FFA'S AMERICAN STAR AWARD RECIPIENTS ANNOUNCED
Oct. 29, 2012
Source: FFA news release
Amid celebration of 3,247 FFA members earning their American FFA Degrees after demonstrating the highest level of commitment to FFA and making significant accomplishments in their supervised agricultural experiences, four FFA members were named best of the best.
The National FFA Organization announced the four winners of the prestigious American Star Awards Saturday morning at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium. The four FFA members learned of their new high honor during the eighth general session of the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo, each winning over three other national finalists in the four American Star Awards categories: American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience.
Clayton Carley - Cissna Park FFA Chapter - Illinois
American Star Farmer
What started humbly as converting a front yard into a sweet corn field quickly grew into a successful business and a large farming operation. Now, it has turned into the most prestigious honor offered to FFA members.
Clayton Carley, from Milford, Ill., was named the National FFA Organization's 2012 American Star Farmer Saturday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on the final day of the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo. Carley, 20, was one of four FFA members nationwide selected as an American Star Farmer finalist after judging this past summer.
"It is exhilarating to have the highest honor FFA bestows and an absolute honor after seven years of hard work," said Carley. "A lot of time and energy goes into where we all are today."
The American Star Farmer is one of four American Star Awards available to FFA members annually in four separate areas including agribusiness, agriscience and agricultural placement.
The American FFA Degree recognition programs, such as the American Star Awards, are co-sponsored by Alltech Inc., Case IH, Elanco, Farm Credit, Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business, and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.
These American Star Awards honor FFA members who have developed the organization's most outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through their supervised agricultural experience; demonstrated outstanding management skills; and earned the American FFA Degree - the organization's highest level of accomplishment.
Eligible FFA members must also have met other agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements. A panel of judges who ultimately name the top candidate in each area interviews each finalist. Carley's name was called in an on-stage ceremony and will receive an award of $4,000. Each of the three other finalists will each receive $2,000.
Carley began farming to earn money to buy his own car and is now the owner and operator of the Sweet Corn Shack, which is located on his family's farm in eastern Illinois.
His first crop was three-tenths of an acre, which was once part of his family's front yard. Utilizing his experiences from his time with the Cissna Park FFA Chapter, Carley now raises more than seven acres of sweet corn that he sells to local residents. In addition, Carley farms more than 400 acres of corn and soybeans.
He conducts extensive research to determine best management practices for his operation and hopes that his experience will allow him to graduate college debt-free and pursue a career in agriculture.
Currently, Carley is a sophomore at the University of Illinois, where he is pursuing a double major in agronomy and agricultural education.
He is considering an advanced degree in agronomy, with a long-term goal of mastering research in crop genetics. The 2011-12 Illinois State FFA Treasurer, Carley is the son of Kenton and Lisa Carley. His advisor at Cissna Park FFA was Jeff Clifton.
Bradley Weaver - Dawson County FFA Chapter - Georgia American Star in Agribusiness
It all started with Bradley's Pumpkin Patch. Then came Bradley's Christmas Trees. Bradley's Landscaping. Bradley's Daffodils, Bradley's Peanuts. And Bradley's Daylillies.
Thirteen years after the first Bradley business launched, Bradley's E-Commerce Site, which sells historical toys, natural soaps and honey, hit the Internet. And just last year, Bradley's Pick-Your-Own Blueberries venture opened in Dawsonville, Ga. Now, Bradley is the recipient of the highest honor available to FFA members.
Bradley Weaver, from the Dawson County High School FFA Chapter in Dawsonville, Ga., was named the National FFA Organization's 2012 American Star in Agribusiness Saturday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on the final day of the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo.
"When I was a freshman, I came to national convention and I watched the stars videos. That was my overall goal in FFA and I knew that's what I wanted to do," said Weaver. "FFA has helped me become who I am today, especially from my leadership roles."
The "Bradley" brand was born in 1995 when Bradley Weaver of Dawsonville, Ga., at age 5 started selling pumpkins from a roadside stand to earn money for college. At age eight, he liberated a section of his family's barn and turned it into a gift shop. That young, entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well today as this college junior and FFA member continues to own and operate eight businesses that bear his name.
"Through my experiences, I have developed a strong work ethic and ability to work steadily until a job is done to the satisfaction of the customer," Weaver said.
Weaver evolved his roadside pumpkin sales business into a pumpkin patch business for a supervised agricultural experience required by FFA.
Supervised agricultural experiences are projects that students conceptualize with the help of their teachers that involve them owning and operating an agricultural-based business, getting an agriculture-based job or internship or planning and conducting an agriculture-related scientific experiment.
Their learn-by-doing project gives FFA members invaluable experience as they progress through their educational careers.
At first, he sold four acres of pumpkins, 100 Christmas trees and 100 pounds of boiled peanuts, all of which he grew. Then he added landscaping services and flower sales.
Today, his businesses provide landscaping services, pumpkin sales, Christmas tree sales, more than 300 pounds of boiled peanut sales annually and sales of more than 300 varieties of daylilies and 30 varieties of daffodils.
He even hires high school FFA members as employees at his pumpkin patch.
Weaver said his business goals are threefold: diversify products for sale each year to increase sales, reinvest profits back into the company and give back to the community.
