Students shine in Stars Over Wisconsin

Colleen Kottke Associate Editor
Now Media Group


The stars shown brightly in the Exhibition Hall during the Wisconsin FFA Convention as the FFA members competed for the right to stand atop the podium in the Stars Over Wisconsin contest.

During the week the Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) programs of the State FFA Star finalists were on display in the lobby of the Exhibition Hall, detailing the tremendous amount of time and effort that finalists put into their projects.

On Wednesday, June 15, the finalists for the State Star Farmer, Star in Agribusiness, Star in Agricultural Placement and Star in Agriscience gathered on stage to learn which of them would receive the top place and cash prize.

State Star Farmer

Caleb Hamm of the Waupaca FFA emerged from a pool of outstanding competitors to win the State Star Farmer award.

'Winning this means the world to me,' Hamm said. 'It's been a goal ever since I stepped foot into my first FFA event.'

Hamm was recognized for outstanding achievement in his SAE and active participation in FFA.

The 18-year-old lives on a 10-acre farmette with his parents and five siblings. Ever since he can remember, he has been involved with all facets of the farm's livestock.

His Diversified Livestock SAE consists of a small flock of Suffolk Sheep, market hogs, poultry and dairy cattle. Celeb's grandfather hired him to work on his dairy farm, which led him to getting his first dairy heifers and bull calves as a gift. He constructed his very own milking system to enable him to milk his first fresh heifer twice a day once she calved.

His lambing experience began when Caleb's mother purchased two orphan lambs. He now has five ewes and a ram. He purchased a Duroc sow from his uncle and has farrowed four litters from her. Hamm also cares for the poultry on the farm, where he consults with his local feed mill for the proper ration mix for each animal and has seen an increase in his rate of gain and profitability.

Hamm credits his mother for motivating him to achieve his dream of obtaining State Star Farmer.

'My mom finished as runner-up in 95 and she always wanted to see me do better than her, he said.

Hamm is currently employed at Wilstar Dairy and he will be counting on his younger siblings to help take are of his livestock when he leaves for college this fall to obtain a degree in Dairy Science at UW Madison.

Brock Pelton of Reedsburg was runner-up while Nicole Welke, Osseo-Fairchild placed third, Katherine Larson, Viroqua placed fourth and Parker Massie, Barron placed fifth.

State Star in Agribusiness

Michael Geissinger wants to be known for running one of the most pristine maple syrup operation in the state of Wisconsin.

The Stratford FFA member is well on his way to making that dream a reality. Today the college sophomore runs more than 750 taps in maple trees on his property and his neighbor's for his business Geissinger Maple Products LLC.

'I became interested in the business when I was in eighth grade with the help of a family friend who served as a role model and mentory,' Geissinger said. 'Even though I filed the documents last summer to start my own business, I still go to him for support.'

Geissinger was named the winner of the Star Agribusiness Award that recognizes students who have taken an active role in owning and operating their own business.

Through starting his enterprise, Geissinger has developed a strong work ethic, managerial skills and construction knowledge. His responsibilities include investing in new equipment, corresponding with local maple syrup businesses, collecting sap and cooking the final product.

He recently invested in an evaporator system and built a sugar shack to help him increase his sales. He distributes his syrup as far as California, Texas and Nebraska.

Geissinger attended the AgDiscovery Camp in Ames, IA, where he was involved with hands-on experiments at the USDA lab and was exposed to resources available at Iowa State University. This led him to choose Iowa State as his future college.

'My plan is to keep the business going while I'm away at college with the people that I have already trained,' Geissinger said. 'And if Mother Nature cooperates, I'll always be back in the spring when the sap flows.'

The runner-up in the category was Jessica Wendt, Stoughton and Eric Wuthrich, Amherst.

State Star in Agricultural Placement

Trent Dado was just four when his family moved to their farmstead in 2000. By the time the Amery FFA member was in middle school, he was totally immersed in the calving operation.

Over time Dado continued to hone his skills and take on more responsibilities including working with the cows on the family's 450-Registered Holstein operation and overseeing the nutrient management of the farm's 1,000-plus acre spread.

By the time he graduated from high school, Dado was working in the capacity of assistant herd manager, helping to make management decisions with his parents to improve the productivity of the herd.

The honor of Star in Agricultural Placement appears to be a natural fit for Dado who is pursuing a degree in Animal Science at the University of Minnesota. After graduating from college and spending time out in the industry, Dado says its possible that he may return home and farm.

'It's a pretty questionable time in the dairy industry right now with milk at $14 cwt. It's hard to make money at those margins but we're always looking to improve,' Dada said.

Dado said he was surprised to win Star in Agricultural Placement honor.

'FFA is an amazing organization and everyone in it is dedicated to their SAE. I think the others deserved it too, but I was glad to earn the honor,' Dado said.

Finishing in second place in the category was Ben Holzmann, Plymouth; Josh Anderson, Wisconsin Dells, third; Nick Leystra, Randolph Cambria-Friesland, fourth; and Samuel Peetz, Sauk Prairie, fifth.

State Star in Agriscience

STATE WINNER: Faith Carpenter, Big Foot

Faith Carpenter sees herself working in a laboratory someday, finding solutions for those working in the ag industry.

Carpenter was named the State Star in Agriscience, besting her competitors, runner-up Connor Huffman of Pecatonica and Anthony Gordon of New Auburn.

'At first I didn't think it was going to be me because both of my competitors were equally deserving,' Carpenter said.

This fall Carpenter plans to head to Madison Area Technical College where she will pursue a degree biotechnology. The Bigfoot FFA member says she is comfortable doing research and said the discipline has forced her to think outside of the box.

'I went into my projects thinking this was what I was going to accomplish and then something would change every time. It really made me look at the bigger picture,' Carpenter said.

Over the past four years, Carpenter has selected unique projects for her research. Her fields of study included nutritional supplements for chicken feed, plant science using hydroponic tomatoes, animal bedding waste and compost, and most recently, the effects of sunscreen on coral reproduction.

Carpenter has also developed agricultural curriculum for all ages of youth. She has put together grant requests to obtain funds for equipment and supplies in order to continue her agricultural research.

Faith's work gave her the skills necessary to develop independently as a researcher and led her to the decision to attend Madison Area Technical College in the biotechnology lab technician program.

The Star in Agriscience Award recognizes the students who have created and developed their own science experience, conducted research and evaluated results using scientific data and technology.