Two Hernando High School students took first place in the statewide Future Farmers of America Agriscience Fair this year.
Colson Cannon, a junior at Hernando High, brought back the State Star Green Hand in diversified agriculture, and Delaney Ahrens the State Star in agricultural science.
In awarding first place, three judges came out to Cannon's family farm, he said, and evaluated his work in the field.
"We had to fill out an application and explain what we did on an everyday basis," Cannon said. "They came here, and we actually had to show them what we did, not just on paper."
The Florida FFA Association is a premier youth leadership organization, with nearly 17,000 middle and high school student members, and has more than 300 local FFA chapters across the state.
"On the agricultural science side, we've had six actual stars from our Brooksville Senior FFA chapter," said Ahrens' father, 2009 Hernando County Teacher of the Year in Agriscience Rick Ahrens. "The state finalists of the last two years have come from our chapter."
In the Chapter Co-operative Contest, this year marks the 10th year in a row Brooksville Senior FFA has been named state winner, according to Rick Ahrens, and the 11th year in a row as Florida's Finest Chapter.
"I think we call that a dynasty," Rick Ahrens said. "The kids do all the work. I just facilitate."
FFA members participate in nearly 50 leadership and career development events each year, according to the organization.
The Florida FFA Agricultural Proficiency Awards program recognizes outstanding student achievement in establishing new business, working for an existing company, performing agriscience research or gaining hands-on career experience.
"In the (Hernando High School) agriscience program, they learn this stuff in the classroom, then apply it to the real world," Rick Ahrens said Wednesday on nearly 160 acres at Cannon's family farm, where students raise livestock and trees for sale. "They never say, 'Well, I'll never use that again.'"
Cannon's first-place win in diversified agriculture marks the first State Star Green Hand in Hernando High's history, Rick Ahrens said.
"What Colson did, there were about 40 applicants from around the state, one from each chapter," he said. "And then they picked the one."
The leadership conference serves as an award structure for FFA members' agricultural experience, which is mandatory for all FFA members, according to the organization.
It is designed to develop specialized skills in more than 30 categories that they can apply to future farming careers.
"Delaney Ahrens realized that when raising any animal, the contributing factor is money," writes FFA media specialist Kevin Kent regarding the Feeder Swine Proficiency Award, which Delaney Ahrens was recognized for in June. "Ahrens purchased her show pig at 60 pounds and sold it at 285 pounds. Her animal gained 225 pounds in the 129 days that she had the animal."