Nebraska farm kids eligible for scholarship contest

Nebraska farm kids can win a college savings plan scholarship of up to $2,500 by entering the fourth annual “NEST on the Farm” scholarship contest.

NEST stands for Nebraska Educational Savings Trust, which administers Nebraska’s 529 College Savings Plans.

The scholarship contest is open to children and teens ages seven to 13 who live on Nebraska farms or ranches or whose parents work on a Nebraska farm or ranch. To enter, they must submit an essay describing how being in a farming or ranching family influences his or her higher education goals.

“We are always so impressed with the thoughtfulness and depth of these essays that are submitted. It always comes through, the importance of farm life and educational goals for the future,” says Christina Kahler, marketing director for NEST, “It’s easy to tell that the young people that enter this contest work very hard at home and in school, and they really value their families and their agricultural roots.”

AUDIO: Christina Kahler (3:19 MP3)

Leigh Jahnke

Leigh Jahnke

Leigh Jahnke of Bancroft received one of the $2,500 scholarships in 2013. She says it was well worth the time it took to write an essay and she encourages others to submit an entry.

“Definitely they need to do it. It’s a great experience—it’s awesome,” Jahnke says. “It will help you later in your life. Once you go to college it will help and it just helps you figure out about yourself—and the farm.”

AUDIO: Leigh Jahnke (3:40 MP3)

A total of $10,500 in scholarships will be awarded to contest winners and runners-up. Winners will be recognized at this year’s Nebraska State Fair.

The contest entry deadline is July 7, 2014.  For more information, go to

Swine Show success for Illinois siblings

Maddie Caldwell, Elmwood Illinois at World Pork Expo 2014 Junior National Swine Show

Maddie Caldwell

The Caldwell family of Elmwood, Illinois took home a number of awards from the Junior National Swine Show at the World Pork Expo last week in Iowa.  Maddie Caldwell has competed at the Expo six of the seven years she’s been showing pigs and tells Brownfield it’s exciting to compete at this level, “This is the biggest as well as the first show of the season that we usually have. We’ll go on to show at CPS and Louisville within the next month.”Caldwell won for Reserve overall Duroc and Reserve overall Yorkshire.  Her “baby” – as she calls her – is Darla, the Duroc, “Her and I have gotten along pretty well throughout this year. I tend to lean more toward the Duroc breed because they’re red-colored as well as my hair so we kind of have a little connection, I think.”

She says these shows can be a mini-vacation for the pigs when they’re not in the ring, “At home they really don’t get any breaks. We walk them quite a bit a day, trying to get around 40 minutes before we come to this show, for them to build up their endurance. They get rinsed quite a few times a day (here) to keep them cool because they don’t have sweat glands. We try to just keep them comfortable here at these shows because they’re working pretty hard out in that ring,
sometimes can be out there for quite some time.”

[Read more...]

Hot job market for ag college grads

The job market for ag college graduates is sizzling hot right now.

“In terms of a prosperous career, right now, agriculture is king,” says Mike Gaul, director of career services at Iowa State University (ISU).

Gaul says a whopping 98 percent of graduates from the ISU College of Ag and Life Sciences are finding jobs within six months of graduation.

“When we look at a few of the majors out there, such as Ag Business, Agronomy, Food Science…really, a lot of those majors there, I would almost put on the verge of being no-brainer type job markets for students who put forth any motivation with their job search at all,” Gaul says. “It’s just that strong.”

ISU’s College of Ag and Life Sciences graduated its largest class ever this spring, around 600 students. Gaul says the primary major for 75 of those grads was Ag Business.

“I think 69 of them have jobs…for a 90-plus-percent at-graduation placement rate,” Gaul says. “I guarantee you, there are very few majors in this country that can claim that type of success.”

Gaul says many of the ag college grads are entering jobs with starting salaries of 50- to 60-thousand dollars per year.

Radio Iowa contributed to this story.

Iowa FFA president delivers final address

earll-josh-iowa ffaAt last week’s state FFA convention in Ames, Josh Earll of Sibley delivered his final address as the 2013-14 president of the Iowa FFA Association.

The title of his speech was “Playing Cards”.

“My main message was it’s not the cards you’re dealt, it’s how you play them,” Earll says. “So essentially just saying that it doesn’t matter your background or your situations you may have in life—it’s how you react to those and how you become better from those.”

Earll is a sophomore at Iowa State University majoring in ag education.

The new president of Iowa FFA is Abrah Meyer of the Wapsie Valley FFA at Fairbank.

AUDIO: Interview with Josh Earll (2:25 MP3)


Focus on rural strengths to attract and keep young

A discussion on Capitol Hill about keeping and attracting more people to rural areas to improve economic development turned to the subject of young people. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly told Doug O’Brien, USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development, that it’s a big concern of his, “One of the things I worry about is losing our young people in a lot of our rural communities. It’s jobs, it’s quality of life, it is the chance to have them trained with appropriate skills, to have the infrastructure in the town or community to encourage good jobs to come,” says Donnelly.

O’Brien said the new regional systems provision in the Farm Bill will help communities leverage their dollars in rural areas to promote the things that will help attract young people and help keep them there.

“One of the basic tenants of a lot of the regional strategies is look at the assets you have, focusing on those recreational and natural assets, lifting up with some relatively low investments. It might be in a bike trail, it might be in a music festival,” says O’Brien.

Another requirement, he says, is having high-speed broadband access in all rural areas. He says the USDA has been working on that but there is still work to do.

