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The 93rd annual Nebraska State FFA Convention was a multimedia event.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

April 14, 2021

4 Min Read
FFA members of District 4 pose for an overhead group photo of the entire gathering before their ceremonies began
CELEBRATING CONVENTION: While the 93rd annual State FFA Convention was going on virtually, FFA District 4 held its own in-person “Not State Convention” in Norfolk, to celebrate the achievements, awards and ceremonies involved in the virtual State Convention, but to also honor in-person the achievements of the FFA members of the district. In this photo, FFA members of District 4 pose for an overhead group photo of the entire gathering before their ceremonies began. Curt Arens

The 93rd annual Nebraska State FFA Convention is history. Although the big statewide event this year was held virtually, it was a multimedia spectacle to behold, with videos from keynote speakers, chapter highlights, state officer retiring addresses, state degree honors and much more — all woven into video sessions that were livestreamed from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture Education website.

During the convention, 580 Nebraska FFA members received their state degrees. Chapters in Burwell, Gothenburg and St. Paul each had 12 state degree honorees, with several other chapters having 10 or 11.

In her retiring address, 2020-21 State FFA President Madison Stracke talked about how students often put on a mask and hide their true self and true feelings. “It always seems someone has it better than us,” she said. “We feel we must live up to a certain standard.”

She said that for her, that attitude changed in December 2015 when she learned that her mother had stage 4 cancer.

“I didn’t know how to handle my emotions,” Stracke said. “On the outside, I kept active in my activities. I kept my grades up. But on the inside, I was exhausted. I was swamped, getting little sleep and I was emotionally drained.

“Because my mother was fighting the battle of her life, I was worried that people would pity me. So, I put on my mask. I didn’t want anyone to have a reason to pity me. Externally, I wanted to assure everyone that I was perfectly fine. I didn’t want to show my vulnerability.”

Dealing with the emotional roller coaster of that experience was tough for Stracke, but she said that she was able to find a new normal through gratitude. “Time doesn’t heal, but for me, it was my faith that healed me. I became more grateful for the opportunities and privileges that were put in my life,” she said. “I became more grateful for the people in my life, because I knew they were put in my life for a reason.

“Removing that mask for me was not easy,” she admitted.

She advised Nebraska FFA members to start to find the good in life and discover their faith and be filled with gratitude. “Every day, we get the choice to be who we want to be,” she said. “Choose who you want to be and only become stronger. Today, choose to remove that mask and live a life of authenticity.”

New state officers

During the last session April 9, the new state FFA officer team for 2021-22 was announced. The new officers include President Elle Wanek, Aurora FFA; Secretary Emma Kuss, Seward FFA; Vice President Jaya Nelson, Rock County FFA; Vice President Gracie Schneider, Cozad FFA; Vice President Victoria Ference, Ord FFA; Vice President Bailey Robinson, York FFA; and Vice President Emily Martindale, Sandhills FFA.

Helping Hand Award

The Gary Scharf Helping Hand Award went to Rusty Bartlett, FFA advisor for the Pender FFA chapter, because of his leadership roles in several community development projects, his service to the local fireman’s banquet and in coaching youth sports.

In her nomination letter, fellow community member Wanda Kelly wrote, “Mr. Bartlett is a man of faith, a devoted family man, a military veteran, a trusted neighbor, a community volunteer and a good friend. He also has been and continues to be a tireless educator, a mentor to countless students, a respected coach and the kind of individual that parents and grandparents want their children to have the privilege of having in their life.”

FFA Advisors of the Year also were announced, with the two winning advisors nominated by their chapter FFA members. This year’s advisor honorees were Brian Johnson, Litchfield FFA, and AnnaLisa Estrela, Ashland-Greenwood FFA.

Stars over Nebraska

One of the last awards ceremonies of the convention was the Stars of Nebraska FFA. The winners were awarded in several categories. They included Morayah Cupp, Imperial FFA, in agribusiness; Molly Carraher, Riverside FFA, in agriscience; Reagan de Koning, Pawnee City FFA, in agricultural placement; and Nathan Scheer, St. Paul FFA, in agricultural production.

Honoring 25 years

Nebraska FFA members honored the state officer team from 1995-96 from 25 years ago. Those recognized from that team included President Kevin Sagehorn, Logan View FFA; Secretary Jed Christensen, Lakeview FFA; Vice President Heidi Hasselbalch, Genoa FFA; Vice President Jason Harb, Northwest FFA; Vice President Laurie Jacobs Sagehorn, Central FFA; Vice President Brent Kramer, Sutton FFA; and Vice President Christy Davis Hodges, Chappell FFA.

District 4

District 4 FFA chapters decided to celebrate and participate in the convention in a different way, by holding their own “Not State Convention” activities April 8-9 at the DeVent Center in Norfolk.

The activities included keynote addresses by local agriculture personalities, viewing the virtual convention activities, hearing panel discussions from area agribusinesses and enjoying evening entertainment as well.

The group also honored in-person proficiency award and state degree recipients from the district, along with holding a well-attended career fair for the students.

View the archived virtual sessions from State FFA Convention and awards ceremonies at

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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