Tunstall High School’s Future Farmers of America group brought home numerous wins from last month’s state competition.

A record crowd of more than 1,500 attended the 93rd Virginia FFA State Convention on the Virginia Tech campus June 17 to 20.

The convention featured five general sessions full of award presentations, motivational speakers, talent and delegate business.

The convention kickoff speaker was Michael Evans, director for the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture’s new School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. Evans, a Pittsylvania County native and former FFA member, encouraged FFA students to “let your life experiences help shape your future.”

Other speakers on the convention docket included National FFA Southern Region Vice President Jordan Stowe, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Jewel H. Bronaugh, National FFA Advisor Steve Brown and the Virginia FFA 2018-19 state officer team.

In addition to the award sessions, the convention featured state officer candidate interviews, convention workshops, state-level career and leadership development events and agriscience fair competitions.

Moreover, Virginia FFA celebrated 50 years of women in the organization. Keynote speaker Dave Shiflett, current Augusta County school board member, served as the Virginia FFA state president and delegate to the national convention in 1969 to cast the deciding vote to support admitting women into FFA membership. Shiflett shared his experiences during this monumental time in FFA history, along with how Virginia’s decision gave National FFA’s constitutional amendment the two-thirds support it needed for women to gain full membership.

Chapter member Casey Toney, secretary Jacob Bowden and president Megan Pollok served as Tunstall High FFA convention delegates. Toney, Bowden and Pollok provided input and voted on the audit, budget and dues; program of activities; and constitution and bylaws proposed changes.

Pollok was recognized during the convention’s first general session June 17 for the state senior horticulture demonstration career Development event. The event was held at the Virginia State Fair on Oct. 3 where Pollok placed third overall.

The Tunstall High FFA Farm and Agribusiness Management team of Bowden, Pollok and Toney placed seventh in the state career development event. The event was held on Virginia Tech’s campus at Litton Reaves on June 18. The farm and agribusiness management career development event develops the abilities to apply the economic principles and concepts used in analyzing farm-ranch business management decisions. Bowden placed 27th; Toney placed 26th, and Pollok placed 11th overall in the contest.

Bowden competed in the computer applications state career development event. The event was held on Virginia Tech’s campus at Litton Reaves on June 18. The computer applications career development event is designed for FFA members to develop, practice and demonstrate skills needed for basic word processing, spreadsheet and database in the agricultural industry. Each part of the event represents real world processes needed in any type of job. Bowden placed as the third highest individual overall.

Bowden also was the recipient of the Virginia Tech Collegiate FFA Jacket Scholarship. The Collegiate FFA Chapter at Virginia Tech awarded only four FFA Jacket Scholarships, including the Halifax County FFA, Liberty FFA and Smith Mountain FFA chapters. The scholarship selection committee commented, “It was a privilege to hear about how FFA has impacted your [Bowden’s] life, and Virginia Tech Collegiate FFA is excited to see what opportunities lie ahead for you.” Bowden was presented his FFA jacket during the first general pre-session.

The turf management and youth discussion meet were two new events held at state convention this year. The turf event provides competition that fosters on-the spot thinking, working as a team to accomplish one goal and problem-solving skills necessary for turf-grass managers. The skills learned in this event can be used to be successful as a golf course superintendent, sports turf manager, lawn care provider and more. The event was held on Virginia Tech’s campus at Lane Stadium, Rector Field House and the Johnson-Miller Track Complex on June 18. The Tunstall High FFA turf management team of Bowden, Pollok and Toney placed second overall in the state career development event. Individually, Bowden placed fifth, Toney placed fourth, and Pollok placed second overall in the contest.

The youth discussion meet leadership development event is designed to simulate a committee meeting where discussion and active participation are expected from each participant. This competition is evaluated on an exchange of ideas and information on a predetermined topic. The judges were looking for the contestant who offers constructive criticism, cooperation and communication while analyzing agricultural problems and developing solutions. These questions discussed during the Youth Discussion Meet competition, sponsored by the Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers, at the 2019 Virginia FFA Convention were:

  • It is predicted that over the next five years 60,000 high-skilled agriculture-related jobs will be open annually across the United States. However, only approximately 35,000 will be filled with graduates equipped with agriculture-related degrees or certificates. Discuss what obstacles are preventing students from pursuing these opportunities. What programs encourage young people to pursue a degree, certificate or career in agriculture?
  • Agriculture is continually under fire because of both real and perceived issues with environmental impact, animal welfare and human health effects. Discuss existing methods and new production ideas and the impacts they have on the environment and human and animal health. What can a 4-H/FFA member do now and in the future to be a good steward of resources and advocate for agriculture?

Pollok competed and advanced to the final-four round June 19 with chapter members from Fort Chiswell High FFA, Page County High FFA and James Wood High FFA. Pollok placed first overall in the youth discussion meet competition.

Pollok also competed in the employment skills leadership development event. The event was held on Virginia Tech’s campus at Litton Reaves on June 18 and19. Formerly known as job interview, the employment skills leadership development event is designed for FFA members to develop, practice and demonstrate skills needed for seeking employment in the industry of agriculture. Each part of the event simulates, as closely as possible, real-world activities that are used by real-world employers. In the competition preliminary round, participants are randomly placed in interview flights. The top-10 qualifiers from the preliminary round advance to the final round, which includes a networking activity and a personal interview. Scores from the preliminary round do not carry over to the final round.

Pollok placed first in the state event and advances to national competition held in conjunction with the 92nd National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana, in October.

Virginia Neal, of the Tunstall High FFA chapter, was awarded the State FFA Degree by the Virginia FFA Association on June 19. The award was given during a ceremony held as part of the state convention. The Virginia State FFA Officer Team congratulated the nearly 200 Virginia state-degree recipients.

Recipients of the National Chapter Award were announced at convention. The award recognizes FFA chapters that exemplify chapter excellence by creating a balanced program of activities and provide opportunities for members to grow as individuals. The Tunstall High FFA chapter was recognized as a National FFA Chapter Award winner. The chapter was recognized as a superior chapter receiving a gold rating and is ranked as one of the top-10 chapters in the commonwealth.

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