St. James Area FFA celebrates positive year of fundraising and growth at 68th annual banquet

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

On Saturday night inside the Little Theater, the St. James Chapter of the Future Farmers of America held its 68th annual banquet, highlighting the chapter's achievements and accomplishments throughout the last year.

After presenting members with various degrees and awards, FFA President Jacob Runge presented his parents, Scott and Samantha, with the honorary FFA member plaque.

"It is always a pleasure to receive honorary members into the FFA," said Runge. "The purpose of this ceremony is to recognize the efforts of others made on our behalf. I am pleased to introduce this year’s honorary members."

"My parents are always willing to help out whenever the chapter needs it. They provide a truck for our annual corn drive, did the decorations for our banquet, hosted the officer team for supper during [the] retreat, and will help with the adopt-a-pig program. They also both serve on our advisory council and are huge promoters of our program. We can count on them to step in and help us whenever we need it."

Mark Bocock, representing Wyffels Hybrid Seeds, presented the first annual Wyffels Hybrid scholarships, each worth $300. One scholarship was awarded to Runge, and the other was awarded to FFA Vice President Tanner Olson.

Each year, the FFA holds fruit and magazine sales. This past year, the chapter sold a total of 1,046 items. Runge and younger sister, Keeley, were top sellers, selling 128 total items. A total of 128 items were sold in the magazine sale, and Carter Wolner sold the highest total, with 17.

In addition to the fruit and magazine sales, the annual corn drive is the largest fundraiser. 

"This event was probably our most successful event of the year," said Sentinel Cooper Olson "The weather, timing, and support all aligned for a great outcome."

The chapter raised a total of $4,200, almost doubling its total from last year. All of the proceeds went to area EMS and fire departments, as well as True Friends, a non-profit that provides camps and other resources for kids and adults with disabilities.

A total of $1,050 was donated to True Friends, and $450 each went to St. James Fire Department, Darfur Fire Department, Butterfield Fire Department, Odin Fire Department, Ormsby Fire Department, La Salle Fire Department, and St. James EMT.

Each year, the St. James Area FFA Chapter holds a crop show. This year, four individuals showed off 41 samples, which also almost doubled last year's total, and was the highest in the past six years.

"We didn't sacrifice quality for quantity, however, as every sample in our show will be very competitive at the county and state level," said Richard Spitzner. "There was no state fair crop show last year, but they did allow last year's samples to compete in a separate class at the state level... This year's crop show had three different champions in five classes."

The champion showman for the 2021 crop show was Austin Spitzner, who was the champion and reserve 10-ear, champion small grain, and reserve champion in hay as well as best in show for his oats. Spitzner earned 35 1/2 points for the crops that he showcased.

FFA members also took part in various career development events, including trap-shooting, and other evaluation teams. All of the events, outside of a trap-shooting meet, were held virtually. 

The trap-shooting team of Kollin Anderson, Dalton Braaten, Willie Curry, Mason Dannhoff, Teagan Erickson, Bryce Jensen, Koltin Johnson, Gage Jones, Trenton Kettner, Ethan Leimer, Cooper Olson, Tanner Olson, David Rathman, Kaid Sandbo, Austin Spitzner, Jack Westman, Max Westman and Carter Wolner all had success.

A team comprised of Braaten, Cooper and Tanner Olson, and Westman placed 2nd at the Springfield Virtual Invite. At the Mountain Lake In-Person Invite, Curry, Leimer, Spitzner, Rathman, and Anderson took first place, with Curry finishing first overall. Bryce Jensen finished second individually.

A team of Anderson, Westman, the Olson's, and Braaten finished eighth out of 58 teams at state. 

The soils team of Jarrett Durheim, Mayson Haler, and Runge placed seventh in the region and qualified for state.

The poultry team of Ethan Leimer and Kamden Schulte did not qualify for state. 

Alexis Brekken, Mykela Hanson, Briley Henderson, and Kayl Johnson placed second in the region and qualified for state in the best-informed greenhand.

Keeley Runge competed in the creed contest and placed second in the region and qualified for state.

The varsity fish and wildlife team of Cooper Olson, Tanner Olson, Austin Spitzner, and Jack Westman took first place in their region contest and qualified for state.

Tanner Olson was the individual winner, while Cooper Olson took third and Spitzner was tenth.

Brekken, Johnson, and Helling placed ninth at the region content in the horse evaluation but did not qualify for state

The small animal and vet science group of Barbara Craig, Hanson, and Helling got seventh place and also qualified for state.

Kaid Sandbo, Kyle Sperl, and Carter Wolner placed eighth in the region and qualified for state in meat evaluation.

Hanson, Levi Miest, Ryan Pierson, and Benton Sauer competed last week in dairy evaluation. Pierson placed third in our region, and Miest was eighth. The team placed eighth overall and did not qualify for state.

Runge received second place with his Diversified Ag Production Placement Proficiency Award, and his application has advanced to be judged at the state level.

This year's guest speaker was State FFA officer Anna Euerle, who urged FFA members to show up and to be confident and to not think negatively.

Degrees and awards:

Discovery Degree: Bryce Jensen, Ethan Leimer, Dylan Reid, Kaid Sandbo, Kyle Sperl, Ava Spitzner, Max Westman, and Carter Wolner

Greenhand Degree: Kollin Anderson, Dalton Braaten, Alexis Brekken, Willie Curry, Hayden Davis, Jerret Durheim, Bennet Flohrs, Jacob Friesen, Mykela Hanson, Taryn Helling, Kayl Johnson, Gage Jones, Trenton Kettner, Levi Miest, Ryan Pierson, Benton Sauer, and Austin Spitzner

Chapter Degree: Landon McGuire, Cooper Olson, and Jack Westman

Blue Academic Award for a term GPA of 3.0 to 3.49.

Middle School: Levi Johnson, Brody Solheid, Kaid Sandbo, Max Westman, and Briley Henderson

High School: Gage Jones, Mayson Haler, Jacob Runge, Koltin Johnson, Tanner Olson, and Landon McGuire

Gold Academic Award for a term GPA of 3.5 or above.

Middle School: Adisyn Aden, Alex Aden, Alek Anderson, Judson Brekke, Breyden Sodeman, Teagan Erickson, Finley Erickson-Selman, Ava Spitzner, Ethan Leimer, Dylan Reid, Keeley Runge, Kyle Sperl, and Neveah Trebesch

High School: Kollin Anderson, Dalton Braaten, Alexis Brekken, Jarrett Durheim, Bennett Flohrs, Jacob Friesen, Mykela Hanson, Taryn Helling, Kayl Johnson, Levi Miest, Ryan Pierson, Austin Spitzner, Cooper Olson, Jack Westman, Barbara Craig