Matthews is a member of the Shenandoah FFA Chapter, which is advised by Tammie Gadberry, Emily Burris and Steve Hickey.
Matthews, who currently is attending PurdueUniversity, answered questions about his proficiency and what it was like to win a National FFA Proficiency title.
Can you tell us a little bit about your proficiency and some of the responsibilities you have had?
My proficiency began when I was between my eighth grade and freshman years of schooling. It all started with 200 mums, which didn’t quite go so well, but me being as stubborn as I am, set out to learn and find a way to turn a bad situation into a positive one.
To do this, we first took the mums that did not sell and planted them at local nursing homes to help beautify the landscape. During my off-season, I spent hours reading up on how to better care for the mums, what varieties to grow and other valuable information. When the next season came around, I made sure to do everything by the book, and I was able to have a very successful year.
This has been a continual learning process for me, as I currently have grown my business to raise over 600 mums and 104 decorative cabbages and kale in the fall.
In addition to the fall plants, I also own a greenhouse, perform landscaping jobs, have a garden tilling business, mow turf grass for my family and own a custom hanging basket design service.
What went through your head when you realized you were the 2019 National FFA Entrepreneurship/Placement proficiency winner?
When I found out I had won, a lot rushed into my head, but the first thought that occurred was there was no way that they said my name, and that it must be a mistake.
This was my first thought, because it was such an honor to make top four in my proficiency division and I was going against so many outstanding programs, all with different setups.
However, I realized it was becoming true when my advisers, Tammie Gadberry and Emily Burris, gave me a nudge on the back to actually move forward.
How has your work experience with your proficiency, as well as your time as an FFA member prepared you for the future?
My future goals right now are to continue to grow my businesses, while I am attending PurdueUniversity, majoring in biochemistry and agriculture communications.
Upon graduation, I want to continue to run my businesses, while having a separate career working with the genetic modification of agricultural seeds.
If it wasn’t for my proficiency, I would not have ever chose to pursue a career with seeds and plants, as one of my other passions is livestock. I had originally planned to work with the livestock sector until I realized I had a green thumb and a passion for plants.
Being an FFA member has helped me to never be afraid of a challenge. When I first became an FFA members, I was a very shy kid, but through FFA I have learned to be outspoken and try new things which has helped me to make contacts in the field and go places I never thought would be possible, such as attending the Borlaug World Food Prize Dialogues representing Purdue University as a delegate.