Grace Schumacher

: Plymouth High School graduate Grace Schumacher was named a National Agriscience Winner at the National FFA Convention & Expo.

Erica Helmer

Plymouth High School graduate Erica Helmer was named a National Proficiency Winner.

Morgan and Anna Kitzerow

Morgan Kitzerow, left, and her sister Anna, right, presented a project at the National FFA Agriscience Fair that was researched by Morgan along with Brooke Toutloff.

PHS students win at FFA Nationals

Posted November 21, 2016

The Plymouth High School FFA chapter brought home two national awards, a Silver Ranking and five American Degrees from the recent National FFA Convention & Expo.

Grace Schumacher, who graduated in June, is one of 24 National Agriscience Winners. She won the Division 2 Animal Systems category with her project, “The Effect of Stocking Density on Weight, Movement and Bone Anatomy of Broiler Chickens.”

Erica Helmer, who also graduated in June, is one of 47 National Proficiency Winners, taking first in the Dairy Production-Placement Category.

Agriscience Fair

The National FFA Agriscience Fair is a competition for FFA members who are interested in the science and technology of agriculture. To qualify, students must be in grades seven through 12, conduct a scientific research project pertaining to the agriculture and food science industries and present their findings to a panel of judges with a display and report.

Through her research, Grace discovered that broiler chickens raised in 2 square feet of space showed higher levels of movement and increased tibia bone density and cortical bone width than birds raised in the standard 1-square-foot area.

“It’s exciting, and I’m extremely honored,” said Grace, who is majoring in biology and is on a pre-veterinarian track at Lakeland University. Someday, she’d like to be a large-animal vet, and her dream job is working in an equine hospital.

A second PHS agriscience project also advanced to the National Convention, where it earned a Silver Rating. Morgan Kitzerow and Brooke Toutloff studied “Effects of Dibutyl Phthalate on Grass Growth” by testing different concentrations to see where grass growth would be considered poor. Brooke could not attend the national convention, so Anna Kitzerow went in her place.

National Proficiency Winner

Proficiency awards recognize members who excelled as agricultural entrepreneurs, employees or volunteers while they gained hands-on career experience. Applications are judged on responsibilities, skills and knowledge gained while working at their place of employment. The top four finalists then go through a 15-minute interview process conducted by eight industry leaders from around the United States.

Erica – and her brother Andy, who was Dairy Production-Placement National Winner in 2014 – are part of the seventh generation to work on the family farm, made up of 165 head of registered Holstein dairy cattle, 70 milking cows, 15 dry cows, 40 replacement heifers, and 40 young stock. In addition to milking and caring for the cows, Erica shows the dairy cattle through 4-H. She has grown to learn about genetics used to improve the herd and milk productivity.

“We really focus on genetics using embryo transfer to build really good cow families,” she said in a  radio interview. She plans to go to veterinary school and specialize in embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization.

American Degrees

Five members of the PHS chapter earned their American FFA Degrees: Makayla Klumpyan, Addy Miller, Vicki Payne, Rebekah Schalk and Hannah Larson. Less than 1 percent of all FFA members nationwide – 3,780 this year – achieve this level of recognition.

To be eligible for the American FFA Degree, members must have earned and productively invested $10,000 through a supervised agricultural experience program in which they start, own or hold a professional position in an existing agricultural enterprise. Recipients must also complete 50 hours community service and demonstrate outstanding leadership abilities and civic involvement. Each receives a gold American FFA Degree key, certificate and matted frame after being recognized on stage at the national convention.

Thanks to Lakeland University for sharing information for this article!

Learn more:
Listen to a radio interview with Erica Helmer.