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By Emily Bontrager
For the first time in history, a Clark County FFA team has won first place in a team event on the state and national levels.
The Clark County FFA Knowledge Team placed first at the Missouri State FFA Convention in April and moved on to compete at the National FFA Convention in October. The team swept the national competition and placed first, taking home the national title.
This year’s team members included Meghan Walker, age 15, Braydon Thompson, age 16, Harrison Parker, age 15, and Aiden Plenge, age 16. The team was coached by Mark Lemmon, who is one of the FFA teachers at Clark County.
Future Farmers of America (FFA) is a youth organization that helps prepare members by teaching them leadership skills and preparing them for careers based in technology, agriculture, science, and business.
Many members join FFA for the same reasons. Some of the members want to learn new skills, learn about public speaking, or join the organization because their family was a part of it in the past.
“I joined FFA because I liked ag classes and I thought this would be a fun opportunity to learn leadership skills,” Harrison said.
“I’ve known the advisors for a while, and they were kind of a motivation for me. My brother also suggested it,” Braydon explained.
“I joined FFA because my whole family has been in it and I just kind of wanted to keep the tradition going,” Aiden said.
“Just because it ran in our family and I thought it was a good program to be in,” Meghan explained.
Each year, FFA students have the opportunity to participate in Career Development Events (CDE) or Leadership Development Events (LDE). Individuals or teams represent the FFA chapter and compete at local events for the chance to move on to state and national competitions.
According to Mr. Lemmon, there are up to 18 vo-ag teams that students can participate in. Between the two ag teachers, Mr. Lemmon and Mr. Oilar, ten FFA teams are trained each year. A few of these teams are agronomy, meats, forestry, and knowledge.
In December of 2021, the Knowledge team began practicing for the team events. The team was required to study the one-hundred-page FFA manual.
For many months, the FFA manual was a big part of the team members lives. Each of the FFA Knowledge teams had to retain the information in the manual, memorize it, and answer questions on a test.
According to Meghan, these questions included FFA history, the constitution and bylaws, world officers, and much more. The team members prepared themselves for the competitions by studying old tests from previous years, doing quiz bowl games, and having other students quiz them in class.
When the team traveled to their first local competition at the beginning of March, they were not sure how the team would fare at the competitions.
“I’d say it was kind of iffy at first, because at our first competition at Brunswick we didn’t get first as a team, we came in second,” Harrison said.
“We did have the high individual, so we thought we could work with that.”
“I myself wasn’t really thinking about what we were going to be able to do, but more of when is the next test and where are we going next,” Meghan added.
After performing well at the local competitions, the team members started to set more goals for themselves.
“We set some goals for area competition and kind of decided what we wanted to do there. Once we got to that level, we set district goals, then we set state and once we won state, there was only one thing to do from there,” Mr. Lemmon said.
The Knowledge team took first place at the area and district competitions. They then headed to the 94th Missouri State FFA Convention which was held in April in Columbia, Missouri.
“I think we knew we were going to win state. There really wasn’t any doubt in our minds, except that we had to convince Mr. Lemmon,” Meghan recalled.
“Mr. Lemmon told us that our district is one of the hardest ones to win and that if we did well in our district, we could probably win state,” Harrison added.
According to Mr. Lemmon there were 60 FFA Knowledge teams at the state competition. The Clark County team rallied together at state and beat the second-place team by only one point, securing their spot at the National FFA Convention.
At the state competition, Harrison Parker placed 2nd, Meghan Walker placed 5th, Braydon Thompson placed 19th, and Aiden Plenge placed 137th.
The team was presented with their first-place plaque in front of 20,000 people in the Hearnes Center, which is where Mizzou used to play basketball.
After winning at the state convention, the Clark County FFA Knowledge team kept studying the FFA manual, so they were prepared for the national competition.
FFA members from across the nation traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana at the end of October to compete at the 95th National FFA Convention. According to the Clark County team members, the national test was a lot easier than the Missouri state test.
“The state test is geared for Missouri and they have some certain Missouri facts that we have to study. The national test is geared for every state, so they are not state oriented, and it is an easier test,” Mr. Lemmon explained.
Out of 44 FFA Knowledge teams and 176 individuals that competed at nationals, the Clark County FFA Knowledge Team placed first in the nation. Not only did they place first, but each team member was in the top 13 of high individual scores.
At nationals, Meghan Walker placed 1st, Harrison Parker placed 2nd, Braydon Thompson placed 6th, and Aiden Plenge placed 13th.
For their great achievement, the team was presented with a team plaque. The top ten individuals also received a plaque for the highest test scores. Meghan, Harrison, and Braydon all received this award.
The FFA organization has already impacted the lives of these four students. They have traveled to the local, state, and national competitions and have learned so much about the organization that will help them in the future.
“It teaches you a lot about leadership and how to work with others. Also, about different job opportunities, because it is not just agricultural, it is not just farming, it can also be science, business, leadership, and so much more,” Meghan said.
“It really lets you remember stuff that you have done and helps you with leadership skills, helps with communication, public speaking, and later career skills,” Braydon added.
“You make new friends from all around the country, from different territories like Puerto Rico and Guam,” Harrison said.
“It teaches you how to prepare yourself for life. It teaches you how to keep records and like Harrison said, you meet a ton of new people and people who you may never meet, but you meet them through FFA,” Aiden added.
Mr. Lemmon is extremely proud of the FFA Knowledge team and their accomplishments they made throughout the year. All of the team members long hours of studying, memorizing, and hard work paid off in the end. The team not only won at the state level, but the national level, which is a great honor and achievement for our local Clark County FFA chapter!