Two MFL MarMac seniors earn state’s highest FFA honor

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MFL MarMac seniors Skylar Moser (left) and Macie Weigand received their Iowa Degrees during a special ceremony at the state FFA convention on April 16, achieving the highest honor the Iowa FFA Association can bestow upon a member. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

MFL MarMac seniors Skylar Moser and Macie Weigand received their Iowa Degrees during a special ceremony at the state FFA convention on April 16, achieving the highest honor the Iowa FFA Association can bestow upon a member.

The two were among 725 Iowa Degree recipients across the state this year and the first MFL MarMac students awarded in 10 years.

“In Iowa FFA, there’s almost 16,000 members, so when you divide that out, it’s a little less than 5 percent of members who get their Iowa degree,” said MFL MarMac agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Sarah Wille. “It’s a very high honor.”

FFA members who qualify have met minimum involvement requirements in all components of a three-circle model that includes the classroom, FFA and a supervised agricultural experience (SAE).

“That is taking what they learned in class and applying it outside class in their jobs, in a project that relates to agriculture,” Wille explained. “Having those three components really enriches the education of the students. The degree is a great way to recognize those members who have fully integrated themselves in agriculture.”

Members must earn at least $1,500 through their SAE or work 375 hours in excess of scheduled class time. They have to attend five FFA events above the chapter level and put in 20 to 30 volunteer hours throughout their high school careers, as well.

To meet her requirements, Weigand attended the state and national FFA conventions and competed in the state agronomy contest and state dairy cattle evaluation contest. She also went to a legislative symposium that featured the governor and state secretary of agriculture. Weigand’s SAE involved an internship raising beef cattle at home, under the tutelage of her father. She worked some hours at a local dairy farm too.

In addition to attending national and state conventions, Moser has participated in many leadership conferences. She’s also been part of state chorus and competed in horticulture competitions with a focus on flowers. Her SAE included working at Spook Cave, which would be considered outdoor recreation, as well as Quillin’s grocery store, where she learned more about food science.

SAEs can be any topic, Wille noted.

“Basically, you can tie anything to agriculture,” she said. “That’s the beauty of it.” 

Weigand said one of her fellow recipients even mowed lawns to complete his SAE requirements.

Through their FFA experience, Moser and Weigand have gained a variety of skills they hope to carry with them for the rest of their lives, whether they’re involved in agriculture or not.

“I’m going into dental hygiene, so I’m not furthering my education in [agriculture], but what I’ve learned I really want to use,” Moser shared. “My family has a big farm, so I want to use my knowledge to benefit them.”

Valuable record-keeping skills will help Moser manage her finances, and public speaking has made her more comfortable speaking in front of people. She also gained a new hobby.

“I never knew I had an interest in doing any sort of flower arrangements,” she said, “and it turned out to be a big hobby of mine.”

Weigand plans to further her education in agriculture, starting off with livestock evaluation. She wants to be involved with cattle and swine producers, focusing on animal science. Although her family has a hobby farm now, she could see herself expanding and building her own herd, maybe one day being recognized at the national level for the efficiency and quality of the herd.

“I feel like there’s still a really big need for agriculture,” said Weigand, “especially since the population is going to continue to grow. We’re going to have to learn how to be even more efficient than we are now.”

 Weigand said FFA’s career development events opened her eyes to not only animal agriculture, but agronomy and crop production too. Through ag sales, she honed her public speaking skills and learned more about the corporate side of agriculture and how products are sold to producers.

“I’ve learned a lot of things,” she reflected. “I’ll take away most of my high school memories from FFA.”

During college, both Weigand and Moser hope to earn their American Degrees, the highest national degree an FFA member can earn. That will include additional volunteer hours and record-keeping. They’ll also have to earn $10,000 through their SAEs, or have 2,250 hours.

“They can do it,” Wille said confidently.

Locally, Wille has incorporated record-keeping into her curriculum, as a way to help other current and future students receive their Iowa Degrees, just as she did in high school.

“It makes it easier when students are freshmen or sophomores to get them introduced to this record keeping,” she said. “Then, when they’re seniors, it’s a matter of applying for the degree and making sure you have all the qualifications.”

 She’s proud of what her students have accomplished so far.

“I’m extremely excited about what these girls have done for our chapter and what other members have done as well,” Wille said. “To me, it just says that agriculture is always going to be important and around. Even if kids aren’t from the farm, they’re still involved in agriculture whether they know it or not.”

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