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For gold and blue: FFA marks 85th convention with 1,800 members

FNS Photo by Dave Wallis FFA members from across North Dakota gather to take a test in small animal care Tuesday during the FFA convention on the campus of North Dakota State University. The organization celebrated its 85th convention in Fargo, where students competed to go to the national convention.

By Kia Farhang

Forum News Service

FARGO — Students from across the state have spent their first week of summer vacation in Fargo on a familiar activity: taking tests.

Clad in their trademark blue jackets, FFA members swarmed the North Dakota State University campus for the organization’s 85th annual state convention, which took place this week.

They competed in everything from meat judging to product design for a chance to represent the state in the national FFA convention in August. Along the way, the students will sharpen their leadership skills and make new friends.

“This is our favorite part of the summer,” Wyndmere FFA member Jordyn Hetland said.

The state FFA has changed radically since its first convention 85 years ago. Officials and members note a marked increase in female enrollment — girls now make up about 40 percent of statewide membership, said North Dakota FFA spokesman Daniel Spellerberg.

The organization’s breadth of programming has also grown.

“We’re not only producing the farmers,” FFA state officer Mikayla Young said. “We’re producing the lawyers. We’re producing the doctors. And we want them to have a general knowledge of agriculture and understand the importance of it, especially here in North Dakota.”

Some members said they joined the FFA hoping for a better idea of what they want to do after graduating high school.

Though she’s undecided now, Marissa Tuhy of South Heart said the FFA competitions help her try different types of work to see if she likes them.

Tuhy was part of a group on Tuesday tasked with designing a product, its packaging and marketing a strategy for it.

The group devised an energy bar, complete with fruit, hazelnut spread and almonds.

The food science event Tuhy competed in requires many different skills, said Tony Boehm, co-chair of that event.

“Here we can really show the depth of careers in agriculture,” he said. “The neat thing is even if you’re not in an ag career, we’re all consumers. We all eat.”

FFA member Trevor Meidinger of Wishek said he likes the organization because it gives him hands-on experience he can’t get in a classroom.

“That’s why we’re doing a lot of these contests,” Spellerberg said. “To give them an opportunity to try different aspects of different careers.”

This year’s convention drew about 1,800 members, guests and sponsors, Spellerberg said. The students spent the week in NDSU housing, and many university faculty members get involved in the event.

Spellerberg said it’s nice to have the experts from NDSU on hand.

“We work well together,” he said.