Wisner Pilger FFA Wins State Master Conservation Award
Wisner Pilger FFA Chapter and its members were honored as a member of the elite class of eight selected as winners of the Omaha World Herald’s 2011 Master Conservationist Award. The Master Conservationist program was established in 1983 to recognize those throughout Nebraska who have excelled in soil and water conservation and protection. The program has been expanded from a production agriculture focus to now include community conservation efforts, as well as youth’s efforts in conservation. Current awards focus on recognition of excellence in water conservation. Awards are sponsored by the Omaha World Herald and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The awards were officially presented at the Younes Conference in Kearney on September 26. Representing the Wisner Pilger FFA Chapter at the award ceremony were Latham Fullner, Chapter President, Jarrett Sindelar Chapter Community Service Officer and Mark Schroeder Chapter Advisor. The youth division awards are designed to recognize individuals or groups who are implementing unique ways to sustain water resources while creating new opportunities to improve the environment. Nominees age 19 and younger are eligible to be nominated. They must be Nebraska residents who have carried out a water and/or soil conservation program for a minimum of two years.
Leslie Reed reporter and Jeff Beiermann, photographer for the Omaha World Herald spent time interviewing students about their conservation efforts on September 21. The story they developed as a result of their visit to Wisner Pilger High School was published on the front page of the Midlands Section of the Sunday, September 25, Omaha World Herald. Chad Moyer, Ag Director for KTIC, interviewed many of the students during the field day and featured them on his show “On the Road for Agriculture.” Jessica Cihacek, reporter from KCAU Channel 9 of Sioux City, Iowa was at the school on October 3 to interview the students and Mr. Schroeder about the conservation projects the chapter has completed.
The goal of Wisner Pilger FFA Chapter conservation project as sited in the nomination has been to teach the students and community the importance of soil and water stewardship and conservation. It is a multi-faceted project involving no-till conservation farming methods in the FFA Chapter’s crop test plots; providing an environment where conservation methods are stressed in all segments of the program; assisting students with development of an in-depth knowledge base in soil characteristics, types and appropriate management techniques; providing students with information and leadership skills that they use to teach other members of the chapter as well as the community the latest techniques to conserve our scarce natural resources.
Components of the Wisner Pilger FFA Chapter’s Conservation activities noted in the nomination included:
• The Wisner Pilger FFA Chapter has been given the opportunity to use five acres of farm ground owned by the school district as a test plot for corn and soybean crops. The students utilize their knowledge from their Junior and Senior Ag classes to plan, plant, manage, harvest and market the crops from the test plots, hosting an annual field day held on September 27, 2011 that has become a popular community learning environment. The test plots demonstrate total conservation and minimum tillage techniques. Since the school district is located in an intense livestock production area they have utilized manure as the key component of their fertilization program, and in turn used the test plots as a teaching environment for the entire community for conservation techniques.
• Each student involved in the Ag program for their four year career develop in-depth knowledge and skills in soil characteristics, types and appropriate management techniques through their experiences in the land evaluation program. These valuable life time skills help them evaluate land that they are responsible for managing from residential to large farming operations. Through the program they perfect their skills and utilize them to make decisions during district, state and national (qualifying for Nationals in 2010 and 2011) contests, documenting the command of the knowledge base that they have developed. These are valuable skills that they will use throughout their lives. Chapter members have been preparing for the 2011 district land judging contest that was held on October 5.
• Through the knowledge and leadership skills that the students have developed, they took on the challenge of teaching other students and the community cutting edge conservation techniques through the Ag Demonstrations that they developed and presented to over 600 people. Topics that they have researched and taught include: wind energy where they demonstrated how to locate, assemble and operate a wind powered electric generator; manure management teaching how to harvest, turn, manage and package fertilizer products; demonstrated how to make bio-diesel fuel and discussed how it can help our environment; installation of water sensor monitors to help manage the use of irrigation water; and in the “War on Wasted Water” they demonstrated how to install water blocks to manage water flow from tiled fields limiting the pollution of streams and rivers, making better use of fertilizers applied and managing water level which in-turn increases yields (Reserve Grand Champion Ag Demonstration at 2011 State FFA Convention).
