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Bright futures ahead

Tennessee’s top youth development organizations gather at Tennessee 4-H Congress and Tennessee State FFA Convention to honor members and elect new off
Story by Allison Parker, photos by Allison Parker and Chris Villines 5/1/2018


Tennessee 4-H Congress, held March 18-20 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro, gathered more than 400 members, volunteers, and Extension staff. Several members had the chance to compete in contests including the Tennessee 4-H History Bowl hosted by 4-H alum and Emmy-winning senior meteorologist Lelan Statom of Nashville’s NewsChannel 5.
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It is no secret that the future of Tennessee agriculture is bright with the more than 168,000 4-Hers and 14,000 FFA members that stretch from Johnson City to Memphis. Members of both organizations made lasting memories and took part in exciting adventures at the 71st Annual Tennessee 4-H Congress and 90th Annual Tennessee State FFA Convention in March.

Tennessee 4-H Congress was held March 18-20 and the distinctive green 4-H sweaters were out and in full force at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro. The event’s theme was “Branching From Our Roots” and more than 400 members, volunteers, and Extension staff attended the three-day gathering. TFC is a proud sponsor of 4-H Congress.

The event is designed so that senior 9th and 10th grade 4-H members from each county may attend to help them develop a better understanding of citizenship, stimulate leadership experiences for 4-H’ers and leaders on a statewide basis, and help 4-H’ers develop a greater appreciation of the history and heritage of Tennessee. Participants took part in legislative visits and tours at the Tennessee State Capitol and Legislative Plaza in Nashville. Students sat in the seat of their elected representative or senator and held a mock session in the house and senate, which in return helped the 4-H’ers gain an appreciation for state government.

High school students of all grades also attended Congress as award winners in their leadership and citizenship project portfolio, public speaking, and Congress essay contest. Outside of competing in their respected contest area, these students also helped the 4-H performing arts troop put on the annual 4-H pageant dinner show and participated in community service.

Each year, the event is led by three Congress officers who were elected at the previous year’s Congress. Throughout the three days, students attended campaign rallies, gave speeches, and prepared for the election of new Congress officers. This year’s newly elected Congress officers included Chloe’ Ragland of Van Buren County, who will serve as the Speaker of the House; Claire Brooks of Warren County, Speaker of the Senate; and Katherine Ann Thierfelder of Madison County, Governor. These officers will have the opportunity to lead sessions in the state house and senate where 4-H members vote on bills, serve as 4-H ambassadors for the year, and experience many other leadership opportunities throughout the 2019 4-H Congress.

“Being elected Congress Governor was honestly one of the best experiences I have ever had in 4-H,” says Thierfelder. “When I moved to Jackson, I was given the opportunity to join 4-H, and it has opened the doors ever since to pursue my passions.”

The 90th Annual Tennessee State FFA Convention took place March 25-28 at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. With the theme “I Can. We Will,” 3,000 FFA members, advisors, alumni, and agribusiness partners gathered for the opportunity to learn valuable leadership and technical skills and celebrate the successes of the past year. The annual event celebrated chapter achievements and gave students the opportunity to compete and earn the spot to represent Tennessee at the National FFA Convention in October in Indianapolis, Ind.

Among highlights of this year’s conference was Co-op’s presentation of a check for $11,000, the proceeds from the FFA t-shirt program developed jointly between Tennessee Farmers Cooperative and the FFA Foundation. Local chapters were encouraged to sell the shirts, which featured the convention’s “I Can. We Will” theme, to earn additional means of funding for their activities.

TFC also sponsored awards at the convention for Diversified Agricultural Production, which went to Ryan Patrum from the Paris FFA Chapter, and for Diversified Livestock Production, which went to Murray Perkins of the Paris FFA Chapter.

In the prepared public speaking contest, sponsored by TFC, the state winner was John Ryan Scarlett of the Jefferson County FFA chapter, whose speech was on agriculture sustainability.

The Star in Agribusiness award, sponsored by TFC, went to Ben Young of the Coffee County FFA Chapter. Young’s project included a farrier service, which he currently operates with around 30 to 40 clients in Southern Middle Tennessee.

During the convention, a new slate of state officers was selected from a field of 24 candidates. Those wishing to serve as a state officer went through a rigorous interview process that consisted of a knowledge exam, a letter writing exercise, and individual and group interviews that evaluated the candidates’ leadership qualities and understanding of agricultural issues. The process was scored by a 12-member nominating committee, which was comprised of six FFA members (two from each region) and six adult members (agribusiness leaders, agriculture teachers, and an agriculture professor from the University of Tennessee at Martin). Bart Krisle, TFC’s Chief Executive Officer, served as one of the agribusiness representatives on this year’s nominating committee.

The newly elected officers for 2018-19 are: President Luke Love, Riverdale; Secretary Nick Carpenter, Cumberland County; West Tennessee Vice President Averi Cole, Covington; Middle Tennessee Vice President Makenzie Moorehead, Fayetteville City; East Tennessee Vice President Chloe Ford, David Crockett; Treasurer Tarrah Ivy, Scotts Hill; Reporter Anna Grace Brown, South Gibson County; and Sentinel Garrett Franklin, Clay County.

“When I heard my name, I was so completely shocked and ecstatic at the moment,” said Love. “I’m so excited to give back to the FFA community because we are made up of chapters all across the state, and I can’t wait to meet the over 14,000 members.”

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