By Ethan Giebel
The National FFA Organization has selected 16 students from throughout the United States as finalists for its top student achievement awards for 2013. Four finalists are selected in each of the four categories, American Star Farmer, American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience. These awards recognize FFA members who have developed their skills in the field of agriculture through their supervised agricultural experience programs. Students must have demonstrated outstanding management skills, have earned an American FFA Degree, and met other agricultural education, scholarship and leadership requirements.
American Star Finalists
Three Wisconsin FFA members have been selected as American Star Finalists this year. Wisconsin has more finalists than any other state this year. American Star Finalists from Wisconsin include, Aaron Zimmerman in the area of Agribusiness, Trenton Bemis in Agricultural Placement and in the Agriscience category is Emilie Cerny.
Zimmerman hails from Spencer and graduated from high school in 2012. Zimmerman's success in the area of agribusiness stems from his involvement in his SAE programs. His work with agriculture and livestock marketing through media led to the creation of his own business. He creates graphic designs as well as website and video projects. Owning and managing a herd of quality Simmental cattle is another project that Zimmerman has maintained. Beef cattle are one of his passions in life and led him to his graphic design business. Zimmerman attends University of Wisconsin-River Falls where he is pursuing a degree in animal science.
"After college I plan to work in beef cattle reproduction and genetics," said Zimmerman. "I also hope to operate a livestock marketing business that would include graphic design, marketing, photography and videography."
As a finalist in the American Star in Agricultural Placement category, Bemis is thrilled to attend the National FFA Convention this fall.
"Being selected as an American Star Finalist is a great honor for me," said Bemis who is a member of the Lincoln-ACHM FFA Chapter. The 21-year-old Humbird resident graduated from high school in 2010. His SAE program was in the area of fruit production because of his work at Edlen Cranberry Marsh. His involvement with cranberry production during his school days has led to ful- time employment at the 72-acre cranberry grower. Bemis works side-by-side with his father every day on the job.
"My SAE program helped me with my career path. It made me aware of all the work and care that I put into cranberry production. Keeping track of my progress through FFA makes me realize the improvement that I have made throughout the years in my SAE." Bemis was recognized for his SAE program in 2011 when he took home first in the National FFA Fruit Production Proficiency area.
"Experience is one of the best teachers," said Cerny who is an American Star in Agriscience finalist. "Through my SAE, I have gained hands on experience that gives me knowledge to be competitive in the industry. I gained critical thinking skills and learned to constantly ask the questions."
Cerny has conducted a variety of research projects through her SAE programs. With a passion for the swine industry, Cerny has conducted several studies on swine. Currently, she is working on a liquid feeding trial where a liquid dairy diet is fed to hogs to determine the effect to carcass values. Other research has been done on water runoff, dairy nutrition and sheep research.
Throughout her FFA career, Cerny enjoyed attending the National FFA Convention and seeing the session where star finalists are recognized each year.
"The session inspired me to strive for excellence in my SAE programs," said Cerny. "Being a star finalist is the culmination of all my goals in FFA; to be a role model, leader and advocate for the industry that I love. As a finalist, I hope to inspire younger members to work hard and achieve wonderful opportunities for themselves."
Cerny is a 2010 graduate of Big Foot High School and a resident of Sharon. She attended Black Hawk College in Kewanee, Ill., for an associate's degree in swine production technology. She currently works at Reproductive Provisions, a livestock breeding company where Cerny communicates with customers on breeding practices. She also does swine nutrition work through a local feed dealer. Cerny plans to return to school to study microbiology and swine nutrition in order to pursue a career in swine research.
During the 2013 National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky., a panel of judges will interview the finalists. The convention runs Oct. 30 through Nov. 2. One winner will be selected in each of the star categories. Each star finalist receives a cash prize of $2,000 from the National FFA Foundation and earns the opportunity to participate in an international agriculture experience. The four winners will each receive an additional $2,000 cash award for their efforts.
Giebel is a student at UW-Platteville.