By Mike McClure

Sixteen Laurel middle school and high school ag students will represent the school in the national competition Oct. 25-29 in  Indianapolis, Ind. 

Two competitive teams, in dairy evaluation and horse evaluation, placed first in the state this summer and will move on to nationals. The students had to evaluate things such as body composition and muscling in the animals.

Shown (l to r) is the Laurel FFA’s horse evaluation team: Kaylie Figgs, Isabella Banks, Lisa Masly, and Haley Deiter. Submitted photo

In March, the school’s marketing team qualified for nationals after competing in a marketing plan competition. Students had to create a business plan for an existing business.

At the state fair, Laurel Middle School students participated in tractor driving, nursery and landscape and livestock evaluation competitions.

High school students had three large displays at the fair: horticulture, educational (STEM), and Delaware ag products. In all, Laurel students had over 100 exhibitions. They had produce entries and the school’s animal science program entered four rabbits which all placed in the state fair competition.

“We’re very excited with the trajectory of the program,” said Matthew Wood, who is in his fourth year at the school.

The district added an ag teacher and the program recently added animal science to go along with plant science. Students study a variety of things such as hydroponics, hydraponics, and raised beds.

Wood is hoping to bring in larger animals for a day to give students exposure to larger animals.

Laurel’s AG/FFA at school was very successful in the past before becoming less active for awhile.

“I feel like we’re on the upswing,” Wood said, adding that the program has received great support from the school and district’s administrators as well as the community. “I think it’s awesome that the community is able to see the importance of what we’re doing and they’re behind us.”

Wood hopes the school’s incoming and future students see opportunities through FFA and the success the program is having right now.

“Being able to see the success of others has been one of the best recruiting strategies in getting the students to buy in,” said Wood. 

He added that the ag program allows students to have an opportunity to have a hands on experience, get out of their chairs and learn through application.

The following are Laurel students who placed in ag/FFA competitions:

Laurel Middle FFA

• Nursery/Landscape CDE- Fifth Place Team

Team Members: Austin Harrold, Dawson Trippn, Logan Creppon, Gavin Toddin

 • Livestock CDE- Sixth Place Team

Team Members: Noah Miller, Colbie Boyce

 • Tractor Driving CDE- Third Place

Individual: Bryson Swank

 • Agriscience Fair, Animal Systems, Division II- First Place

Members: Trishyra Scott and  Leah Mitchell

Project title: “The Battle of Purina: Growth Rates of Golden Laced Wyandotte’s based on feed.”

 • Agriscience Fair, Food Products, Division I- First Place

Individual: Karsyn Pete

Project title: “Keeping it Clean: Fruit Washing Methods on Honey Crisp Apples.”

 • Agriscience Fair, Environmental/Natural Resources, Division II- First Place

Members: Zoe Gordy and Jasmine Hignutt

Project title: “Vermicomposting Benefits for Soil Health”

All three Agriscience Fair projects have been recognized as National Finalists, and all five students will be attending the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis in October.

 Laurel High FFA

• State Fair—Produce, Egg and Animal Entries

Students registered over 100 items for entry at the Delaware State Fair this year. Students placed in numerous produce and egg categories (potato, slicing tomato, eggplant, banana pepper, squash, yellow and white onion, watermelon, carrots, sweet corn, cantaloupe, medium brown eggs, and medium white eggs).

Students also placed first, second, third, and fifth in their respective rabbit breed classes

 • State Fair—Chapter Displays/Exhibits

Laurel students/chapter also entered three large exhibits/displays into the Delaware State Fair:

Delaware Ag Products Display

Educational Display (theme: STEM)

Horticulture Display (theme: Articulture)- Second Place

 • Proficiency Award (recognizes students’ supervised agricultural experience program/project)

Aidan Bell (Specialty Animal Production)- First in Delaware; Bronze nationally

Joey Nowotny (Diversified Ag Production)- First in Delaware; Bronze nationally

Briana Spradlin (Small Animal Care and Production)- First in Delaware; Bronze nationally

Brayden Hearn (Swine Production)- First in Delaware; Bronze nationally

Arely Arriaga-Gonzalez (Diversified Horticulture)- First in Delaware; Silver nationally

 • Dairy Evaluation CDE- First Place Team

Team Members: Kaitlyn Roy, Briana Spradlin, Jason Roy, Brandon Rife

 • Horse Evaluation CDE- First Place Team

Team Members: Lisa Masly,  Haley Deiter, Bella Banks, Kaylie Figgs

Both Dairy and Horse Evaluation teams have been recognized as state winners, and all eight students will go on to represent Delaware in competing at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis in October. They will be joined by the Marketing Plan team (Aidan Bell, Joey Nowotny, Kassidy Hearn), who previously qualified back in March. Sixteen students will attend this year between the MS and HS FFA programs.