Amy Loschen checks some of her pigs that are part of her Supervised Agricultural Experience project. The Tri-Point FFA member was selected the national winner for swine production — entrepreneurship during the 86th National FFA Convention, held in Louisville, Ky. She raises Duroc, Hampshire, Yorkshire and crossbred pigs that she shows and markets to other junior exhibitors.
Amy Loschen checks some of her pigs that are part of her Supervised Agricultural Experience project. The Tri-Point FFA member was selected the national winner for swine production — entrepreneurship during the 86th National FFA Convention, held in Louisville, Ky. She raises Duroc, Hampshire, Yorkshire and crossbred pigs that she shows and markets to other junior exhibitors.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 86th National FFA Convention will be an unforgettable experience for several Illinois FFA members.

Kira Eidson, a member of the Payson-Seymour FFA Chapter, won the National Creed Speaking Career Development event.

“It was incredibly exciting,” Eidson said about the moment that her name was announced as the winner.

“There’s no greater way to start off your FFA career,” said Mindy Bunselmeyer, associate executive director of the Illinois Association FFA. “To see the look on Kira’s face, she was on cloud nine, and that is really exciting.”

Now a sophomore in high school, Eidson has been preparing for the event since last year.

“All freshman FFA members are required to memorize and recite the creed,” said the daughter of Barry and Vicky Eidson.

Since she already had spent the time learning the creed, Eidson decided to entire the chapter creed speaking contest.

Eidson placed second in the chapter competition. However, since the top two contestants move onto the next level, she competed at the section level.

At the section level, she again placed second and went to the district contest as one of the top two. History repeated itself again when Eidson placed second in the contest for a third time at the district level.

“Dad kept telling me that as long as you’re in the race, keep trying until it’s over,” explained Eidson, whose father also is her FFA advisor. “I continued moving onto the next level, which fueled the fire.”

Eidson’s goal at the state contest was to place in the top three because those three students have the honor of caring the flags at the beginning of every session at the Illinois FFA Convention.

“I did a lot of practicing and studying, and that work paid off when I won the state contest,” she said.

“Carrying the American flag at state convention was awesome,” she added. “I’m standing there waiting to carry the flag while all the other FFA members are walking in and people started to recognize me, so it was a really cool experience.”

At all the levels prior to the national competition, in addition to reciting the creed, the contest includes a question period, and the questions were pulled from a set of 30 questions.

“At the national contest they can ask you any question in the realm of agriculture and the FFA,” Eidson explained. “I did a lot more research and studying to prepare for the questions.”

Eidson’s Supervised Agricultural Experience project is agricultural communications, and she currently serves as her chapter reporter and the section secretary.

“I’m hoping to continue to compete in public speaking contests,” she said. “This year, I’m going to try prepared public speaking.”

Amy Loschen started her swine project with two gilts, and over the years she continued to expand her project that earned her the national winner honor in the area of swine production — entrepreneurship.

Although Loschen was hoping to be named the national winner at the convention, she still was surprised when her name was announced.

“That is one of those feelings you’ll never forget,” the Tri-Point FFA member said.

Loschen raises Duroc, Hampshire, Yorkshire and crossbred pigs.

“Tyler and I decided to have a swine operation as a partnership,” said the FFA member about her brother. “I started by owning 25 percent of the swine herd, and now I own 50 percent.”

In addition to showing her pigs, Loschen also sells show pigs to other junior exhibitors.

“We retain quality females for replacements in our herd, and we try to maintain from 12 to 15 females,” said the daughter of Gary and Diana Loschen. “Those not sold as show pigs or kept as replacements are sold to Tyson on a yield and grade basis.”

Tyler Loschen also received a prestigious award at the National FFA Convention when he was named the American Star Farmer.

“I couldn’t be happier for Tyler,” his sister stressed. “For both of us to win these awards in the same year was really special for our family.”

“This is a great thing for our chapter, and these members have worked very hard for these awards,” said Diana Loschen, who in addition to being Tyler and Amy’s mom also is the FFA adviser for the Tri-Point chapter.

“This makes the higher awards in the FFA seem attainable to our younger members, and we can use those as building tools for students who may have goals of reaching certain levels and awards.”

Andrew Bowman, an Illinois FFA member who also received the American Star Farmer award, visited the Tri-Point FFA Chapter when Tyler Loschen was a high school sophomore.

“You never know the impact of certain things you do as a teacher until much later,” Loschen noted. “Even though Tyler is my own son, I had no idea the impact Andrew’s visit made on him until we were in the midst of interview practices for the American Star Farmer award and he started talking about Andrew Bowman.”

The Tri-Point FFA Chapter includes about 40 members, and Loschen has taught agriculture at the school for the past 27 years.

“We have less than 160 kids in our high school, so you don’t have to come from a big school to achieve these awards,” she stressed.

Amy Loschen currently is a freshman at Lincoln Land Community College, where she is working to complete her associate degree and she is a member of the livestock judging team.

“I plan to transfer to a university to major in agricultural education and hopefully become an ag teacher,” she said. “Growing up around agriculture and the FFA has led me that way.”

Two Illinois FFA members also were selected national finalists for proficiency awards, ranking them in the top four of the nation. Both from the Cisne FFA chapter, Lucretia Mills was a finalist in veterinary science and MiKayla Massie in turf grass management.

During the American FFA degree ceremonies, 93 Illinois FFA members received the highest degree awarded by the National FFA Organization.

“I am so proud of these kids. It’s a huge honor, so I was real excited for them,” Bunselmeyer said.

“When I started in this position in March, one of the first things I did was work with Mr. Dry on these American degree candidates,” the associate executive director recalled. “So I sat in on all their interviews and did all the final paperwork to send them off to national.”

Bunselmeyer was emotional as she heard each of the names of Illinois FFA members announced.

“This is my first class of Americans, and there are so many of those names and faces I won’t forget,” she stressed.