FFA: A season of success


Savannah Shotwell and Kyler Effner

Sophomore FFA member Whitney Smith takes a deep breath and steps up to the podium. Hundreds of eyes peer up at her from the audience. The judges are seated at a table in front of her with papers ready to announce her score. 

Today she demonstrated her gardening skills with a plant and soil science demonstration. Next to her are the other finalists in the competition. One by one, they are given their places and awards, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, until Smith is the only one left standing on the stage. 

Excitement thrums through her body as the judges announce that she is the winner of  the plant and soil science demonstration competition. She can hear her fellow members of the CHS FFA program shout louder than anyone else in the massive crowd.

The FFA program helps students explore job opportunities in the agricultural field, with competitions such as vegetable production and plant and soil science demonstrations. 

During FFA competitions, such as LDE (leadership development events), members demonstrate their knowledge and written communication skills through the development of an essayAlso during CDE (career development events), members  demonstrate their knowledge and written communication skills through the development of an essay, according to inffa.org. 

When asked how the FFA program has impacted her, Smith said, “FFA has really helped shape my future career options as well as provide me with a sense of self worth.”

FFA is also a grounding experience for many students.

“FFA, and specifically this chapter has not only provided me with a built-in family, but a passion for agriculture as well,” said senior Kirsten Cummings, who is the District VIII FFA president and on the Indiana FFA executive and nominating committees. 

The program has been working to solve real world problems such as providing healthy food at a reasonable price. Smith has helped work on this issue through the use of her gardening skills, which come in handy during FFA competitions. 

“While it does take a lot of practicing, rapid memorizing, lots of long nights and some stressful moments, it is all worth it,” said Smith. 

The current FFA program at CHS was reestablished in the 2014-2015 school year with Marlena Verhey as the advisor, and Greg Arnold as the agriculture teacher. By 2016-2017, Laura Searcy was both the agriculture teacher and the FFA advisor at Cascade.

The 2022-2023 school year has brought many successes and accomplishments for the CHS FFA chapter, some of which are firsts for the program.  

Recently, they have started to utilize a Cadet Conservatory greenhouse behind Cascade Middle School, which allows for the students to grow and sell their own hanging baskets, in addition to growing lettuce and many other plants in a hydroponic system.

The school chapter also participated in many different competitions throughout the school year including the Leadership Development Contest, where the chapter placed first in four contests, among many other top three placings.  The top four students will be participating in State competition this summer.

In addition to the team’s success at LDC, they also had an Area Crops team place first at the district contest and then go on to place ninth at state.

One of the members, senior Coy Searcy, placed first at state in his Diversified Agricultural Production Proficiency application, making him the first national competitor from the CHS chapter in any of the contests.

Four students from CHS’s FFA program also earned their Hoosier Degrees, and the chapter also celebrated their first ever American Degree applicant, an accomplishment only 2% of FFA members ever achieve.

The chapter is currently electing new officers for the next year, a process which is  long and involved.  The applicants have to apply via a detailed application, send a personal review to 2-3 teachers and take part in an interview including CHS and CMS staff members.

Smith stated, “We had lots of valuable candidates this year that have proven to be successful in agriculture and throughout our school.”

The goal is for next year’s officers to embody the values of FFA and to be a good representative of CHS and the community.

Since 2014, the FFA program at CHS has grown insurmountably. The size and success of the program has reached an all time high, and the years ahead are looking bright for FFA members.