TAHS grad Nelson receives high honors from Ridgewater
TRACY — Asa Nelson seems to stand out wherever he goes.
The 2015 Tracy Area High School graduate spent the past two years working toward his associate of applied science degree at Ridgewater College in Willmar. It’s there where he continued to cultivate his passion for agriculture.
Nelson received the Farm Operation and Management Outstanding Student award for the 2016-17 year. The award — presented at the Ridgewater College Agriculture Department Annual Awards Banquet in April — is considered the most distinguished honor a Ridgewater Ag student can receive. The student who earns this award has received the approval of fellow students and staff and has high academic achievement and excellent attendance.
“It’s been a wonderful experience at Ridgewater,” Nelson said. “I got to learn a lot. I definitely found out that a little bit of school before I farmed was a good thing. There’s just so much to know and learn — about agriculture, the agronomy side of it and the business side of it as well.”
Nelson noted that as a farmer, you’re basically a small business owner.
“You have to keep track of things and the world is becoming ever more complicated,” he said. “So I definitely feel I took a good step forward in taking the route to Ridgewater.”
Nelson graduated with high honors (3.75-3.99 GPA). Nelson said he was also honored to be the student speaker at the May commencement celebration.
“I was fortunate enough to apply and was selected to be the class speaker,” he said. “I got to talk in front of the whole graduating class and everyone there. That was quite the experience. It’s the most people I’ve ever talked in front of, but I didn’t run off the stage, so that was good.”
The key focus of Nelson’s speech was something he wholeheartedly believes.
“The message was to always remember the importance of people as you go through your life,” Nelson said. “The relationships you build and how you relate to people will be the most important thing you do in your person and professional life.”
A successful FFA member at Tracy Area, Nelson continued learning and competing in agriculture in college. As an active member of the Post-secondary Agriculture Student (PAS) organization, Nelson participated in state and national contests.
“My first year, I competed in soil and college bowl and made it to nationals in that,” he said. “Also in my freshman year, I wanted to run for state office. I was fortunate enough to get one of the (three) vice-president positions. It was a very good experience.”
As a leader, Nelson tried to fulfill the organization’s motto: “Uniting education and industry in agriculture.” Along with the other state officers, Nelson initiated relationships between the students and the industry in hopes of creating future partnerships.
As a sophomore this past year, Nelson had a phenomenal showing at the state and national level. In the state competition — held in February at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall — Nelson took first place in six categories: impromptu speaking, crops specialist team, crops specialist individual, soils specialist team, soils specialist individual and college bowl team.
“I’ve had good teachers and I was blessed to be able to show up and compete that day,” Nelson said. “The Lord gave me the ability to pull something out of my brain. I’ve worked hard at school. I’ve paid attention to my studies, so that’s part of it. But I love ag and what I’m doing. When you’re having fun, it makes it all easier.”
At the national competition in St. Louis, Missouri, Nelson earned a trio of top three finishes. He took first place in impromptu speaking, first place in crops specialist team and third place in college bowl team.
“I’ve been blessed with some pretty good success,” he said. “The national competition was a blast. It’s kind of fun to compete against different schools. It’s primarily against two-year schools, but there are some four-year schools there as well.”
Other accomplishments Nelson was recognized for include: being an Ag Department Ambassador, receiving an Adams Honor Scholarship and CHS Scholarship and for being on the Ridgewater College dean’s list.
“My sophomore year, I was an Ag Ambassador,” Nelson said. “I did some high school visits and talked to potential students there as well.”
One thing Nelson has learned throughout his college experience is that each student is responsible for the amount of progress he or she makes.
“You can challenge yourself as much as you want to,” he said. “I took on a lot of different projects and I pushed myself.”
Nelson said he was also grateful for the internship opportunities he had. Those internships helped to cement his future.
“I did internships in the spring and fall — to help out with harvest,” Nelson said. “It’s done nothing but confirm that this is what I want to do.”
Right now, Nelson is farming with his uncle (Todd Nelson) in the Lake Shetek area. He is planning to transfer to SMSU, where he will seek a bachelor’s or applied science in agriculture.
“I’m continuing on and getting those well-rounded skills and a set of tools for the farm,” he said. “After I get done with school, I’d like to continue to farm with my uncle.”