NEWARK, Ill. — Growing flowers for his FFA project was an easy decision for Ty Steffen.
“I have been around flowers ever since I can remember,” Steffen said. “I started working with flowers when I was in early grade school, so I knew where I was going to start my supervised agricultural experience.”
Steffen’s SAE includes growing potted mums, gladiolas and other cut flowers, which has resulted in the Newark FFA member being selected as one of four finalists for a FFA national proficiency award in the area of specialty crop production.
“At first I didn’t believe I was a national finalist,” said the son of Joe and Tracy Steffen. “It was something I was definitely not expecting.”
The winner of the national award will be presented during the 94th National FFA Convention and Expo, held Oct. 27-30 in Indianapolis.
Steffen’s garden covers about one acre.
“I also grow vegetables and I have about 1,200 potted mums that are all on a drip line,” said the junior in high school.
Flowers grown by Steffen are sold at local farmers markets.
“My main one is the Three French Hens market in Morris and I also do some in Oswego and a couple others,” he said.
In addition, the FFA member enters his flowers at county fairs and state fairs.
“I go to five to 10 shows a year and this year I started showing in other states including Minnesota,” said the Newark FFA member, who is advised by Joe Steffen.
“At Minnesota, I had the grand champion amateur, the grand champion miniature and I went on to win the reserve overall with a Gemini gladiola which is a pinkish-red flower with a dark center,” Steffen said. “Minnesota is one of the largest shows in the U.S.”
Last year, the FFA member started exhibiting his flowers internationally.
“I take a picture of my flower to enter,” Steffen said. “There are no premiums or entry fees. It’s all bragging rights if you win.”
Steffen enjoys showing his gladiolas at competitions.
“It is something special for me to see my work has paid off with the rewards at the shows,” he said.
Currently, the national finalist is serving his chapter as the second vice president. Steffen is involved with growing several crops with his chapter, including pumpkins, poinsettias and potted flowers in the spring.
“In normal years we’d have our haunted corn maze, but it is canceled this year due to the condition of the corn,” Steffen said.
“My favorite FFA activities include the Section 7 dodge ball competition and leadership training school,” he said. “It is always fun getting to know other kids from the section.”
In the future, Steffen said, he plans to pursue a career in horticulture.
For more information about the National FFA Convention and Expo, go to www.convention.ffa.org.