State FFA returns to Frost Arena


Zoey Schentzel

President Barry Dunn addresses State FFA Convention attendees while outgoing State FFA Treasurer Paige Lehrkamp, left, and outgoing State FFA Sentinel Trinity Peterson look on.

Chloe Risse, Reporter

Over 2,400 high school FFA students were on South Dakota State University’s campus this week to compete in 16 different contests at the 94th annual State FFA Convention, April 24-26.

The CDE (career development event) contests were held at different facilities across SDSU’s campus, including Dana J. Dykhouse, Animal Science Arena, the Student Union and many others. The FFA students came from long distances across the state to compete for a chance to advance to the National FFA convention, which will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana this upcoming fall.

Some of the contests the students competed in included Livestock Judging, Agriscience, Horse Judging, Floriculture, Vet Science and more. 

Many of the students came to the contests with one goal in mind: to qualify for the National Convention. Only the top team from each contest will qualify and proceed to compete at the national level.

“Our school has won state in the Agriculture Communication contest eight times in the last 10 years, so we want to win,” the West Central Agriculture Communications team said.  “We have been practicing for a long time.” 

Other students came to campus not to compete, but to earn their “State FFA degree.” The ceremony for the awarding of state degrees was held Monday night. Some of the requirements to get the State degree include having worked 25 hours of community service and demonstrating leadership abilities. This spring, 280 students received the degree.

Schools have prepped all spring for the State FFA convention. FFA advisers have been pushing their students to learn the skills needed to be successful in the contests. 

“They’re supposed to develop skills they can use in future careers and everything,” Morgan Ackerman, Parkston FFA adviser, said. “I want them to learn a lot of life lessons too, like how to be responsible and interact with people who are different than you. I want them to take pride in all of the stuff they have worked all year for.”

With substantial numbers of students dressed in blue corduroy jackets coming to campus, State Convention has been fittingly nicknamed “The Sea of Blue” and “The Blue Plague.” Many contestants stated that they enjoyed coming to SDSU’s campus for “the good food” and “Chick-fil-A.”

“I really enjoy the very nice facilities here,” Sierra Hilgenkamp from Wall High School said.

Burke High School, a new FFA chapter, competed at state convention for the first time in over 50 years. 

“When our last chapter disbanded, it was before girls could even join FFA, so all the girls in our FFA chapter right now are the first girls in Gregory County to be in an FFA chapter,” Avery Ziesler said.

While the high school students were competing, many SDSU students were helping run contests, move livestock, grade written exams and help contestants to the correct locations. There were volunteers from numerous campus clubs and organizations, along with help from the animal unit managers and employees. 

There are also six students currently attending SDSU who were this year’s outgoing State FFA officers. These students are: Tessa Erdmann (president), John Petersen (vice president), Hadley Stiefvater (secretary), Paige Lehrkamp (treasurer), Trinity Peterson (sentinel) and Alexis Hughes (reporter). Each member of this officer team has a specific and important role to make sure the convention runs smoothly and is enjoyable for contestants. 

The State FFA Convention has been held on SDSU’s Campus since 1928, except for 2020, when the convetion was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 convention was then held in Rapid City to ensure that the contestants would be able to compete without the fear of being canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions the campus had in place. The only other time the convention had been canceled was during World War II. 

Both contestants and volunteers have had a busy week bringing the state convention back to campus. With almost 100 years under its belt, SDSU has become the home for state convention and will hopefully continue to be the home of convention for 100 more years to come.