More winners of the 2023 National FFA Agricultural Proficiency Awards were named during the fourth and fifth sessions of the 96th National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis.
Agricultural proficiency awards honor FFA members who, through supervised agricultural experiences, have developed specialized skills that they can apply toward their future careers. Students compete in areas ranging from agricultural communications to wildlife management. Proficiency awards are also recognized at local and state levels and provide recognition to members exploring and becoming established in agricultural career pathways.
Today, awards were announced for 11 of the 45 categories during the fifth general convention session.
The recipients are:
Agricultural Processing Entrepreneurship/Placement
Garret Gomes of the Gunstine FFA Chapter in California works at his local butcher shop and has learned about the meat processing industry in the 3,200-square-foot shop. He helps make more than 60 different types of sausage, hand cuts steaks and chops, and smokes meat products, as well. When he began his position, he learned about sanitation, sausage making, and meat marinating. Gomes is supported by his parents, Christine and Richie, and his FFA advisors Kelly Sanches, Matt Baffunno, Cameron Wyman, and Graciela Martinez.
Agriscience Research – Plant Systems
Charleigh Feuerbacher of the Stephenville FFA Chapter in Texas has researched hydroponically grown plants. Her first project explored the nutrient additive of different sugar types across sweet potatoes, cilantro and tomatoes. Her second focused on the nutrient additive of ascorbic acids in hydroponic systems with the goal of crops with higher vitamin C content. Feurbacher is supported by her parents, Ashleigh and Arlon, and her FFA advisors Savannah Bowers, Cameron Price, Brock Burch and Jordan Smith.
Diversified Crop Production – Entrepreneurship
Hayden Holdgrafer of the Easton Valley FFA Chapter in Iowa began his supervised agricultural experience (SAE) by renting acres to grow corn, soybeans and hay. The scope of his projects grew each year along with the number of acres he rented. He feels blessed that his SAE has earned him financial footing, agronomic knowledge and life lessons. Holdgrafer is supported by his parents, Keri and Brian, and his FFA advisor, Steven Eskildsen.
Diversified Crop Production – Placement
Wylie Schwebach of the Moriarty FFA Chapter in New Mexico works on the family’s 2,500-acre irrigated grain and forage production operation. The farm produces 1,050 acres of corn, 740 acres of alfalfa, 610 acres of triticale, and 100 acres of barley each year. He is trusted with the management of planting, monitoring, and evaluating, and maintenance and operation of the equipment. Schwebach is supported by his parents, Shannon and Ryan, and his FFA advisor, Cole Andes.
Diversified Horticulture – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Nash McKenzie of the Boonville FFA Chapter in Missouri built his own business in 2019. Home Exterior Services does everything from mulching and pulling weeds to yard design and installation. His equipment includes a SCAG V-Ride 52-inch standing mower, a Turf Tiger 61-inch zero turn mower, trimmers, and leaf blowers. McKenzie is supported by his parents, Heather and Nash, and his FFA advisors Douglas Henke and Deanna Schnuck.
Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Creyton Line of the Sumner-Eddyville-Miller FFA Chapter in Nebraska focuses on protection and conservation of the natural resources at his family’s Triangle J Ranch. He plants tree lanes, transplants cedar trees, builds terraces, and waters and fertilizes trees. Line also removes volunteer plants like musk thistles and other harmful vegetation. He is supported by his parents, Annette and Darby, and his FFA advisors Emily Reitz and Katie Hothem.
Fiber and/or Oil Crop Production – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Matthew Gossett of the Lynchburg-Clay FFA Chapter in Ohio began his supervised agricultural experience (SAE) in the fall of 2019 when he rented 12 acres of ground to farm soybeans. He’s since increased his land to 43 acres. Gossett also works his family’s soybean farm of 662 acres. He plants, fertilizes, sprays and harvests the crop. He is supported by his parents, Lori and Ronnie, and his FFA advisor, Dara Landess.
Forage Production – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Korbin Smith of the Hydro-Eakly FFA Chapter in Oklahoma works on his family’s farm, consisting of 2,200 acres growing high quality forages and a diverse mix of grass and cropland. Raising hay, growing grass, utilizing cover crops, and growing wheat and rye pastures has helped him understand the importance of good management practices and working towards a sustainable operation. Smith services the farm equipment, learning the importance of doing routine maintenance. He is supported by his parents, Kendra and Randall, and his FFA advisor, Chris Klaassen.
Forest Management and Products – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Braedon Raven of the Klein FFA Chapter in Texas works at the Old Time Christmas Tree Farm. The 40 acres has approximately 10,000 Virginia pine and cypress trees. He plants, manages, and grows these trees each year, in addition to staking and clipping them. Raven utilizes irrigation systems, pest control methods and natural colorants. He is supported by his parents, Lynn and Brian, and his FFA advisors Rebecca Brummond, Michael Brummond, Clayton Bill and Emery Spence.
