Four members of the Natchitoches Central FFA Chapter have accomplished one of the most remarkable feats that any FFA member can attempt—they have earned the title of National Champions!
The Natchitoches Central FFA members Frank Lester, Thomas Dodd, Andrew Broadway, and Kaitlyn Cormane placed first overall at the National FFA Agronomy contest held at the 91st National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. The convention and expo was held Oct. 24-27. Their achievement is the result of a full year of training for this competition; the team practiced every day during school hours and three days a week after school dating back to last November.
The NCHS Agronomy team also practiced many days during the summer months and attended research field days hosted by the LSU AgCenter in order to learn more about modern crop production. Frank, Thomas, Andrew, and Kaitlyn are one of only 20 teams from Louisiana to ever place in the top four of a National FFA Contest and one of only seven teams from Natchitoches Parish to achieve such an honor. They are only the second team from Louisiana to ever win the National FFA Agronomy CDE, joining Natchitoches Central’s 2016 team in accomplishing this feat.
Frank Lester was 1st place individually, followed by teammates Thomas Dodd (2nd place individual), Andrew Broadway (4th place individual) and Kaitlyn Cormane (9th place individual). All four members finished in the top 9 out of 152 students competing from all across the nation. Such an achievement places them in the top 5% of all students that competed. For their efforts, each member earned a $1,000 scholarship from Bayer CropScience—the corporate sponsor of the National FFA Agronomy Career Development Event.
The students were honored on stage at the final session of the 91st National FFA Convention. Over 7,000 people were in attendance for this session and it was broadcast nationwide on RFD-TV. The students were fortunate enough to listen to President Donald Trump address the convention that afternoon—the first time in 27 years that a sitting US President has attended the convention!
Only state champion teams are allowed to compete in any event at the National FFA Convention. This year, 38 states sent teams in the Agronomy contest. There were 152 students who competed at the National FFA Agronomy contest this year. However, approximately 4,500 students nationwide competed in their state’s agronomy contest to try to qualify for nationals. Thousands more never advanced to the state level. There are only 24 competitions sponsored by the National FFA Organization. Winning a national championship places this team in elite company: only 88 FFA members out of 629,327 (or 0.0001%) members nationwide will ever achieve such success!
The accomplishments that NCHS FFA members have at the national level are even more impressive when you consider how much of a disadvantage they are at when preparing for the contest. The students from the Midwestern states that traditionally do well in the Agronomy competition are typically students that live on farms or whose parents are crop scouts, agronomists, plant pathologists, etc.
Many other states have professional agronomists come in and train their teams. The students at Natchitoches Central typically have no such advantage—they start with zero background knowledge about row crop agriculture and out work their competition to achieve success. Also, Natchitoches Central’s team had only their FFA advisors to train them whereas every other successful team in the national contest has a professional in the field of agronomy or a faculty member with no teaching responsibilities coaching the team. No group of high school students in the country learned more about agriculture or trained harder for this competition than Frank, Thomas, Andrew, and Kaitlyn did this year.
Students competing in the Agronomy contest must learn how to identify over 100 plant and seed samples, 85 pieces of equipment, 38 insects, and how to diagnose plant diseases. Students also must become proficient in grain grading, seed analysis, soil fertility recommendations, plant diagnostics, commodity evaluation, and must be able to answer any question about crop production on a written exam. The Agronomy contest is the most comprehensive agricultural competition offered by the National FFA Organization.
The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 629,367 student members as part of 7,757 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture.
The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at www.ffa.org, on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog, or contact Natchitoches Central FFA Advisors Aaron Beaubouef, Kayla Rachal, and Logan Duplessis at 318-352-2211 for more information.
Pictured above from left are: Mr. Aaron Beaubouef (NCHS FFA Advisor), Frank Lester, Kaitlyn Cormane, Thomas Dodd, Andrew Broadway, and Bayer representatives Kerry Overton and Malone Rosemond.
Other notes: This team won by 377 points over the second place team—the largest margin of victory ever recorded.
Each team member can score up to 1,000 points. Another 1,000 points are added in the team activity in which all four members work together to solve a problem. NCHS won the National FFA Agronomy CDE with a team total of 4,168.5 points out of 5,000.
Frank Lester set a new record for highest individual score with a 914 out of 1000 possible points.Each team member earned a $1,000 cash award for their performance. This award is sponsored by Bayer CropScience.