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Area teams go for gold at National FFA Convention

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Two southwest Minnesota FFA Chapters celebrated Top 10 placings in team competition during the National FFA Convention late last week in Indianapolis, Ind.

The Southwest Star Concept High School FFA Floriculture team garnered sixth place of 44 teams, earning a plaque for the school's agriculture classroom in Okabena, and golden medallions for each of the four team members -- Loretta Bartosh, Jennifer Jimenez, Arianna Salzwedel and Valoree Stevenson.

The successful finish was a bit of a surprise for the team and their coach, Jen Schoenfeld, mostly because they had to make a change to the four-member team just days prior to the trip.

Jimenez, an SSC junior, was asked on Oct. 14 to fill a vacancy on the team, and on Oct. 17 was on her way out of Okabena with half a dozen others en route to the National FFA Convention.

"At first I thought I could maybe do it," Jimenez said. "I just thought you'd have flower ID, and you were done."

That, however, was not the case.

The team arrived in Indianapolis last Tuesday, and completed its first round of the competition Wednesday evening with a 50-question multiple choice test. Then, on Thursday, they endured a nine-hour contest that included a 40-plant identification portion, a professional job interview, business scenario and team activity in which they made six different floral arrangements in 45 minutes.

"I just rolled with the punches," Jimenez said.

She and Salzwedel were both team fill-ins, although Salzwedel learned early this summer that she would accompany the floriculture team to nationals. They took the place of Kristi Lubben and Yoanna Fonseca, who attend college and opted not to travel to the national contest.

The SSC floriculture team earned the trip to nationals after winning first place in the Minnesota FFA Convention contest last spring in the Twin Cities.

Bartosh and Stevenson, who are also in their first year of college, were the only team members who served on that winning team who went on to nationals.

In Indianapolis, Bartosh earned 11th place individually, and Stevenson placed 39th. Salzwedel was right behind in 40th place individually, while Jimenez garnered 49th place. Each of them placed high enough to receive a gold rating.

"We were all shocked," said Salzwedel of the sixth-place finish, which was announced during an awards banquet Friday night.

SSC wasn't the only area school to be represented at the National FFA Convention, which wrapped up on Saturday. Jackson County Central's agronomy team earned 10th place of 32 teams. Team members included Matthew Schmit (20th place individually), Nolan Hohenstein (31st place), Kyle Christopher (51st place) and Zach Paulson (90th place).

The team was awarded a plaque, while Schmit and Hohenstein earned gold medallions individually, and Christopher and Paulson earned silver rankings.

JCC's ag sales team of Evan Koep, Zach Post, Holly Reiter and Brock Thaemlitz earned a silver emblem in team competition, and each member earned a silver ranking.

Fulda FFA's poultry evaluation team also earned a silver emblem. Team members included John Getting and Trevor Ruesch, (gold ratings individually); and Nathan Getting and Mallory Pagel (silver ratings individually).

Pipestone Area FFA garnered a gold emblem in team competition in the meats evaluation and technology Career Development Event. Team members Jaden Carlson and Taylor Homann earned gold ratings individually, while Andrew Berg and Jenny Vandenbosch garnered silver ratings.

American FFA Degrees were presented to Maddie Collin, graduate of Southwest Star Concept; and Jacob Fox, graduate of Sibley-Ocheyedan (Iowa) FFA. The American FFA Degree is the highest individual achievement available to members of the FFA.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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