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Ellsworth, Kan., FFA chapter brings home Triple Crown

The Ellsworth FFA chapter shines at the 93rd state FFA convention with the Triple Crown and other honors.

Jennifer M. Latzke

June 22, 2021

9 Slides
Ellsworth FFA President, Rachel Sebesta reads a Popping Corn book to a first-grade classroom.

The Kansas FFA Triple Crown honors a chapter that goes above and beyond in chapter activities throughout the year. And if there was ever a year that called for extra effort, it was 2020.

The Ellsworth FFA chapter, under the guidance of its advisor, Karl Dawn Hobbs Stover, put in a lot of extra effort and brought home its second Triple Crown award at the final session of the virtual 93rd Kansas FFA Convention, June 2-4.

Making the grade

The Triple Crown goes to the chapter in the state that scores the best in the state-wide National Chapter Award program. It combines rankings over three divisions: Building Communities, Growing Leaders and Strengthening Agriculture, according to the Kansas FFA Association. Ellsworth FFA conducted activities that promoted career success, leadership, citizenship, agricultural advocacy, chapter recruitment and more.

From a “Pink Out Week” that promoted cancer awareness across the community, to a new Safety Day for grades seven to 12 that taught students how to make better decisions when they aren’t accompanied by adults, the Ellsworth FFA took on the challenge of helping their community and fellow students.

The Ag Buddies program is one that stands out. Ellsworth FFA members partner with children in the kindergarten and first grade classes at Ellsworth Elementary School, Hobbs Stover says. Each month, members go to the classes and conduct agricultural literacy lessons with their younger buddies. They’ll read books like those in the “Kailey’s Adventures” series from Kansas Farm Bureau, and then have a hands-on lab that emphasizes the lessons in the book.

The chapter also conducts an Ag Day across all the grades in the district, and members work with teachers to create lessons that meet content standards for each grade. For example, Hobbs says, this year in the second grade level, the chapter members covered the life cycle of chickens. They taught the young students lessons in candling eggs, and how to handle baby chicks, and gave them an up-close encounter with a hen and rooster.

Pandemic goals

Hobbs Stover says the officer team set goals in fall of 2020 to make the best of the school year. Through shifting COVID-19 precautions and quarantines, the chapter grew stronger and more resilient, she says. The members wanted to keep to as many activities as possible, to bring a sense of normalcy to the school and community.

“The members made so many COVID prep plans,” she says. They had to think about every step of the activities they were proposing, and come up with plans for how students would be dressed and distance requirements. They needed to work with the school administration and the county health department to navigate changing situations.

“But, it was good for them to do that,” she says. “They had to work through all the steps. And keep up with the requirements of the county health department.” It provided them an ideal leadership opportunity, too, to present their plans to the school board and administration, she says.

Besides the Triple Crown, Ellsworth FFA members also brought home individual recognition from the state convention. Rachel Sebesta was elected state vice president and she received the state proficiency award in Agricultural Education. Nicole Haase was recognized as the State Star in Agricultural Placement. And Tucker Huseman received the state Proficiency Award in Beef Production-Placement.

The past year really showed chapter members’ work ethics and determination, Hobbs says. Events would get canceled or changed due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time. And some members had to navigate quarantines and their FFA activities.

“They would work so hard, and there wouldn’t be a guarantee of a competition or an award or an event,” Hobbs says. “Their resiliency is probably going to be one of the top things I’ll remember about this group for me as an ag teacher.”

Community and school

Hobbs says the Ellsworth community, and school board and administration, have been and continue to be the biggest supporters of the FFA chapter.

“I drive an hour to work every day, for the past nine years,” she says. “It’s because I get to work with the best kids, the best school and the best community in the state.” The administration, for example, approves activities because it wanted to see safe and supportive events where kids could interact during the pandemic. Community members, whether they’re FFA parents or not, step up to support the chapter’s activities, too, she says.

The chapter will receive $300 and the Garlow Memorial Trophy, sponsored by the Bill Garlow family in memory of past Kansas FFA officer Bob Garlow.

Runners-up for the Triple Crown award include: Riverton FFA, second place; Udall FFA, third place; Arkansas City FFA, fourth place; and Hays FFA, fifth place.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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