• Members have also researched other conservation topics and presented them to chapter members and the community on such issues as: manure management and electric generation through methane digesters, hydro electric power generation, benefits of wind generators, water and wildlife management through construction of dams, carbon credits, and conservation efforts on a family ranch that earned the coveted Leopold Award for the family ranching operation. They have incorporated their research in a variety of speaking events that are part of the leadership development portion of the FFA program.
• Taking on a new project several students are creating from completely recycled materials a pheasant habitat to raise young pheasants to assist in the repopulation of pheasants in our area that was greatly diminished by the harsh 2010 winter.
Overall students in the program have developed a holistic outlook to conserving natural resources through their four year experience in the Ag program as conservation of natural resources is emphasized in all segments of the program. Whether the students are involved in residential projects where they develop plans for water management throughout a landscape design, to working to recycle discarded items to increase the pheasant population in the area, to making management decisions for the best use of a parcel of land in order to preserve its natural resources, to teaching a large percentage of the patrons in the school district on the importance of conservation of natural resources in all phases of their operation in town as well in the rural segments of the area. All of the FFA Chapter members gain an inner holistic sense for the importance of implementing conservation techniques in everything that they do.
Innovative techniques that members of the chapter have worked with include: use of water sensors to manage water use in irrigated field increasing water management in additional acres in the school district, the increased awareness of what water blocks are and how their use in tiled fields can eliminate water waste, leaching of expensive fertilizers and reduce pollution that has caused the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, the opportunities that wind generated power can provide for farming operations as well as agro tourism for hunters from across the nation, to exploring how manure digesters can be used to produce electricity creating a growing interest in the topic due to the large quantity of manure that is produced in the school district and finally the districts patrons have learned research based non-biased information on carbon credits FFA Chapter members are using their creative skills and personal initiative to develop a habitat for pheasants from all recycled materials in order to increase the depleted pheasant populations.
The chapter members have created community impact through the in-depth knowledge developed and the presentations that they have developed through Ag demonstrations, public speaking events, land judging contests, and test plot field days they have educated members of our community on how the wise use of conservation techniques can save our valuable resources and have motivated many members of the community to adopt a wide variety of conservation techniques that have helped the operations increase their bottom line profitability as well as conserving our precious natural resources.
The Wisner Pilger FFA chapter sincerely appreciates the entire community for their support of all of their activities including: attending parent’s night to help with speech and demonstration practice; digging holes to practice land judging, providing the land and inputs including seed, fertilizer, composted organic matter, planting and harvesting equipment for the test plots; attending test plot field days; and encouragement to continue to develop knowledge in new Agricultural technology. The continued support of the Louis and Abby Faye Dinklage Foundation helps to underwrite the expenses of Chapter members competing in district, state and nationals contests. FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
Distirct Land Judging: In addition to excitement of the conservation award our chapter has been busy with many other educational activities. A big day for our chapter as members competed in District Land Judging which was held near North Bend. Only the top 150 contestants in the contest receive ribbons and individual rankings. Zach Johnson earned 352 points out of 400 possible points for second place individual honors in the contest earning a purple ribbon. Dixon Godbersen was awarded a purple ribbon for his third place finish with 340 points. Prudy Biermann won seventh place honors and a purple ribbon with 325 points. Colin Johnson finished in 15th place with 304 points earning a purple ribbon.
Qualifying for the State Land Judging Contest which was held near Wahoo the first week in November was the team of Dixon Godbersen, Nick Marx, Nathan Vesely and Zach Johnson. They were the first place team in the district contest and received purple team ribbons. Each FFA Chapter may take one team to the State Contest. Other teams that will represent the district in the state contest are: Tekamah-Herman, North Bend, Howells and Pender. Wisner Pilger FFA was honored to have two teams place in the top ten teams in the area contest with 83 teams competing.
