Members of the Central Trail FFA attend the National FFA Convention & Expo

By Adeline Stone ’25 & Jamie Oesch ’24

At the 96th National FFA Convention & Expo there were over 70,000 FFA advisors, members, and guests in attendance over the four day course of November 1st through November 4th. The theme for the convention was Evolve. Attendees traveled from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands to Indianapolis, Indiana to show their belief in the National FFA Organization throughout the week. Fifteen members from the Central Trail FFA were in attendance at the convention this year, along with our advisor, Ms. Rosa Sondag. The group of members consisted of Hadley Bell, Jamie Oesch, Angel Keeney, Matthew Foltz, Adeline Stone, Jeffrey Richards, Anden Hall, Olivia Saylor, AJ Moore, Cortlynn Cook, Megan Young, Bianca Swartz, Zoey Hamilton, Leighanna Bundt, and Riley Benda. With great honor to our chapter, we had Anden Hall performing in the National FFA Chorus and Zoey Hamilton competing in the Creed Speaking over the course of convention. 

Although Anden Hall headed out on the 28th of October to begin his Chorus journey, the rest of the crew headed out to convention on Tuesday, October 31st. While Zoey, her family, and Ms. Sondag headed for Indianapolis, the rest of the attending members boarded the charter bus with 4 other attending chapters at Central Decatur Community School in Leon, Iowa around 8am. During the day of travel the charter bus stopped at John Deere in Davenport, Iowa to tour the facility. Over 1,000 employees call this work-place home as they manufacture agricultural, landscape, forestry equipment, and more. 

Wednesday morning rolled around and Zoey Hamilton was prepared for competition, Anden Hall was getting ready to perform, and the rest of the crew was ready to take in all of the convention! Although Zoey did not advance to the next round in competition, our chapter could not be more proud of her dedication to sharing her passion for agriculture through this leadership development event. While the other members were taking on convention they were shopping in the shopping mall, taking in all that the career fair had to offer, and meeting many new people to build connections. At the end of the day we attended the first general session where we got to watch Anden perform in the chorus, and an amazing guest speaker, Jaun Bendaña. Juan was focused on encouraging those in attendance to be strong-willed, go into everything with courage, become one with your fears, and not underestimate your abilities until you try something.

Thursday was another full day of convention for Central Trail. Starting the morning with leadership workshops, members were able to learn about influence, healthy mindsets, and believing in yourself. Once workshops were complete, members attended the career fair until it was time for the second general session. During the second general session the Central Trail FFA Chapter was recognized as a 1 star National Chapter which comes with great honor, thanks to Ari Nopoulos, River Hamaker, and Grant Boyd for completing the application process. Once our day at convention was done, the bus headed for Rascals Fun Zone for a night full of go-cart racing, arcade games, and mini golf.

Friday was started out by touring Elanco, which is the global leader in animal health and pharmaceuticals. Established in 1954, Elanco is now #1 in medicated feed, #2 in poultry, and #3 in cattle, with over 7000 employees and 20 manufacturing sites, as well as serving 90 different countries. The site that we toured in Clinton, Indiana is made up of over 600 acres, 450 employees, and 4 constant shifts to allow them to stay open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Once we were done at Elanco, we headed toward Beasley’s Orchard. This 250 acre, 3 generational farm houses 40,000 apple trees with 35 different varieties, 30 acres of pumpkins with 40,000 pie pumpkins, a 4 acre corn maze, an 11 acre strawberry patch, 2 acres of red raspberries, 8 acres of sunflowers, and 30 acres of sweet corn with 3 varieties. Our group got to experience apple cannons, educational hayrides, a hay mound, bounce pad, the store with home grown products, and so much more that this place has to offer. 

Rounding out our week on Saturday, we watched members of the Central Trail FFA, Osceola Big Chief FFA, Lamoni FFA, and Mount Ayr FFA receive their American FFA Degree. The recipients from the Central Trail FFA were Kaydee Swartz and Shira Alley. Once they walked across the stage our chapter congratulated them and headed for the bus to head home. Overall, this trip was an amazing opportunity for all in attendance. As all of our members are passionate about sharing their love for agriculture, they plan to bring back what they learned to help the rest of the chapter grow. This was an amazing experience made possible by the tremendous support of our community, faculty and staff at the school, administration, and most importantly, our amazing agricultural teacher, Ms. Rosa Sondag.