By Ethan Giebel
The Stars Over Wisconsin awards recognize FFA members who are receiving their State FFA Degree and have conducted exemplary Supervised Agricultural Experience programs. Many students apply for the honor but only the top 10 individuals are recognized in each area. Individuals are selected as the first place recipients in the areas of Star Farmer, Star in Agricultural Placement, Star in Agribusiness and Star in Agriscience.
Ashley Zimmerman of the Spencer FFA Chapter was named Wisconsin's 2015 Star Farmer. The Star Farmer award goes to a student that owns and operates an enterprise in production agriculture. Her parents are Mark and Cheryl Zimmerman; Mark is also her FFA advisor. Zimmerman's diversified livestock project began with visits to her grandparent's farms. She has grown the scope of her enterprise over time to include Simmental beef cattle, Berkshire hogs and market lambs. Zimmerman has enjoyed much success in the show ring with her projects. This fall, Zimmerman will attend University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she will pursue a degree in agricultural education. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she hopes to continue onto graduate school.
Ryan Schmitt of the Juda FFA Chapter was recognized as the 2015 Wisconsin Star in Agricultural Placement. The award is for students who work at an agriculturally related business. Schmitt's parents are Julie and Steven Schmitt. His advisor is Ralph Johnson. With a focus on agricultural mechanics, Schmitt has grown his skills through hands on experience at his home as well as his place of work, Johnson Tractor. One of Schmitt's greatest accomplishments thus far, has been repairing a lawn mower after a more experienced mechanic could not resolve the issue. Schmitt will attend the UW-Platteville, where he will study mechanical engineering.
Alex Costello of the Campbellsport FFA Chapter was honored as the 2015 Wisconsin Star in Agribusiness. Students who have taken on the role of owning and operating a business are eligible to receive this honor. His parents are Tari and Greg Costello and his advisor is Kirk Kramp. Costello owns and operates Al's Chicks and Farm Fresh Eggs. What started out as a small poultry project with 40 turkeys has taken off into an enterprise with approximately 500 birds. Costello works diligently to market the eggs and meat from his birds locally. This fall, Costello will attend UW-Platteville to earn a degree in animal science.
Carlie O'Donnell of the Big Foot FFA Chapter is the 2015 Wisconsin Star in Agriscience. Students who are eligible for the award develop their own science experience, conduct research and evaluate results using scientific data and technology. Her parents are Laurie and Sean O'Donnell. Her advisors are Lisa Konkel, Rick Henningfeld and Jeanne Case. O'Donnell worked for three years in order to research the effects of varying vermiculture (earthworm) materials. Upon graduation, O'Donnell will attend college to major in law and society.
Also named at the State FFA Convention was the National Chapter Award recipient. The Waupun FFA Chapter received the honor based on their student, chapter, and community development story.
Giebel lives in Baraboo.