By Sydney Snider, OCJ FFA reporter
Raising livestock, growing crops or working for an agribusiness are recognized areas agricultural education students are often involved with as a part of their supervised agricultural experience (SAE). Nationally, there are 47 proficiency award areas for students to be recognized for their efforts and earnings in different areas of agriculture.
The Ohio FFA Association has two proficiency award areas not recognized on the national level: organic agriculture and accounting. These areas interest students across the state and allow them to gain skills, knowledge and experience in two unique, yet vital, sectors of agriculture. Keep reading to learn more about two students who have developed passions for these Ohio-specific proficiency areas.
Grant DeBruin, a junior member of the Miami Trace FFA Chapter, helps on his family farm as a part of his organic agriculture SAE. DeBruin’s family has an organic pasture dairy farm located near Greenfield, Ohio.
“I complete nearly all of the jobs that are involved on the farm including feeding, bedding, raising young calves, milking, moving and treating milk cows,” said DeBruin, who also helps maintain the pasture and perform maintenance work on equipment.
DeBruin said he is always ready to take on other miscellaneous jobs on the farm, including chasing down the occasional escaped cow. In addition to his farm duties, DeBruin also has a booth at the Fayette County Farmer’s Market where he sells his family’s garden produce. DeBruin has gained valuable skills and knowledge through his organic agriculture SAE.
“My SAE has taught me the sciences of raising and milking cattle, keeping pastures edible and alive, keeping equipment in good condition and caring for the earth around me using conservation practices and good farm management,” said DeBruin.
As a 2019 state proficiency finalist, DeBruin said he is honored to be a part of raising awareness of the organic agriculture sector within Ohio. He hopes more students will develop an interest in the proficiency area, or at least grow a desire to learn more about organic agriculture.
“I suggest that someone interested in beginning an organic agriculture SAE begin keeping good records from the beginning of the project and be prepared to explain what organic is and means – for both animals and people,” DeBruin said.
According to Ridgemont FFA member, Mekenzie Joliff, the accounting proficiency area combines all of her SAE projects in order to evaluate her ability to use financial records to analyze and make financial stable decisions. The high school junior said this proficiency area has taught her the value of persistence and having a supportive network.
“Persistence is key, especially when I have several different aspects of economics and employment that I am accounting for to mitigate my risks,” said Joliff, who has SAE projects involving beef cattle, market hogs, farm work placement and a service-learning experience in her agricultural education classroom. Joliff is kept busy with these SAE areas and is thankful for those who support her.
“I have many people in the agricultural industry offer me support, knowledge and words of encouragement that have been important to my success in projects and life,” said Joliff. She said the networking skills she’s gained from the accounting proficiency area are transferable and will be useful throughout her life.
Joliff began her accounting records by creating a budget for all her SAE projects. She said this budget serves as a guide for decision-making and helps her plan for the opportunity of cash flow.
“I record expenses and incomes in the Agricultural Experience Tracker [AET], which is a personalized online FFA record book system for tracking my experiences. In addition to entrepreneurship records, I keep placement records on AET, which records the skill I have gained while working for other people,” Joliff said.
Like DeBruin, Joliff is a 2019 state proficiency finalist. She is elated to be recognized at the state level for her knowledge and ability to make financially sound investments.
“I have spent many hours evaluating expenses and determining how to invest my income. All of these aspects revolve around the need to understand finances and risk management and being a top four proficiency finalist is an experience that I have always dreamed about – especially in the accounting division,” said Joliff.
The Ohio FFA Association congratulates all state proficiency finalists. Winners will be announced during the second and third sessions of the 91st Ohio FFA State Convention held May 2-3, 2019.