Jacob Paul of Fox Lake, a 21-year-old entrepreneur, will head to the National FFA Convention next week having earned one of the nation's top honors in agriculture for successfully owning and operating an ag-based business.
Paul is one of four national finalists for the 2012 Star in Agribusiness awarded by the National FFA Organization. The Star in Agribusiness will be announced at the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo, which will be held Oct. 24-27 in Indianapolis.
Paul has worked on his family's farm, Paul Farms, since 2005, where he completed diversified crop and diversified crop/beef production Supervised Agricultural Experiences.
SAEs, required in FFA membership, are projects that students conceptualize with the help of their teachers and that involve them in owning and operating an ag-based business, getting an ag-based job or internship or planning and conducting an ag-related scientific experiment.
These learn-by-doing projects give FFA members invaluable experience as they progress through their educational careers, says National FFA.
Paul has completed 8543 hours of work in his SAEs over the course of seven years.
Paul owns and operates T&J Lawn Care, which was co-founded and co-owned by his brother, Paul, and his father in 2005. His biggest client is the town of Fox Lakes, which contracts with Paul's business for mowing town cemeteries, public lawns, parks, public boat landings, highway medians and side ditches.
In high school, Paul was a four-year FFA member, completing four years and 720 hours of agricultural education under ag educator and FFA chapter advisor Keith Gundlach. He received a State FFA Degree in 2009.
Today, in addition to working on the family farm and owning and operating T&J Lawn Care, Paul is taking classes at Madison Area Technical College with a career goal of being a partner in his family farm's operation.
He is the son on Dale Paul, a local farmer, and Laura Helmer, owner of Laurali Trucking.
Each year at the National FFA Convention and Expo, 16 national finalists - four in each category - vie for the organization's top awards: American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience.
These awards honor students who have developed outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through their SAE, demonstrated outstanding management skills, earned the American FFA Degree, and met other agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements.
During the convention, each finalist will be interviewed by a panel of judges, who will ultimately name the top candidate in each area.
The winner will be announced in an onstage ceremony and will receive a plaque and an award of $4,000. The runners-up will also receive a plaque and $2,000 each.
The American FFA Degree recognition programs, such as the American Star Awards, are co-sponsored by Alltech Inc.; Case IH; Elanco; Farm Credit; Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business; and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.