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Bugged Out: Red Rock Central grad earns National FFA Proficiency for work with insects

Vold looks at insects he’s collected under a microscope at French Agricultural Research. The work he performed was part of a Supervised Agricultural Experience through the FFA, which led to a national proficiency award.

LAMBERTON — When Skyler Vold was a young child, he would run around with a net and jars, trying to catch bugs for his 4-H project.

So when he was old enough, working at French Agricultural Research in Lamberton was natural.

At last year’s national FFA convention in Louisville, Ky., Vold received an agricultural proficiency award in the category of specialty animal production — entrepreneurship/placement.

“I was in shock,” Vold said. “Everybody put in a lot of work. It was really cool to be able to come out on top.”

Vold, a member of the Red Rock Central FFA, earned his proficiency award for his work at the agricultural research facility through the SAE program.

“It’s the Supervised Agricultural Experience,” Vold explained. “It’s just a program that every FFA member should be involved in. They can be large or small, they can be for a year or like mine, which was all five years. It’s any experience in agriculture that you can relate to a job.”

Vold’s project lasted many years and was done at an international company.

“For mine, I worked at French Agricultural Research where we raise crop pest insects, so like your corn root worm, your corn borer and all the basic crop pests,” he said. “We raise these insects for companies; they buy them from us to test their products on. Monsanto and Pioneer and all the big companies, they need to test their seeds and pesticides, so they use our insects to do that. We also use our insects for our own research purposes as well.

“It’s an international business,” Vold continued. “We ship our bugs all over the world right in small-town Lamberton.”

He first became interested in insects at a young age.

“It’s like a livestock farm, on a really small scale,” Vold explained. “They need their basics — their food, their water, a clean place to live. It’s just a really small scale. I’ve always been interested in insects. I had a 4-H bug collection when I was young. I always remember running around with a net and jars catching bugs.”

He credits his father, Tom, a biology teacher at RRC, as the person who first introduced him into the agricultural research center.

“My dad is a biology teacher during the school year, so he needed a summer job,” Vold said. “He started out there just working in the summer and when I was little, he started bringing me along. I was maybe 8 years old. I stayed there ever since. I worked more and more each summer, and I was employed full-time in the summer by the time I was in ninth grade.”

It was his father who first taught him about insects.

“He had an entomology project, too,” Vold said. “He started us when we were young, and it progressed from there.”

It progressed all the way to a proficiency award at the highest level.

“It was amazing being up on the stage,” Vold said. “I can’t even describe it. That was the first convention I’d been to, so it was a lot of fun to see how much involvement all across the nation there was. I was competing against one person from Georgia, one from Florida and one from California.”

To earn the award, Vold had to document all his work at the research center.

“The SAE program has a packet of information that you fill out,” he said. “It’s like just a large form that has everything that you do in your SAE. It asks you basic questions, and it also asks what specifically in your job did you do on a daily basis. It also has all the work hours, like you have to document everything you do, all the money that you earned throughout your entire time. It’s pretty much everything you could think of to relate to your job.”

While he’s been studying insects for most of his life, seeing it from a business side was a different perspective.

“(I learned) all the basics — just work ethic and everything you learn at a normal job — but also the more specialized agricultural-related things, like why these insects are important basically the biology of them,” Vold said. “I had to learn the life cycles of each of the eight species that we raised, and that’s no small task. Everything about the business in general was interesting to learn.”

Vold has been active in FFA since ninth grade.

“I was on the fish and wildlife team,” he said. “My senior year, I believe I placed second individually overall at the state competition and our team placed second, too. We missed going to the nationals by one question, which was too bad. But that’s the way it goes. I did that all throughout high school, and that was a lot of fun.”

Vold is currently a student at Bemidji State University. He hopes to have a career “with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the (Department of Natural Resources) or even a private environmental consulting firm.”

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