By Sarah Klingenstein
May 1, 2021

“I’m so proud of these kids,” said Tonya St. John, FFA teacher at Patagonia Union High School. “Not only did they excel at State this spring, they did so in areas that were very new to them not long ago.”

FFA is an “intracurricular activity”, meaning the Club activities go along with high school for-credit courses. There are seven courses offered at PUHS, and many students enroll in FFA all four years of their careers. Our local FFA teams took first place in the Dairy Management and Range Management competitions, shining in the rigorous written, oral and performance tasks. St. John said that, in the livestock categories, for example, students must understand animal husbandry, feed rationing, laws and regulations, and breed characteristics. 

Range Management team member Lalo Aquilar said one part of the written test required knowing approximately 50 range plants. He and fellow team member, Dylan Jacob agreed, “There was a lot of study. We really had to work, because we were responsible to our teammates to learn it all.” Aguilar achieved the highest score in the state on the written test as well. Jacob received highest ranking in the competition.

In our geographic area, it seems fitting that our local kids might excel at Range Management. But Dairy Management? Another first place showing at State. As team member Julian Vasquez described it, “We are not known for dairy cattle here, so we had to travel to Willcox to get hands-on knowledge for the competition.” Vasquez also scored highest in the State on the written portion of the dairy competition. 

According to St. John, these two teams are now qualified for Nationals, though the Range Management competition has been cancelled, due to COVID, and the Dairy competition is still up in the air. St. John hopes the kids are able to travel to compete in Indianapolis in October, saying,  “the experience of those kids who have gone to Nationals in the past has been incredibly valuable, with the kids taking advantage of the chance to network for future career  and educational opportunities.”  

Jacob said that leadership is a big part of FFA. “In the FFA Projects class this year, we took on woodworking. We learned by building, and also by teaching the freshmen students about tool use and care, and how to sand, measure, cut, and assemble wood.”

Hannah Young, who took first place on the state Job Interviewing test, said, “FFA has brought me out of my shell over my four years of involvement. I’ve been a chapter officer three of those years.”

Her twin sister Brianna Young, FFA chapter President, has participated in many areas, including agricultural issues, horse judging, and livestock evaluation. She is a member of this year’s Dairy Cattle Evaluation team. She credits FFA with developing her communication and public speaking skills. She plans to begin study at the University of Arizona School of Agriculture and Life Science next year.

According to their teacher, about three quarters of this year’s graduating seniors are considering Ag-related careers. She cited agricultural business, veterinary science, and equine chiropractics as examples.  

St. John grew up on a dairy farm in Missouri and was very active in FFA. After serving as a chapter, then state officer, and competing on multiple winning teams, she knew that she wanted to teach young people about agriculture. “I love especially teaching the life skills aspects of FFA that I was able to benefit from. And the ag industry is so vast and broad; there’s a place for everyone.”