For the third time in a row, the AgriPower FFA Chapter from the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Community School District in southeast Iowa took home the honor of Supreme FFA Chapter from the Iowa State Fair. The award marks the chapter's 10th overall time receiving the award, which is sponsored by Wallaces Farmer and awarded each year at the state fair.
Calamus-Wheatland FFA was Iowa’s Supreme Chapter winner in 2016 and 2017. Prior to that, it was AgriPower for several years. In 2018, there was a three-way tie for this award, and AgriPower won the award again in 2019. No award was given in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To compete for the Supreme FFA Chapter Award, a chapter’s members enter the projects they’ve been working on in exhibits and competitions at the state fair. They are awarded points for entering and exhibiting, and more points for winning. The point total is cumulative for each chapter.
Significant chapter growth
Melissa Appel, AgriPower FFA Chapter advisor, notes that the chapter, which covers Mahaska, Monroe, Wapello, Davis and Keokuk counties, has grown significantly in the last several years.
"At Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, we have a very active ag department. In our FFA chapter, we had 169 students last year," Appel says. "We have members that live in town, members that live outside of town —and we're in a unique geographical location in multiple counties. We have a lot of very high-quality livestock producers, and students in our community are able to take advantage of that and raise their own livestock."
"This is my fifth year here, and every year we're adding new members," she adds. "A few years ago, we added middle school membership, so we have seventh and eighth graders that are taking advantage of the opportunity to take ag classes and learning more about that. At the same time, they're able to exhibit as FFA members with us, and that's probably where we've seen the highest amount of growth over the last few years."
Strong state fair presence
Whether it's horticulture, floriculture, photography, ag mechanics, showing livestock or any other exhibit, chapters earn points depending on how well a project places in the competition at the fair and the amount of time and effort put into it. The chapter with the highest point total wins.
"All of the different areas the students can exhibit in go toward the point system. We have students exhibiting in all of the categories: beef, sheep, pigs, horses, goats, chickens and rabbits. Our small-animal projects have increased in the last five years — so even the students that live in town or don't have a lot of acres, they can have rabbits or chickens, so they're able to do those projects," Appel says. "But we also do the static contests that are in the Ag Building. That includes floriculture and horticulture. Students can have a flower garden or bring produce from their garden, or use produce from our school garden. Farm crops is also a contest. In the FFA Building, there's ag mechanics, and we have a lot of students exhibit in photography as well."
Appel says the chapter will continue to increase its involvement in the state fair.
"One of the things we're looking forward to this fall is working with the Animal Learning Center at the Iowa State Fair," she says. "Our chapter is getting one of the sows with litters from the center. Not only will we be able to use it as a teaching tool in the classroom, but it will be an opportunity for our chapter to raise hogs and give back to our local food pantry that serves students in our district."
The Iowa State Fair is an example of where ag education shows FFA’s three-component model: classroom learning; individual projects; and then awards, recognition and leadership development. The supervised ag experience (SAE) projects that the students develop during the year are shown at the fair.