SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Finalists for the Star in Agribusiness
honor will be introduced during the Illinois FFA State Convention at the Prairie
Capital Convention Center in Springfield during the Thursday afternoon session.
The top FFA members in the state included the following
The District 1 Star in Agribusiness started his FFA project
by baling hay for a neighbor. During his second year, Alex Dambman baled 946
bales with his custom baling business.
“At this point, I realized that I could make this a
successful business and started to market the bales that were produced to other
customers in other states,” he said. “I also started setting prices for my bales
depending on the type.”
Advised by Cynthia Feltmeyer, Dambman bumped his total
number of bales to 1,530 by baling for a farmer who raised several hundred acres
Through his project, the son of Curt and Shelly Dambman
learned about repairing and maintenance of his round baler and tractor.
The Eastland FFA member plans to enroll at Western Illinois
University and major in agribusiness. His career goals include returning home to
take over his dad’s farm equipment business.
Somonauk FFA member Melanie Bennett has a beef placement
project where she works at a local farm. She also has established her own
business with an embroidery machine and graphic print machine.
During the second year of her project, she purchased another
machine of each type. The District 2 Star in Agribusiness expanded her business
to a shop outside of the home.
“I have added more inventory and a bigger work space for me
to fill orders and get them done in a more productive manner,” Bennett said. “I
started out relying on the other partner of the business to operate it and have
grown to operate and do more than I could have ever imagined.”
The high school senior has become a better leader through
her experiences with FFA.
“I was always looking up to the kids that were older than me
in the FFA because of their leadership skills,” she said. “Now I have gained
that opportunity to be a role model and leader to others.”
Her adviser is Toni Saso.
This fall, Bennett will attend the University of
Wisconsin-Platteville to study agriculture education and technology education
with a minor in crop and soil science. Her goals include working as an
She is the daughter of Todd and Patty Bennett.
Paul Nienhiser received encouragement from his parents to
start a mowing business for his FFA project. His business initially included
mowing a cemetery, church and two yards.
“I learned safety practices and techniques to use in later
years,” said the District 3 Star in Agribusiness
The Triopia FFA member increased the number of hours for his
“I did things from changing oil, sharpening blades, frequent
washing and other maintenance to billing customers,” he said.
In addition to leadership qualities, Nienhiser said he
learned communication skills and business management from his FFA activities. He
is advised by Blaine Hartwick.
Although the son of John and Bev Nienhiser has not selected
a college at this time, he plans to continue his education after high school and
pursue a career in agriculture.
The District 4 Star in Agribusiness started a bait business
in 2003, and his sales have increased steadily from year to year. After an
article was printed in a local newspaper, Colin Cole’s business and sales
“Sales improved so much that I couldn’t keep up with
demand,” the Cumberland FFA member said.
Advised by Charles Sappington, Cole tried a new product by
adding anise oil, which makes the bait smell like licorice.
“I am still doing product testing, and results are looking
good to try and market,” he said.
“I can not measure the knowledge I have gained in the past
years,” Cole said. “I plan on continuing with the FFA by getting a section
office so that I can continue to gain knowledge and meet new people.”
Cole plans to study at Lake Land College and enter the Ag
Power program. He also is interested in learning how to do taxidermy.
His parents are Daniel and Lisa Cole.
Marissa FFA member Matthew Reuss is involved in a turfgrass
management FFA project. The District 5 Star in Agribusiness mows lawns for
several individuals as well as a church.
In addition, he does weed trimming, sprays weeds and cleans
the yards of leaves in the fall.
This FFA project taught the star finalist organizational
“It is my job to make sure every lawn is taken care of,”
Reuss said. “I have to keep track of my spending and income, which is important
to do regularly.”
One of Reuss’ favorite aspects of being an FFA member is
talking to new people.
“The FFA has helped me become a more outgoing person,” said
Reuss, who is advised by Kim Portz.
After high school, Reuss plans to attend an university and
“With this degree, I hope to find a job in agriculture
developing chemicals for crops,” said the son of Brian and Laurie Reuss.