Local students excel
Discovery Star FFA Award in Sheep Breeding
Drake Slutz, a third generation sheep farmer from Sycamore, recently was named Discovery Star Farmer for Illinois. This top FFA award is unique in that it was given to this eighth grader and is the first in the history of the Sycamore FFA.
The Discovery program is designed for seventh and eighth grade students enrolled in an agriculture education class and the FFA organization. The 9-week class was “Introduction to Agriculture Science” instructed by Sycamore Ag Teacher Kara Poynter.
As part of the program, Drake kept a set of records detailing his breeding program for his nine Shropshire sheep among the family’s flock of nearly 100 sheep. The records are part of his Supervised Ag Experience (SAE).
Drake, 14, has been raising and showing sheep throughout his young life. He is especially interested in the reproduction and breeding cycles, using artificial insemination as well as natural breeding methods.
“I like seeing what my ewes produce,” said Drake. “It’s interesting to see the small lambs at birth grow to be adult sheep.”
By keeping FFA records, it helps him understand genetic traits, breeding costs, labor, feed, and other production factors. Drake shared his information with judges in interviews at the section, district, and state FFA competition.
“I was happy I won,” said Drake. “Winning meant I got to go to the State FFA Convention.”
At the State FFA Convention he was honored on stage with his mother and FFA advisers – his support team. Drake’s parents are Carol and Brad Slutz. FFA advisers and ag teachers are Kara Poynter, Christian Thurwanger and Courtney Wiedenmann.
“As an 8th grader, Drake has become so involved with FFA. He worked hard on his SAE and his interview skills are what put him at the top!” said Poynter.
Drake also won first in state with his Agriscience Fair project in animal systems. “Two wins, not one, but two state winning titles as an 8th grader is something to be so proud of. We are excited to watch Drake continue to grow and learn from his Agriscience project along with his SAE with his sheep,” stated Poynter.
Drake will compete at nationals with his AgriScience project.
This fall Drake will be a freshman at Sycamore High School. He plans to take ag classes and be involved in the FFA. Some day he hopes to become a veterinarian.
FFA Proficiency Award in Forest Management & Products
Cole Roach has been splitting and selling firewood for the last three years. His successful business won him tops in state in the FFA.
The Sycamore FFA member recently was honored with the Proficiency Award in Forest Management & Products at the Illinois FFA Convention.
“It felt good to win,” said Cole, “I like what I do and it was nice to be honored by the FFA.”
The 15-year-old entrepreneur kept a set of FFA record books for his Supervised Ag Experience (SAE) in Forest Management. He kept track of his inventory of mixed hardwoods, labor and machinery costs, and sales.
He discussed his business with judges at the section, district and state contests. Cole was chosen as the state FFA winner based on his books and interviews. Next, his books will be considered for national FFA competition.
“It has been fun to watch Cole’s SAE grow over the last few years,” said Sycamore Ag Teacher and FFA Adviser Kara Poynter. “At the farm it was fun to see the process he goes through from start to finish with his firewood. He is very organized and detailed which is what will make him competitive at the national level!” Sycamore FFA advisers assisted Cole with the proficiency award process – Kara Poynter, Christian Thurwanger and Courtney Weidenmann.
The impetus for starting a firewood business came from his grandpa’s tree service company. His grandpa would stockpile extra wood so Cole decided to split the wood and sell it.
The first year he sold 20 face cords. The next year 80 face cords. And last year he sold 220 face cords. Sales were based on word-of-mouth and Facebook posts with customers primarily in Sycamore and DeKalb.
“People have been so supportive of Cole and his business,” said his mother Kelsey. “He’s a farm kid through and through.”
Besides his firewood business, he helps his grandpa with his tree service and operates heavy machinery. He also works for a dairy farmer and raises sheep. For pleasure, he restores ‘70s Ford trucks.
Cole enjoys being in FFA and wearing his blue jacket. He follows in his family’s footsteps – for the
last 24 years the Roach family has held leadership roles in the Sycamore FFA. Cole’s father, Patrick, was a former chapter and section president. Cole will be a junior this fall and aspires to be a leader in FFA.
Tops in State
Thirteen students throughout DeKalb County earned their State FFA Degree, the highest level of membership attainable in the state. The FFA members were honored with the State Degree at the Illinois FFA Convention held last month.
The State Degree is awarded to FFA members who have demonstrated the highest level of commitment to the organization and made significant accomplishments in their Supervised Ag Experience (SAE).
Farm Bureau congratulates these students as well as local FFA Chapters and Advisers for their accomplishments. Local FFA students are also pictured.