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Niles, Hopkins FFA Members Shine at State Convention

by Bev Berens

Published: Friday, March 20, 2020

FFA members from Southwestern Michigan returned home after a tiring yet exciting week at the State FFA Convention held at Michigan State University March 4-6. Along with worn bodies, wonderful memories and dirty laundry, they brought home more than a few state winning titles and achievements.

Stephanie Harvey of the Hopkins FFA was elected to serve as the 2020-21 state FFA reporter. Zoey Zupin of Caledonia was elected as the Region 4 vice president. They will begin their term of office July 1.

Niles FFA brought home two state winning trophies for leadership contests. The Ag Issues and Parliamentary Procedure teams battled their way to number one after months of practice. The teams were coached by advisor and CTE Director Carrie George, and co-advisor/Cheryl Rogers, along with help from alumni, parents and school staff.

"I am so proud of all our students' accomplishments," George said. "The number of hours that they put into preparing and practicing for state competition are countless. Having two teams this fall that will have the opportunity to compete at the national level is exciting. We are looking forward to National FFA Convention."

The Ag Issues team presented "Industrial Hemp—Should we go Back to our Future?" Team members included Jack Mischke, Trent George, Wyatt Mischke, Alexis Bird, Audrey Terry, Kayleah Temple and Alencio McClendon.

Members of the Parliamentary Procedure team included Mary Luchowski, Caitlin Young, Savannah McDougle, Abigail Fruck, Dylan Armstrong, Julie Nguyen, Aubrey Allen and Willow Brawley.

Savannah McDougle, Parliamentary Procedure member, summarized the group's emotions after winning.

"FFA has been an amazing experience and state was no exception after all the work my teammates and I have put in; I was ecstatic to compete and win state. I am so grateful for my teammates and my coaches; this experience has been life changing. I could not have asked for a better team to compete with!"

Mason Smego, Cassopolis FFA, earned the State FFA Creed Speaking Contest for his recitation of the five-paragraph FFA Creed written by E.M. Tiffany.

Proficiency awards recognize students who have excelled in Supervised Ag Experience (SAE) projects. Niles FFA member, Trent George, won Diversified Livestock Production. His livestock enterprises include beef, goats, swine and sheep.

Hopkins FFA members, Katrina Tucker and Olivia Coffey, won their proficiency categories of Sheep Production and Dairy Placement.

Tucker has built a flock of 32 ewes which she breeds for the club and show lamb market. She AI's the top one-third of her flock to superior genetics. She has bred multiple county fair and jackpot winners over the years. Her biggest lesson learned is to never give up.

"I bought back my first two ewes after showing them at the fair to start my flock," she said. "I bred them, and I lost the ewe and her set of twins during lambing. Just don't give up and keep trying."

Coffey works on her family's dairy farm near Hopkins. Her primary responsibilities are in the milking parlor where she helps hire and train employees and takes the lead during her shifts. She also fills in with calf chores as needed and assists with herd health visits when she isn't in school. The high school junior hopes to study dairy or animal science and someday become a dairy farm inspector.

Branch Area Careers Center students Makenna Squires, Brianna Seekman and Jacie King took home proficiency wins in Vet Science, Swine Production and Goat Production project areas respectively.

Squires, a senior at Pansophia Academy, works at the Bronson Vet clinic in Bronson. She works to keep a sanitary environment for patients and borders at the clinic in both the small and large animal divisions. She assists as a scrub technician for surgeries and with client records. She uses her knowledge from the vet clinic to assist with the animal barn at Branch Area Careers Center.

Seekman is a 2019 Bronson High school graduate. She enjoys showing hogs, but had a difficult time finding quality hogs to show at a price she could afford. Her frustrations grew during the PEDv swine epidemic. Once prices returned to normal after the virus, she invested in one show gilt, raising pigs that were champions at her fair. Since then, she has grown her swine herd, and is proud to offer hogs that are successful in local show rings at an affordable price to other youth exhibitors.

King, a Coldwater High School junior, took over the family dairy goat flock after her older brothers left for college. She has focused on improved genetics and feed blends to maximize the environment for her project. She sells project goats to other youth exhibitors and has excelled at barn and facility improvements.

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