AUDIO: Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana and USDA Under Secretary Doug O’Brien

Farm bill supports REGIONAL development

Missouri FFA President continues family tradition

The new Missouri FFA State President continued a family tradition when he joined the FFA. Salisbury, Missouri FFA member Cole Edwards, selected President at the 86th Missouri FFA Convention, followed his older brother, his parents and his grandparents in the agricultural youth organization. He tells Brownfield that joining the FFA was “a no brainer.”

“I knew I wanted to continue with cattle, but I also was fortunate enough to do a public speaking contest my freshman year, and from that I really went off on my own in terms of speaking,” Edwards told Brownfield Ag News. “No one else in my family had done that, and I just took off from there.”

Edwards served in office at his local FFA chapter, as well as at the Area 4 FFA Association. Now he wants to pass along that experience.

“I would have to say that I’m looking forward to just meeting members from all over the state and helping them in whatever that may to inspire them to reach their potential,” he said.

The Missouri FFA has nearly 26,000 members. Their two-day convention took place in Columbia.

AUDIO: Cole Edwards (3 min. MP3)

FFA Officers thrive on personal contact with members

National FFA Officers say that they enjoy personal contact with other FFA members. By the time their terms end, the six National FFA Officers potentially are in contact with 20 percent of the more than 500,000 FFA members around the nation.

National FFA Secretary Mitch Baker tells Brownfield that in addition to gaining airport navigation skills during 300 days of travel, the FFA members that he meets have an impact on him.

“Every ag education program is diverse and different, except for the fact that everyone’s a family, and it’s a very big family feel that gives FFA members a sense of belonging that they might not otherwise have,” said Baker, during a stop at Brownfield Ag News Tuesday. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve taken away from this year of service.”

Much of what the national officers do is to talk one-on-one with FFA members. FFA Southern Region Vice-President Jackson Harris says that in addition to talking, he feels it’s necessary to listen.

“That’s what we were trained to do, but also that’s just kind of what we feel like we ought to do because that first thing in any meaningful conversation is to figure out where the other person’s at and to really listen to their story and their heart and then be able to connect with them after you start to understand who they are,” said Harris.

Harris, who is from Alabama, and Baker, from Tennessee, are about half done with their terms as National FFA Officers.

AUDIO: FFA National Officers (11 min. MP3)

Missouri FFA Convention brings together ag youth

The Missouri State FFA convention brings together thousands of Missouri’s young people for competition and meetings.  Rebecca Tate from Trenton helps in the media room, but enjoys most her place on her chapter’s meats judging team.

“I absolutely love it,” she told Brownfield Ag News Thursday.  “I’m on the team with three of my best guy-friends. I’m the only girl, so it kind of interesting at times; it’s one of those things that after you do it for two weeks, it just comes naturally, everything’s a natural instinct to you, you know those cuts, you see that steak and you know which one’s the one that you want to eat.”

State Secretary Taylor Washburn from Eagleville became involved with the FFA because of her family’s history in the organization.  After a few years as a member, Washburn decided to increase her involvement.

“Whenever it came to run for state office, I knew that I wanted to give back to the organization that had given so much to me,” said Washburn, “and help inspire younger members to come and fill this role that I’m about to leave.”

State FFA President Abrea Mizer tells Brownfield that the FFA gave her a foundation for her to explore different areas of agriculture and find an area she loves.

“From there I’ve been able to develop leadership skills and speaking abilities and a passion for agriculture, more importantly, and so I think that’s really prepared for the future and [made it possible] to find my purpose within this industry,” said Mizer.

The state FFA convention continues in Columbia through Friday.

AUDIO: Abrea Mizer (4 min. MP3)

AUDIO: Rebecca Tate (4 min. MP3)

AUDIO: Taylor Washburn (5 min. MP3)

New Nebraska FFA officers announced

nebraska ffa officers for 14-15-editedNebraska FFA has announced its officer team for 2014-15.

Pictured, left to right, are Blair Hartman, State Vice President, Imperial FFA Chapter; Colton Flower, State Secretary, Scottsbluff FFA Chapter; Andrea Wach, State Vice President, Hayes Center FFA Chapter; Paige Dexter, State President, Chambers FFA Chapter; Amanda Lambrecht, State Vice President, Blair FFA Chapter; Brandon Nichols, State Vice President, Bridgeport FFA Chapter; and Ben Rice, State Vice President, Norris FFA Chapter.

(Photo courtesy of the Nebraska FFA Association)

Program addresses Nebraska ag teacher shortage

A new program designed to entice more college students to become agricultural education teachers has been unveiled by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation.

The program will include Student Teacher Scholarships for students enrolled in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Ag Education Teacher Education program—and a Teacher Loan Assistance Program to help current Nebraska ag education teachers pay existing student loans.

At a news conference during the state FFA Convention in Lincoln, Nebraska ag education state director Matt Kreifels said Nebraska is facing a critical shortage of ag education teachers.

“We have schools that are looking to hire an agricultural education teacher that cannot find one,” Kreifels said. “We have schools that want to start a program and an FFA chapter that cannot find a teacher and therefore cannot start that program for their students.”

Kreifels says about 20 percent of the current ag education teachers in Nebraska will retire or are eligible to retire over the next three years.

“Unfortunately we do not have the numbers of students enrolling in ag education that we need to fill those positions,” he says, “and on top of that, of those students that are enrolled to become ag teachers, many of them take industry jobs and work for companies in the ag industry rather than for schools to educate our students.”

Kreifels says ag ed teachers often struggle to justify entering a career where their first year’s salary is less than their total student loan amount. The average starting base salary for Nebraska teachers is about 31,000 dollars.

The Farm Bureau Foundation says it needs to raise 40 thousand dollars initially to get the program up and going.

AUDIO: Excerpt from news conference announcing the new ag teacher assistance program (8:51 MP3)