National Convention: “I Believe” was the theme for the 84th National FFA Convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Indiana Convention Center, Conseco Field House and the Lucas Oil Stadium, October 19-22, 2011. Nine members of the Wisner Pilger FFA Chapter participated in the Convention along with over 56,000 members and advisors. National FFA Convention is the largest annual student gathering in the country. Attending National Convention from the Wisner Pilger Chapter were: Nathan Vesley, Caitlin Bak, Katrina Eisenbraun, Nick Marx, Emilee Peterson, Jarett Sindelar, Latham Fullner, Sarah Schweers, and Zach Johnson and Mark Schroeder Chapter Advisor. To meet their Convention schedule and ACT testing schedule this year the group flew to and from Indianapolis. Adding to the excitement of the trip was the fact that their first flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems and they flew through Newark, New Jersey, a state where many of the members had been to before, to get to Indianapolis.
District FFA Leadership Contests: Wisner Pilger FFA Chapter was named co-champions in the District FFA Contest Sweepstakes competition for large schools in District III. They share this coveted honor with the West Point Beemer Chapter. Each chapter is awarded points for participating in each of the contests and additional points are awarded based on how their members rank in their contest to determine who wins the Sweepstakes trophy.
Makenzie Kalkowski and Erica Lewis dominated the Cooperative Speaking Contest. The each prepared and presented a five to seven minutes speech on how cooperatives function and the role they play in our economy. Makenzie was awarded coveted first purple along with a trophy and the right to represent District III at the State FFA Convention. Her topic was “Cooperatives: The Answer for Our Fore-Fathers, An Answer for the Future of Nebraska”. She also prepared a power point presentation to support her speech. The judges were impressed with her topic, noting it was new and interesting. Erica Lewis earned the second purple in the contest winning the right to also represent District III in the state contest. Erica prepared for this competition in less than five days developing her speech entitled “Cooperatives: Their Role and Effect on Our Economy”. During the speaking portions of the contest each contestant is asked to answer questions from the judges for approximately ten minutes to test their knowledge of their depth of knowledge related to their topic.
Emilee Peterson and Jasmine Kepler competed in the Extemporaneous contest where they draw a topic and then they were given 30 minutes to prepared and present a five minute speech on a current Agricultural issue. Following their presentation they must also answer questions from the judges. Emilee was awarded the coveted first purple along with a trophy and the right to represent District III at the State FFA Convention. Jasmine won a red ribbon.
Wisner Pilger captured Reserve Champion honors in the Ag Demonstration competition. “Planting the Seeds of Success” is the title of the Ag Demonstration developed by the senior members of the Wisner Pilger FFA Chapter. Latham Fullner, Nick Marx, Dixon Godbersen, and Nathan Vesley spent considerable time this fall researching and developing their presentation on testing and repairing seed meters for planters. During their demonstration they documented the importance of planting accuracy, shared amounts lost with miss placed seeds and gave hints on how to improve efficiency with planting equipment you currently own. The team was awarded a purple ribbon for their long hours of early morning practice. They will represent District III in the State FFA Ag Demonstration Contest in early April, 2012.
“Don’t Get Bugged by Foodborne Illness” is the title of the demonstration developed by the junior members of the FFA Chapter. Members of the team were: Andrew Brahmer, Cody Callies, Emma Heermann, and Jarett Sindelar with Prudence Biermann, and Nic Polenske serving as the video technicians for the presentation. They learned about food borne illness –the causes, symptoms and how to prevent it throughout the food preparation cycle. They also shared how to clean, separate, cook and chill in order to keep food safe. They have practiced every morning before school for three weeks learning details of food safety and perfecting their speaking skills. They received the second blue ribbon in the contest for their efforts.
Wisner Pilger was represented by Callie Albers in the extremely competitive Senior Public Speaking Contest. Callie’s topic was on “Food Verse Fuel: Has the Debate Grown Cold?” She worked for weeks before the contest to prepare for the 6 to 8 minute speech competition. Callie was awarded the second purple and the right to represent District III at the State FFA Convention. Erica Styskal also prepared to compete in the District Senior Public Speaking Contest.
The state contest will be held at Pershing Auditorium on March 29, 2012 during the State FFA Convention.
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