RC-L FFA’er named national finalist
ROCKWELL CITY – A backyard garden grew into a flourishing business opportunity for Brent Sexton in this central Calhoun County community who was named a national finalist in the Diversified Crop Production – Entrepreneurship Proficiency award program at the 2010 national FFA convention in Indianapolis in October.
“The proficiency awards reflect your ability to take the initiative to start a project and follow it through, in addition to turning a profit,” said Sexton, 19, a former president of the Rockwell City-Lytton FFA chapter who is now a freshman at Iowa State University, where he is majoring in animal science.
Sexton, who received a plaque and $500, along with a trip to Costa Rica, began his produce business in junior high school. Along with his older brother, Brian Sexton, he started increasing the family’s vegetable production so it could compete in the horticulture categories at the Iowa State Fair.
Brent Sexton also began raising various cultivars of the numerous vegetables he grew on land that he rented from his father, Keith Sexton. His operation expanded to include a sixth of an acre of asparagus, 1.5 aces of sweet corn and another acre of pumpkins, tomatoes, radishes, kohlrabi, cucumbers, onions, turnips, beans, peas, peppers, squash and more.
“I needed an outlet for all these vegetables, so I started selling some of them at the local farmers market in Rockwell City,” said Brent Sexton, who later expanded his business to the farmers markets in Manson and Pocahontas, as well.
While the garden was labor-intensive at certain times of the year, Sexton said he found ways to keep the work load as manageable as possible, including mulching the garden carefully to help control weeds.
“You really have to be diligent, though,” he said, “because you can’t just plant a garden and then leave it. You need to keep an eye on pests and pay attention to watering, because things can go downhill pretty quickly if you don’t stay on top of it.”
Building on success
Sexton, who was named a premiere horticulture exhibitor numerous times at the Iowa State Fair, also kept track of which vegetables grew well, as well as the ones that generated the most demand at the farmers markets. Big sellers included sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, winter squash, summer squash and pumpkins.
The farmers markets allowed Sexton, a former district FFA officer, to refine the ag sales skills he had developed by selling fruit for the local FFA chapter’s annual fundraiser.
An avid competitor, Sexton also parlayed these experiences into various FFA state contests, such as the ag sales proficiency award, which he won during his sophomore year of high school. In 2009, he was named the runner-up at the state level for the diversified crop production proficiency award. In the spring of 2010 he became a state winner in this category, which allowed him to become one of the four finalists at the national level this fall. His project entry reflected not only his vegetable business, but three acres of sweet sorghum that he raised for seed.
“Brent was one of those kids who wanted to make a difference right from the start when he joined FFA during his freshman year of high school,” said Brian Lantz, Rockwell City-Lytton’s FFA adviser. “He’s a sharp individual who always wants to do better, and he took his FFA experience to the max.”
Learning life skills
Sexton is now an active member of many organizations at ISU, including the Block and Bridle Club, the VEISHEA parade committee, Alpha Gamma Rho, the Freshman Council and the President’s Leadership Class. “Since many of the people in these organizations at ISU also have an FFA background, we know parliamentary procedure and how to conduct meetings, which allows us to keep things moving and cover a lot of ground.
“FFA is a great program, because you learn useful, valuable skills that will help you the rest of your life.”
Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at email@example.com
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