The National FFA Organization has selected Matthew Ries, 21, of the Lomira FFA Chapter as one of four American Star in Agricultural Placement finalists for 2017.
The American Star awards represent the best of the best among thousands of American FFA Degree recipients. The award recognizes FFA members who have developed outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through the completion of a Supervised Agricultural Experience program.
A required activity in FFA, an SAE allows members to learn by doing. For their SAE program, members can own and operate an agricultural business, intern at an agricultural business, or conduct an agriculture-based scientific experiment and report the results.
Other requirements to achieve the Star award include demonstrating top management skills; completing key agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements; and earning an American FFA Degree, the organization’s highest level of student accomplishment. A panel of judges will interview finalists and select one winner for each award at the 90th National FFA Convention and Expo, Oct. 25-28, in Indianapolis.
All about hogs
“Growing up on my family’s second-generation farrow-to-finish hog farm sparked my interest in agriculture,” Ries says. “I showed my first two hogs at the county fair when I was in third grade. This really helped to spark my interest further into raising and showing hogs. Placing high in a class at the fair gave me a feeling of accomplishment, while placing lower gave me the motivation to work harder for next year.”
Ries’ father, Steve, and his uncle Al own Ries Farms in Lomira, where Ries is working toward ownership.
“On the farm we have 100 sows total, with 20 farrowing every four weeks and producing roughly 180 hogs per month,” Ries explains. “We also purchase 300 early-weaned hogs every four weeks, which allows us to raise about 5,700 hogs yearly. The unique thing about our farm is that we harvest all the hogs we raise on the farm.”
A state-inspected harvesting facility is located on the farm, where people can purchase high-quality, fresh pork. Ries Farms also runs 200 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat to sustain feed and nutrient management needs.
“I joined FFA as a freshman in high school because it was a family tradition, and I have a passion for agriculture,” Ries says. “Throughout my time in FFA, I served in leadership roles as a committee chair, chapter treasurer and then president.” His FFA advisor is Dan Robinson.
Ries was able to attend many leadership events and workshops to gain skills, including the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
“My favorite part of being a member has been the personal growth and career preparation experiences,” he says. “I’ve used many of the skills and experiences from FFA to continue to thrive in my personal and career goals moving forward.”
Ries says he is honored to be named a Star finalist. “I set this goal a few years back and was determined to achieve this through the work in my SAE. It is a great way for me to represent Lomira and the agriculture industry.”
Ries is no stranger to the national stage. He won the National FFA Proficiency Award in the area of Swine Production in 2015 and was a national finalist for the area of Agricultural Procession in 2014.
Ries is currently finishing his technical diploma as an ag equipment service technician from Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton.
“I felt that learning about the area of mechanics was what I needed most to successfully run our family farm,” Ries explains. “Having more knowledge and skills in the area of agricultural mechanics will allow me to service our own equipment, decrease downtime and increase profitability. My career goal is to take over the farm and continue to modernize our farm through buildings, equipment and technology in order to produce quality hogs and grains efficiently.”
Giebel lives in Baraboo.