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Pair of O’Brien FFA’ers earn top awards

By Staff | Nov 11, 2011

Colton Ebel, a 2011 South O’Brien High School graduate, works on his baler, which he purchased with his custom-baling profits.


Farm News staff writer

PAULLINA – A pair of 2011 South O’Brien High School graduates, along with three other members of the school’s FFA chapter, earned honors at the 2011 FFA Leadership Conference in Indianapolis, where 540,000 FFA members competed nationally.

“We had four members win their proficiency award categories at the state level,” said South O’Brien FFA adviser Eric Kumm. “These four were then sent on to the national level for evaluation, with all four earning a gold rating.

“We found out late this summer that two of the members had been chosen as finalists.” The chapter has had five national proficiency finalists in the past 11 years, Krumm said, “but this is the first year we have had two in one year.

Colton Barnes, a 2011 South O’Brien High School graduate, prepares saddle horses for his family’s rodeo business.

“This was also the first time we have had an overall winner nationally.”

Awards are based on an agricultural experience project. The members keep records of hours worked, expenses, income and inventory of their project. They must also document their work.

At the National FFA Conference, each finalist undergoes an interview before a panel of up to 10 judges.

Rodeo business

Colton Barnes received the National Champion Outdoor Recreation Proficiency Award.

“I have always dreamed that one day I could be a stock contractor like my dad and I am gradually working my way towards that goal,” Barnes said, who works for his family’s PRCA rodeo company.

“Rodeo has always been a big part of my life,” Barnes said.His grandfather, Bob Barnes, started Barnes PRCA rodeo back in 1950, which breeds and manages 300 bucking and 50 saddle horses, along with 150 bucking bulls and 38 cows. “We are only one of two companies that have had stock at every National Finals Rodeo.”

“Over the past four years, I have earned the responsibility of being in charge of the stripping chute and loading timed-event cattle. I have also obtained the job title of assistant arena director.

Since starting the project, Barnes has supervised a five-man crew, responsible for tearing down chutes.The rodeo business has led him to other unique experiences, he said.

“In June 2010, I had the opportunity to be in DreamWorks’ production of “Reel Steel,” that is scheduled to show in theaters this month.”

Baling hay business

Colton Ebel was a finalist in Forage Production Proficiency.Ebel said he started his project as a freshman when his dad was considering getting out of the custom baling business.

Ebel started renting six acres from his father, running the baling business himself. That has now grown to 34 acres, baling alfalfa and grass.

“My main motivation to begin my hay business was the fact that I have been around baling for as long as I can remember,” Ebel said. “As a kid, my favorite thing to do on the farm was to ride along with the baler and help where I could.”

He added the opportunity to make money and gain business experience were other factors in start a baling operation.

“After my first year of baling, I used my profits to purchase a round bale carrier,” Ebel said. “After my second year, I used my profits to purchase a Yamaha Grizzly ATV, which I use for scouting, and a Ford F-250, in order to haul loads of hay.

“After my third year, I purchased two 18-foot bale racks, a bale spear, a John Deere 336 baler and a hay rake.”

Ebel said his second overall goal was to produce high quality hay. “2010 was a tough year to put hay. However, I was able to put up all my hay without any rain on it.”

His third goal was to increase his customer base. “Because of my increased acreage, this goal was essential for me to complete. I was able to increase my customer base to 10 steady customers and three occasional customers,” he said.

Invaluable lessons

“The record keeping, interviews and numerous other experiences members have through their SAE and FFA involvement,” adviser Krumm said, “will be invaluable in any career they choose to pursue.

“I am looking forward to this coming year, because I think we have some members in high school who have some outstanding projects once again.”

The chapter also had three members compete in the National Agri-science Fair. Kellie Einck, took sixth overall and earned a gold rating in the environmental science category. Austin Rohrs earned a silver in zoology.

Kelly Puhrmann earned a silver award in engineering.

Contact Robyn Kruger at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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