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FFA kickstarts students’ ag careers

By Staff | Nov 22, 2014

-Farm News photo by Karen Schwaller DEREK ACKERMAN walks through some calves that he custom feeds on his family’s farm just north of Ocheyedan. Custom feeding cattle and pigs were part of his Supervised Agricultural Experience project throughout his high school and college years, giving him a solid basis for earning his American FFA Degree.

By KAREN SCHWALLER

kschwaller@evertek.net

OCHEYEDAN – One former FFA’er is well into his career and another is heading that way, and both are former classmates who earned FFA’s highest award.

The pair of Sibley-Ocheyedan High School grads – Derek Ackerman, 22, and Dylan Brockshus, 20 – earned their American FFA Degrees, along with 12 of their classmates

A big part of the annual American FFA Degree recognition ceremony is dedicated to recognizing 16 FFA’ers from across the nation for outstanding development of their Supervised Agricultural Experience projects.

Those 16 awards are split into four separate criteria – Star Farmer (entrepreneurship); Star Ag Placement (working for someone else); Star Agri-Science (research); and Star Agribusiness (ownership of a sales and/or service operation).

Derek Ackerman, of Ocheyedan, is a 2014 American FFA Degree and National Star in Agribusiness Award recipient.

He was one of 3,765 applicants nationwide, and placed prestigiously high.

Ackerman said to apply for the Star Agribusiness Award he had to keep his SAE records going after his 2011 high school graduation.

He earned a degree in ag production from Minnesota West Community and Technical College in 2013.

Ackerman said all the record keeping for the American Degree and the National Star in Agribusiness Award was not much fun, but he said he found it useful that he could use his tax records for much of the application process.

He also counted the time he spent working on his parents’ farm over the years.

Ackerman, 22, custom feeds cattle and hogs, which served as his SAE, and began a seed sales business in 2012. He farms with his parents, Todd and Sue Ackerman, of Ocheyedan. He said he knows the honor it is to receive the American FFA Degree.

“With less than 1 percent getting the degree, there are a lot of members who never get it,” he said. “It’s such a huge honor.

“I did it for myself, and it was worth it.”

An FFA member all four years of high school, Ackerman served as chapter president during his senior year and said that without FFA he would never be able to speak in front of large groups of people.

Dylan Brockshus, 20, graduated from Sibley-Ocheyedan High School in 2013 and was the only one of the group who attended the ceremony at the National FFA Convention in Louisville.

He knew there were 140 applicants from Iowa who competed for the award, and to make it more special, he got to see his brother, Steven Brockshus, deliver his farewell address as he finished up his career in FFA at the national convention.

For Dylan Brockshus, it was a matter of finishing up something he started.

“It was awesome walking across that stage,” he said. “I have a strong passion for agriculture, and I wanted to end my FFA career with the highest degree.

“I got all the other degrees up until this point, so I thought, ‘Why not get this one?'”

Brockshus’ SAE project was working on his family’s dairy farm. He logged the hours he worked on the farm, kept his records updated and figured the dollar amount of the help he contributed to the operation.

He represents the fifth generation of Brockshus family members to work on that farm if he returns home to farm after college.

Getting the American Degree seals his desire to do – and be – his best, he said.

“It’s been worth it,” Brockshus said. “I get to work every day on the farm and hang out with my dad, my brothers, my uncles, my grandparents, whenever I go to work.

“It’s really cool.”

Brockshus was a state FFA officer last year, holding the office of Northwest vice president.

This year he opted not to go on with that officer position, focusing on other areas of personal development.

“I (worked on the American Degree) because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself and give back to an organization that gave me so much during my four years of high school,” he said.

He attends South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota, majoring in ag sciences and ag leadership.

He said there were many people behind him, pushing him to go as far as he could go in FFA including his parents, Jason and Shanise Brockshus; his peers; current Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA adviser Brian Gottlob: and Brockshus’ FFA adviser in school, Mike Earll.

He said service to others is the most important life skill he learned during his years in FFA.

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