The four finalists for the FFA Star in Agriscience award will be introduced to the members attending the 86th Illinois Association FFA State Convention set for June 10-12. FFA members competing for this honor include (from left) Caseelynn Johnston, A-C Central Chapter; Jazmine Jefferson, Chicago Ag Science Chapter; Gregory Erwin, Freeburg Chapter; and Brandon Butcher, Taylorville Chapter.
The four finalists for the FFA Star in Agriscience award will be introduced to the members attending the 86th Illinois Association FFA State Convention set for June 10-12. FFA members competing for this honor include (from left) Caseelynn Johnston, A-C Central Chapter; Jazmine Jefferson, Chicago Ag Science Chapter; Gregory Erwin, Freeburg Chapter; and Brandon Butcher, Taylorville Chapter.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — During the Stars Over Illinois ceremony, four finalists for the Star Agriscience award will be introduced to those attending the Illinois Association FFA Convention.

The following FFA members have been selected as finalists after an extensive process of evaluating the students and their record books.

Jazmine Jefferson

District 2 Star in Agriscience Jazmine Jefferson chose agricultural mechanics for her first supervised agricultural experience project.

“I expected to be learning how to operate agricultural machinery, but I spent much of my time out in our school’s field,” the Chicago Ag Science FFA Chapter member said.

Advised by Sheila Fowler, Jefferson has been involved with processing work in the school’s food science lab. During an internship with PepsiCo Research and Development Center, the high school senior learned a lot about the food development process.

“With this experience, I learned that I wanted to be a food product developer,” said the daughter of Maurice Jefferson and Sherita Jones-Jefferson.

“Being that PepsiCo was my first-ever job interview, I learned how to have an effective job interview,” she said. “An effective job interview includes a brief explanation of your background, thoughtful answers, researched answers about company for which you are applying for and a great strategy to market yourself.”

Jefferson plans to attend Florida A&M University, and her career goals include becoming a food product developer.

Caseelynn Johnston

For her first FFA project, the District 3 Star in Agriscience worked with eggs in an incubator.

“I placed 120 eggs in an upright incubator and tested which shelf had the greatest success,” Caseelynn Johnston said.

The A-C Central FFA member also completed an experiment on four different groups of six chickens to test which brand of chicken starter feed would yield the highest weight gain. She continued to study chickens with her third project.

“I decided to test the effects of Trans-Resveratrol on three different groups of 10 chickens to decipher its effect on weight and behavior,” said Johnston, who is advised by Jennifer Smith.

“The most important skill that my SAE has taught me is persistence,” the high school senior said. “Regardless of the path I choose to take in life, persistence is an extremely important talent to possess.”

This fall, Johnston will study at Lincoln Land Community College, and she plans to be involved with the livestock judging team. Her goals include transferring to the University of Illinois to complete a degree in agricultural communications with a focus on advertising.

The daughter of Kerry Johnson and Cindy Cagwin-Johnston would like to work for a livestock publication.

Brandon Butcher

Brandon Butcher raises Berkshire hogs for breeding stock, show pigs and market hogs. The majority of his sales are at state and national shows.

“Last year, I farrowed 24 litters and produced 254 head,” the District 4 Star in Agriscience said. “I plan to continue to increase my SAE by adding sows to my herd and increasing my pig quality.”

Currently, Butcher’s herd includes 15 sows. His goals also include attending more shows this year throughout the state.

“I also hope to increase my skill level by participating in more judging contests and swine skillathons,” said the son of Shane and Shelly Butcher.

The FFA member has worked on numerous community service projects. He has served as the greenhand president, junior president and chapter president for the Taylorville FFA Chapter, as well as the Section 16 vice president.

His advisers are Sue Schafer, Monte Elvidge and Stephanie Ruppert.

“I plan to attend the University of Illinois and major in animal science with a minor in ag business,” the high school senior said. “I plan to stay involved in the Berkshire swine industry and raising livestock.”

Gregory Erwin

Freeburg FFA member Gregory Erwin completed several agriscience projects including research that focused on peach bud development.

“I learned the difference in live and dead peach buds and how they vary by variety of peach,” the high school senior said.

Advised by Tom Range, Erwin studied the difference in production of tomato varieties. The star finalist also evaluated the effectiveness of different repellents towards deer after being applied to apple trees.

“Throughout my SAE, I have learned that the area of agriscience is very important to the field of agriculture,” Erwin noted. “Not only can agriscience help with new breakthroughs, but it can also help us to increase accuracy and production in other aspects of life.”

Erwin plans to enroll at Southwestern Illinois College in the fall and then transfer to Southern Illinois University to complete a degree in agricultural education.

“I will be working in the field of agricultural education on the high school level,” said the son of Patrick and Laura Erwin.