Ashton man earns American FFA degree
ASHTON, Iowa -- A budding farmer from rural Ashton will represent his state later this week at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind., as he has been honored with one of the highest achievements in the agricultural organization -- the ...
ASHTON, Iowa -- A budding farmer from rural Ashton will represent his state later this week at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind., as he has been honored with one of the highest achievements in the agricultural organization -- the American FFA degree.
Loren Luitjens, a 2006 graduate of Sibley-Ocheyedan High School, was named Iowa's Star American Farmer in August. The honor meant Luitjens would represent the state as a candidate for the American Star Farmer award. Each state may select one individual to vie for the American Star Farmer, however the field is narrowed to just one candidate per region before the National FFA Convention.
While Luitjens recently learned his records were not selected to move beyond the region, he will be recognized at the convention as an honoree and will be awarded his American FFA Degree. The award is given to those FFA members who have invested $10,000 or more in an agricultural enterprise, whether it's money earned through an ag-related job or made in production agriculture.
Since the Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA Chapter was chartered in 1936, just 12 other FFA members have gone on to earn their American FFA degree, according to chapter advisor Mike Earll. Luitjens will be the 13th. He's also following in the footsteps of his father and uncle, both of whom earned their American FFA degree after high school. Luitjens is the son of Les and Norma Luitjens.
Diversified in agriculture
During his four years in the Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA Chapter, Luitjens maintained records on Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs) in dairy, swine, feeder steer, sheep and crop production, in addition to his employment at Dykstra's Repair in Bigelow. The job qualified as employment in agri-business, and Luitjens worked there for one and a half years while attending Northwest Iowa Community College to study truck and diesel repair.
On each of those records, Luitjens had to keep track of every single expense, from feed to seed and supplies, as well as income earned and hours of labor he put into the projects. Keeping records through the FFA was nothing new for Luitjens, who grew up in the 4-H program in Osceola County.
Yet it was the FFA where Luitjens worked to build up his investment and put to use the knowledge he learned in the agriculture classroom.
He continues to raise feeder cattle and bulls from the Brown Swiss cow herd that is kept a half-mile down the road at his grandfather Shorty Luitjens' farm. In fact, one of the bulls he raised from the dairy herd won reserve grand champion at the Iowa State Fair in 2007.
Luitjens said he plans to continue on in the dairy business, as well as improve upon the swine herd he started as a freshman FFA member. The herd consists of a 20-sow farrow-to-finish operation, and his plan is to build up quality genetics to be able to market his stock as show pigs for 4-H and FFA members.
He also purchased 45 acres of farmland last year, and plans to continue building his future in production agriculture while at the same time working full-time as a truck repairman for Brad Dreessen in Sibley.
Luitjens will receive his American FFA Degree during a special ceremony Saturday at the National FFA Convention.