Homer sophomore attends state Future Farmers of America meet in Palmer

The event took place April 16-19

By Emilie Springer

Homer News

The Alaska Future Farmers of America held their 48th annual state convention, “Pioneering Potential,” in Palmer from April 16-19 at the Mat-Su College.

Homer High School sophomore Morgan Carlson-Kelly attended with the Ninilchik chapter. Homer doesn’t currently have a chapter.

Carlson-Kelly said there were approximately 150 students attending the event this year from Ninilchik to Fairbanks, including several Anchorage schools, Delta Junction, Glennallen and Kenai. Several of the schools were charter schools and one, Silent Springs in North Pole, is specifically an FFA agriculture education academy.

In past years, Homer and Kodiak had particularly large chapters of FFA. Homer’s was directed by Al Poindexter, who also established the Anchor Point Greenhouse in 1976, according to their FFA Facebook page.

Carlson-Kelly said that during the four-day event there were many workshops available for students. She is on the state nominating committee for the 2024-2025 school year FFA officers so she had some limits to attending some of the sessions because she was busy interviewing state officer candidates. Before the session’s start, the event begins with a networking pre-session for an opportunity to meet other attendees, according to Carlson-Kelly. “This is mostly games and quizzes just to get people excited about the week.”

There are also competitive events offered at the convention. These are separated into two categories: career development events and leadership development events. Examples of career development events offered in Palmer, according to the FFA agenda, include Environment and Natural Resources or Floriculture.

A leadership development event example is Prepared Public Speaking. Carlson-Kelly said a leadership development event that she participated in was Job Interviewing. She also said there was one available on parliamentary procedure and a group competition on Robert’s Rules of Order.

Workshop components of the convention are more like lectures or classes for the students. An example of one of these was “Behind the Scenes,” provided by the Peterson Farm Brothers and “Power of the Sun” by the Renewable Energy Alaska Project.

FFA also has six student members serving as national officers and president Amara Jackson from Michigan provided the keynote address. Jackson also provided a workshop on leadership, according to Carlson-Kelly.

Other activities included a tour of Anchorage’s Ulu Factory and the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery located near Ship Creek in Anchorage; she was able to go on both of those tours.

“Last year I went on a field trip to Alaska’s biggest potato farm; there are warehouses full of piles of potatoes all the way up to the ceiling. It was pretty awesome,” Carlson-Kelly said.

“At the fish hatchery we got to go on tours to see all of the fish. We could have just reached into the tanks to touch them, but that’s not allowed. The were tons of containers of fish. There was everything from tiny fry to fully grown salmon that the hatchery is going to release this summer. The fish are released all over the state. We got to see the fish that are going to be released at Johnson Lake. They have pump trucks that they put all the fish in and haul them in various places in the state,” she said.

The WJH Hatchery site also describes the fish production and release locations: “With over 100 rearing tanks, there is space for production of more than 6 million sport fish each year. These fingerling (1” to 2”), smolt (3” to 5”) and catchable (7” to 12”) fish are released throughout South Central Alaska from Cordova to Kodiak, Homer, Kenai, Seward, Anchorage, Mat/Su and Talkeetna.” More information is available on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.

There was also a dance provided on Thursday night with teachers who came to instruct in swing dancing and line dancing, Carlson-Kelly said.

“I love FFA because I love how involved they are, and not just with agriculture. It’s not like they’re pushing kids to have an animal interest or have a ranch or farm but you have your SAE, that’s like the project you’re working on all year and then you get proficiency awards at state conference,” Carlson-Kelly said. An SAE, according to the FFA website, is a Supervised Agricultural Experience.

“Our chapter supervised the petting zoo and pony rides at the Ninilchik Fair last year for my SAE. My component of it was for planning but someone else was responsible for providing the animals.”