The National FFA Organization has announced that Kaitlin Taylor of Oakland High School and Matthew Roberson of Eagleville School were each selected as national finalists for the National FFA Proficiency Award.
Both students represent one of only four people chosen to compete for this award at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis this fall.
The proficiency award program recognizes outstanding student achievement in agribusiness gained through establishment of a new business, working for an existing company or otherwise gaining hands-on career experience. Each proficiency award is one of 47 proficiency program areas that FFA members can participate in to develop valuable experience and leadership skills at the local, state and national levels.
National finalists are chosen through an extensive application process and then participate in committee interviews at the convention to determine the National Winner.
Taylor, a member of the Oakland FFA chapter, became eligible for the national award after winning the Tennessee State FFA competition in the area of Agriscience Research – Animal Systems, in Gatlinburg inMarch.
Likewise, Roberson, a member of the Eagleville FFA chapter, became eligible after winning the Tennessee FFA State competition in the area of Nursery Operations.
In recognition of being a finalist, each of the four finalists will receive a plaque and $500. The national winner will receive an additional $500 during a special ceremony at the National FFA Convention & Expo.
Taylor started her Supervised Agricultural Experience in 2015 when she began researching the effects of sericea lespedeza hay in reducing gastrointestinal parasites in goats compared to a mixed grass hay. She explored previously conducted studies regarding natural dewormers in goats and analyzed each study’s protocol before officially beginning her experiment in 2016 with her own goat operation.
Prior to beginning the four-week experiment trial, Taylor divided 14 goats into two groups: a test group that would be fed lespedeza hay and a control group that would be fed a mixed grass ration.
Taylor designed her own protocol for the experiment based on research she collected at the beginning of her project and the knowledge she gained from interviewing livestock specialists. Her experiment procedure required for a fecal sample to be taken from each goat and examined prior to the animal being fed the specified hay.
One of the many skills Taylor learned from her research project was how to collect fecal samples and conduct fecal egg tests. She performed fecal egg count tests by mixing goat feces with a solution to be analyzed under a microscope.
Taylor supported her hypothesis that adding sericea lespedeza hay into the diet of goats reduces gastrointestinal parasites in goats, and continues to use what she learned in her research project to improve her goat operation.
Roberson began his Supervised Agricultural Experience when he entered high school and enrolled in his first course, Agriscience, where he began working in the school’s horticulture program.
He assisted with various components of the growing operation from watering plants, to preparing soil, and to volunteer beyond the classroom as opportunities would arise.
He wanted to be able to give back to the program, while also learning as much as he could to develop his career skills.
Roberson learned how to plant everything in the school’s operation — seeds, chrysanthemums, vegetables and various bedding plants.
He assisted with design and layout of irrigation for the facilities. He constructed new growing frames for the greenhouse and repaired older ones. He would monitor plants for pests and diseases, assess nutrient needs and determine the application rates, and maintain water control and irrigation.
Roberson managed plant sales and helped monitor stock during the sale season.
He worked additional events to help advocate for agriculture with local youth and members of the community through his involvement in FFA leadership activities. Roberson continued to progress his career skills through employment in a local area nursery and is planning to pursue post-secondary education in the area of Horticulture.
The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 653,359 student members who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The organization is also supported by 344,239 alumni members in 2,051 alumni chapters throughout the U.S.