Over 100 students from Huntingdon County were among the 5,000 FFA members who gathered at the state Farm Show Monday for the organization’s annual Midwinter Convention.

At the convention, students received recognition for their accomplishments over the past year and looked forward to their year ahead.

Several students from Huntingdon County received their Keystone Degree at the convention.

“The Keystone Degree is the highest degree you can earn at the state level,” said Raylene Russell, FFA adviser for Juniata Valley School District’s Blue Juniata FFA chapter. She explained it requires completion of at least two years of agricultural coursework and both of the previous FFA degrees: the Greenhand Degree, for beginning FFA members, and the Chapter FFA Degree, for intermediate members. Students must also either complete over 300 hours in their supervised agricultural experience (SAE), invest $1,000 into the experience or some combination of the two.

Ten students from Juniata Valley’s Blue Juniata FFA chapter received Keystone Degrees.

Olivia Hammers received her Keystone Degree for sheep finishing, dairy beef finishing and hog finishing. William Emery received his for hog finishing and beef finishing. Garrett Funk and Devin Deihl received theirs for off farm employment. Jay Max Hurley and Anthony Fink received their degrees for on farm employment. Rebekah Ross received her degree for goat finishing and breeding, as well as off farm employment. Carly Rudy received her degree for pleasure horse, and Emily Jefferis received her degree for dairy beef finishing and beef finishing.

Four members from Mount Union’s Captain Jack FFA Chapter received their Keystone Degrees. Xavier Wright received his degree for sheep breed and production, and placement. Hunter Dennison received his degree for placement. Gavi Walker and Maelee Covert received their degrees for beef breeding and production.

“The projects take a lot of record keeping,” said Kim Steward, adviser for the Captain Jack FFA chapter. “This is hard for students because it forces them to stay organized.”

Southern Huntingdon Co. FFA Chapter, out of Southern Huntingdon County School District, only had one member receive a Keystone Degree. However, Mikara Anderson also received the State Star Farmer Award for her project on diversified livestock production.

“This (prize) is awarded to the FFA member that demonstrates the top production agriculture SAE in the state,” said Cortney Booher, FFA adviser for the SHC FFA Chapter. “The member must demonstrate outstanding achievement, active FFA participation and an exemplary scholastic record.”

Huntingdon’s Standing Stone FFA chapter also only had one student receive the Keystone Degree: Allysabeth “Lissy” Kinder, whose project consisted of off-farm employment. However, five Standing Stone FFA students received FFA jackets as part of the FFA jacket contest, which requires students to write an essay on what the FFA jacket means to them.

“Receiving the jacket made the members proud and excited to see where their jacket could take them,” said Standing Stone FFA adviser Heather Wasson. Kaitlynn Kester, Connor Eagle, Lantz Miller, Christian Nelson and Nathan Yoder received their jackets as part of the essay contest.

Three first-year members from SHC chapter also received jackets: Mindee Anderson, Kenadee Doyle and Tara Piper.

Three students from Blue Juniata chapter received their jackets: Corinne Mowrer, Eve McGargle and Adria Russell.

Blue Juniata’s parliamentary procedure team also received recognition for its bronze place finish at the National FFA Competition held in October in Indianapolis. The competition tests students on their knowledge of parliamentary law and their ability to present realistic debate and motions within a formal meeting setting, according to the FFA website.

“Our parliamentary procedure team practiced two mornings a week from January until June,” said Russell. “Most of the team members had been on the team for several years, so it was a long term commitment ... We were optimistic that this was our year.”

State Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera also attended the conference to congratulate all FFA students on their achievements.

“As a former FFA student, I know firsthand the transformative power of the blue corduroy jacket,” Redding said. “As Secretary of Agriculture, I know the contributions that these students make to our state and our industry; the talent, skills and leadership that will inspire the future of Pennsylvania.”

Today’s FFA members are tomorrow’s industry, and community leaders,” Rivera said.

Jesse can be contacted at jrice@huntingdondailynews.com.

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