Outdoor Recreation – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Morgan Hodge of the West Liberty FFA Chapter in Iowa was introduced to trapshooting and outdoor recreation when she took her first hunter’s safety course at the age of 12. Her father and grandfather were avid trapshooters who taught her about shooting sports and hunting. She works at a gun club, maintaining safety protocols, providing lawn care, reclaiming lead, and maintaining target-throwing machines. Hodge is supported by her parents, Roberta and Stewart, and her FFA advisors Elyse Buysse and Zachary Morris.
Wildlife Production and Management – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Thomas D. Dehoff
Thomas D. Dehoff of the Screven County High FFA Chapter in Georgia began raising bobwhite and Tennessee red varieties of quail when he was in the seventh grade. Working with his father and brother, the three raise flocks of quail through the brooder barn on six-week rotations. Since 2017, he has raised and marketed 40,535 quail. Dehoff is supported by his parents, Melina and Robert, and his FFA advisors Nancy Sell, Zach Weaver, and Cali Smith.
Goat Production – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Chase Hummel of the Tri-Point FFA Chapter in Illinois works with his family’s livestock show goat breeding division, raising approximately 500 head of meat goats annually to be sold as 4-H and FFA projects across the country. He became responsible for monitoring the body condition and general health status of the 350 does, implementing parasite management practices and an embryo transfer program. Hummel is supported by his parents, Holly and Dale, and his FFA advisors Diana Loschen, Jenna Baker and Kaylee Shouse.
Poultry Production – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Sam Bolen of the South Central FFA Chapter in Ohio works for Double A Eggs Farms, a free-range and organic layer operation with two barns that each house approximately 30,000 birds. His duties were initially very simple, but today he is charged with adjusting belts, welding rods on the rock conveyor, advanced troubleshooting, supervising other farmhands, and more. Bolen is supported by his parents, Lorraine and George, and his FFA advisor, Sarah Lucha.
Sheep Production – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Bailee Amstutz of the North Union FFA Chapter in Ohio sold her first lamb on the sale block when she was 2 years old. At the age of 6, her grandmother gave her her first show lamb. Today, she has 78 ewes and three rams. Amstutz raised the Reserve Champion Commercial Ewe at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in 2021, and a stud buck named Deuces Wild that produces semen and offspring that are sold across the country. She is supported by her parents, Leah and Brock, and her FFA advisors Breck Mooneyham and Thomas Jolliff.
Small Animal Production and Care – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Payton Irick of the Seminole FFA Chapter in Oklahoma raises Yorkshire terriers and Yorkie-poodle mixed designer dogs that are non-shedding and hypoallergenic. She began with one female and used a corner of her parents’ office to raise the first litter of puppies. She’s invested in more females and ensures stellar health, cleanliness, and socialization of all puppies. Irick is supported by her parents, Heather and Shawn, and her FFA advisor, Amber Day.
Specialty Animal Production – Entrepreneurship/Placement
William Paxton of the Stuart FFA Chapter in Nebraska established his own beekeeping business after shadowing a professional. Keeping them on his uncle’s ranch, he started with two hives. His primary responsibility as a beekeeper, he said, was to keep honeybees healthy enough to survive and produce a substantial amount of honey each year. Paxton is supported by his parents, Sara and Darby, and his FFA advisors, Katie Nolles and Patty Hanzlik.
Swine Production – Entrepreneurship
Davis Howell of the Clinton FFA Chapter in Illinois has a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) consisting of two projects: breeding swine and show swine. For his breeding operation, he has between 12 and 15 sows and gilts along with a check boar. He breeds twice a year with the goal that offspring will be transferred to his show swine project. Howell is supported by his parents, Rebecca and Zachary, and his FFA advisors Hannah Riedle, Kayla Riedle, and Savannah Riegler.
Swine Production – Placement
John Buryl Neely
John Buryl Neely of the Woodbury FFA Chapter in Tennessee works with his family’s swine production. The project has allowed him to learn about all aspects of the process, including growing and finishing of all ages and weights of pigs. He has learned to apply the best swine management practices while monitoring their health, and cleaning and sanitizing facilities and trailers. Neely is supported by his parents, Alanna and Johnny, and his FFA advisors, Wesley Foster and Emily Kopko.
Veterinary Science – Entrepreneurship/Placement
Brooke Nicole Casey
Brooke Nicole Casey of the New London FFA Chapter in Wisconsin works as a veterinary assistant at her local clinic and has also shadowed a large animal veterinarian at another operation. As an assistant, she works with vets to do checkups on healthy animals and exams on sick pets. She also works with the surgery and dental patients. She draws blood, gives vaccines, takes radiographs, assists with ultrasounds, and more. Casey is supported by her parents, Bette and Glenn, and her FFA advisor, Crystal Retzlaff.
»Related: National FFA selects its 2023 Ag Proficiency Award winners