaches us the value of hard work and to learn something new every day," Pell said. "I wouldn't be where I am on this stage today without my parents and Mr. Schut."
"Jerry is a hard-working, humble individual," Schut said. "It is just so great to see someone like him, who has worked for and earned everything on his own, be named Star in Agribusiness."
Pell's parents, Jerold III and Mary, were astonished to hear their son's name announced as the state winner. In an emotional moment backstage, the youngest Pell experienced a taste of the highest pride and praise a father gives to his son—tears in his eyes—as an affirmation for a job well done.