by CHARLEIGH WOOD, Polk County FFA Federation President
School may have been out for the past three months, but that hasn’t stopped FFA events. From thousands of students gathering at the Caribe Royale in Orlando for the Florida FFA State Convention to more than 100 students visiting O’Leno State Park for a weeklong Florida FFA Forestry Camp, FFA members have been busy staying active in events bigger than what they have in their chapters at home. These students have had the chance to not only learn more about the FFA organization but also to meet new people outside of their own chapters that can help influence and shape who they become as a member and a person.
The 94th Florida FFA State Convention and Expo, held in June, was one for the books. Awards, competitions, guest speakers, energetic sessions, and workshops filled the week for those who had the opportunity to attend. With more than 25 Polk County FFA chapters in attendance, District Eight and Polk County were very well represented at the Convention. Polk County chapters took home top honors in several events, including:
- State FFA Agriscience Fair Team Competition: Division IV Social – Lindsey True and Wilhelmina Ulrich, Frostproof FFA
- Creed Speaking LDE – Clayton Keene, Lake Wales Sr FFA
- Ornamental Horticulture Demonstration CDE: Consumer Use – Cassidy Edwards and Wilhelmina Ulrich, Frostproof FFA
- Land Judging CDE – Madison Carlton, Ally Keim, Jody Witter and Charleigh Wood, George Jenkins Sr FFA
- Poultry Evaluation CDE: High Individual Middle School – Nathan Boyd, Frostproof Middle FFA
- Forestry CDE – Taija Santos, Ally Keim, Charleigh Wood and Madison Carlton, George Jenkins Sr FFA
Several Polk County members also were rewarded for their years of dedication and hard work within the FFA organization with the presentation of their State Degree, the highest degree that the State FFA Association can bestow on a member. Additionally, Auburndale Sr. FFA’s Mykaela Billingsley and Tessa Mullis were elected to serve as District VIII President and Secretary, respectively, for 2022-23.
In July, more than 100 FFA members from around the state gathered at O’Leno State Park in High Springs, Florida, for Forestry Training Camp, hosted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Florida Forest Service. This camp gave members an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in topics such as dendrology, forest cover types, compass and pacing area calculations, map reading, equipment identification, timber cruising, and more. For Polk County’s George Jenkins Sr. FFA State Champion Forestry Team, it also offered a chance to polish their skills before heading to the national contest in Indianapolis this fall. Each year, the camp recognizes the top campers following a skills assessment. This year’s Top Campers included five members of the George Jenkins chapter, with graduating senior Taija Santos, who took top honors at camp, Madison Carlton, Aiden Comisky, Jody Witter, and Charleigh Wood, as well as Joseph Shelton, from the Bartow Sr. FFA Chapter, and Ethan McKinnon, from the Auburndale FFA Chapter, all scoring in the top 12. As overall Top Camper, Santos earned a scholarship to the Forestry Program and the University of Florida.