"Giving back is also very important to me," he said. "Every year, I donate pumpkins and Christmas trees to charities and more than 1,000 daffodils to historical and charitable organizations."
Weaver, the son of retired teachers Tony and Karen Weaver, graduated from Dawson County High School in Dawsonville, Ga. The four-year FFA member's chapter advisor was Reggie Stowers. He is currently attending North Georgia College majoring in business administration.
Kurt Parsons - Porterville FFA Chapter - California
American Star in Agricultural Placement
Kurt Parsons will never forget what his teacher told him on the first day of his agriculture science class at Porterville High School in California.
"He told me that my high school career could be the greatest adventure in my life," Parsons, now 20-years-old, said. Little did Parsons know then that his award-winning career in FFA would present him with exciting opportunities that could win him top honors.
Parsons, a member of California's Porterville High School FFA Chapter, was named the National FFA Organization's 2012 American Star in Agricultural Placement Saturday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on the final day of the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo. Parsons, 20, was one of four FFA members nationwide selected as an American Star in Agricultural Placement finalist after judging this past summer.
"It feels amazing - I'm really happy to know that I've taken my project this far and that my project has ended on such a good note. It's encouraging to know that I've made it to this far with my accomplishments," said Parsons.
For more than 100 years, the Parsons family has farmed in central California, making agriculture and FFA a sure fit for Kurt, who works for Parsons and Sons Farming.
The operation harvests more than 14,000 acres of various field crops, including vegetable seeds, grains and hay, each year.
Kurt began helping on the farm when he was 8 years old and over the years, he has added a wealth of farming knowledge to his work experience, from planting crops to working with new and potential customers.
In 2010, the Parson family suffered a terrible loss; Kurt's father passed away from a sudden heart attack. Stricken with grief, Kurt and his family were left to fill a gaping hole where their father once stood.
"We were faced with a choice to either fold the operation or pick ourselves up and do the best we could to move forward," Parsons said.
Recalling all that their father had taught them - honesty, responsibility, integrity - the family chose the latter; the farm has grown in size and profitability ever since.
Kurt attends Modesto Junior College and is majoring in crop science. He is the son of John and Cecillia Parsons. His
FFA advisors are Isaac Robles, Gabriel Ponce and Todd Coons.
Taylor Runyan - Atoka FFA Chapter - Oklahoma
American Star in Agriscience
Taylor Runyan says growing up on a ranch in southern animals, maintaining the grounds and keeping good records instilled valuable work ethics, she says. Now Runyan, thanks to her research work in understanding the benefits of lycopene, has been tabbed as the National FFA Organization's distinguished member in the field of agriscience.
Taylor Runyan, from the Atoka FFA Chapter in Atoka, Okla,., was named the National FFA Organization's 2012 American Star Agriscience Saturday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on the final day of the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo. Runyan was one of four FFA members nationwide selected as an American Star in Agriscience finalist after judging this past summer.
"I'm ecstatic! This is my last year (being an FFA member), so this is the icing on the cake. It's kind of bittersweet," said Runyan. "It's been a great run and I'm so blessed to be here."
Encouraged by her mother - a middle school science teacher - Runyan started competing in science fairs in seventh and eighth grade. Her school didn't have an FFA chapter until she become a freshman, a time that opened several new options for Runyan's desire to learn and compete in science fairs that included the Tulsa Fair and the Oklahoma FFA State Convention.
Her level of research ramped up considerably after meeting Dr. Penny Perkins, a researcher for the United States Department of Agriculture at the Wes Watkins Research Center in Lane, Okla.
Together, they developed and planned what would become a four-year project for Runyan, centered on tomatoes both grown and sold in her community. In the first year, she sought to establish which tomato variety - grape, cherry, Roma or beefsteak - maintained the greatest content of lycopene.
The experimental process taught Runyan to use powerful blenders while collecting and managing data from devices like the Hunter Scan Electro spectrometer and the colorimeter.
When Dr. Perkins became a professor in North Carolina during Runyan's sophomore year, she started work with a plant geneticist on a project that subjected 96 varieties of tomatoes to testing for color, sweetness and lycopene content. A massive rainstorm near the end of the growing season, however, wiped out several plants.
Undeterred, Runyan took on her most intriguing bit of research in her junior year. After testing many different types of stored tomato specimens, Runyan proved that lycopene found in tomatoes has the capability to block ultraviolet rays.
In research aided by Dr. Theresa Golden, a microbiologist pathologist at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Runyan tested synthetic lycopene in a topical cream on lung cancer cell cultures to determine if lycopene worked as a sunblock against ultraviolet light.
Her findings were impressive, as they indicated the lycopene cream worked better than SPF-50 sunscreen in blocking ultraviolet radiation.
It is perhaps the first step in finding if either dietary intake of lycopene or a topical treatment with lycopene could work as effective protection of human skin from the dangers of ultraviolet light.
Runyan is now a student at Murray State College in Tishomingo, Okla., with plans to finish her degree in biological sciences with a minor in agricultural engineering at Oklahoma State University.
She graduated fourth in her class at Atoka High School with a 4.06 GPA, where her FFA chapter advisors are Bailey Platt, Bart Harper and Michelle Harper.