June 12, 2024

FFA members named Stars for exceptional projects

Star Farmer finalists

Bruce Gehrke raises pigs, cattle and laying hens for his FFA project that resulted in his District 1 Star Farmer honor.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Exceptional projects of FFA members from across the state will be highlighted during the 96th annual Illinois FFA State Convention, set for June 11-13.

Winners of the Star Farmer, Star in Agribusiness, Star in Agricultural Placement and Star in Agriscience will be announced during the Stars Over Illinois ceremony at the annual event held in the Bank of Springfield Center.

FFA members along with their parents and advisers will be honored during Session 4 starting at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Star Farmer Finalists

The following students have been selected district winners for the Star Farmer award after an extensive process of evaluating the students and their record books.

Bruce Gehrke

District: 1

Chapter: Byron

FFA Advisers: Eric Tryggestad and Maggie Folk

Parents: Jason and Kathi Gehrke

SAE Project: Bruce Gehrke operates a cow/calf operation, as well as raising market beef, market swine and laying hens. These projects are helping to prepare him for a future career in the agricultural industry and they represent his passion for agriculture.

Ellorie Drach cares for her Paint mare named River that she competes with at rodeos on the local, state and national levels.

Ellorie Drach

District: 2

Chapter: Prairie Central

FFA Advisers: Becky Freed, Tyson Stork, Kyle Miller and Kylie Miller

Parents: Tony and Joy Drach

SAE Project: Prairie Central FFA member Ellorie Drach has two FFA entrepreneurship projects. For her swine project, she purchases three to five barrows each spring and exhibits them at fairs during the summer. The Star finalist is responsible for feeding her pigs, preparing them for shows and any health issues that may occur. She also rides, trains and manages a Paint mare for her equine project. Drach competes at rodeos with River for two associations on the local, state and national levels.

William LaFary stacks a hay bale on the rack for his hay business that he owns and operates as part of his FFA project.

William LaFary

District: 3

Chapter: Delavan

FFA Adviser: Theodore Allen

Parents: Clint and Suzanne LaFary

SAE Project: The Delavan FFA member has been farming together with his grandfather his whole life. Over the past few years, he has increased his responsibilities and become a full partner on the farm where he grows corn and soybeans. In addition, he has contracts for Weaver popcorn and Bayer seed corn. The FFA member also owns and operates a hay business.

Drew Mickey checks his corn which is just one of many responsibilities he has with his projects that also include raising soybeans and wheat.

Drew Mickey

District: 4

Chapter: Taylorville

FFA Advisers: Charley Dammerman, Megan Beckmier and Sue Schafer

Parents: Jon and Carla Mickey

SAE Project: Drew Mickey has several FFA projects that include both crops and livestock. He raises corn, soybeans and wheat and services the equipment he uses for his projects. The FFA member selects the seed, scouts crops and markets them after harvest. He raises Angus cattle and sells breeding stock to cattlemen with commercial herds across the Midwest. His swine project involves selling gilts to local breeders and the barrows are sold to packing plants.

Braxton Pittman shows his pig at one of the many competitions he travels to each year including jackpot events and county and state fairs.

Braxton Pittman

District: 5

Chapter: Olney

FFA Advisers: Hayden Kinkade, Jamie Vandyke and Mark Steber

Parents: Brian and Jamie Vandyke

SAE Project: The Pittman Show Pigs operation consists of 10 to 12 sows of several breeds including Hampshire, Yorkshire, Spots and crossbreds. Each year, Pittman typically shows six gilts and six barrows at jackpot events and county and state fairs. The Olney FFA member also has grain production and soybean projects that are work labor exchanges. All the money that he makes from selling his crops goes back into the farm.

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor