A growing interest in Ag Bowl

More than 1,200 FFA students gather at SMSU for Ag Bowl Scholarship Invitational

In an event at SMSU's Ag Bowl Scholarship Invitational, FFA students examined samples of milk for defects, before noting their answers down on clipboards. Besides judging milk quality, students also identified cheeses, and identified whether some products were dairy or non-dairy.

MARSHALL — The bleachers Southwest Minnesota State University’s Recreation/Athletic Facility were packed with people in navy blue FFA jackets Friday morning. The crowd of high school students from across Minnesota, as well as South Dakota and Iowa, were all gathered to test their skills and knowledge in agriculture.

The turnout at SMSU’s Ag Bowl Scholarship Invitational was one of the fun things about the event, students said.

“It’s nice to see so many people,” said Sydney Schaffran, one of a group of Marshall High School students taking part in the invitational.

The Ag Bowl Scholarship Invitational gave FFA students a chance to compete in a variety of career development events. Top-ranking teams and students also had a chance to receive scholarship dollars to SMSU.

An estimated 1,275 students from 53 schools participated in the invitational, said Nathan Polfliet, associate vice president of advancement with the SMSU Foundation. The event has continued to set new attendance records over the past few years, he said.

“The last three years have all been the biggest event ever,” Polfliet said. “It’s nice that it keeps growing.”

Polfliet said the FFA team that had come the farthest to compete Friday was from Crookston.

Encouraging younger generations to learn about agriculture was one key focus of the invitational. Ralco Nutrition CEO Glenn Bader told students the field of agriculture needed “really great minds” to help meet future challenges in feeding the world. It didn’t matter if students were most interested in biology, finance or information technology – “Any of those pursuits have their place in agriculture,” he said.

Bader encouraged students to think about what their mission was after high school graduation, more than a specific career path.

“I would tell you that what you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as why you do it,” he said. “For myself, I’ve been in the industry of food and agriculture for my entire career. And I believe there’s no greater ‘why’ than in feeding people.”

Friday’s Ag Bowl competitions covered career skills from public speaking and job interviewing, to more hands-on tasks like floriculture, analyzing soil, and judging meat and milk quality.

Schaffran and fellow MHS student Paige Christianson said they would be competing in the small animal veterinary science event. The event involved completing a written test, as well as identifying different breeds of animals.

“It’s a lot of memorizing,” Schaffran said.

“It’s sort of the same thing for the fish and wildlife (event), Christianson said. Several of the invitational events had written portions testing students’ knowledge on different topics.

Schaffran said she had tried a lot of different FFA events before doing veterinary science.

Another group of students from the Eden Valley-Watkins school district said they were competing in parliamentary procedure. Students said the people and the different events were all part of what they enjoyed about being in FFA.

“We’ve made a lot of good connections through the state,” said Aidyn Brutger.

Over near the university’s culinology department, students were lining up at tables set with numbered jugs of milk, as well as cubes of cheese and other dairy products. Students examined, sniffed, and even tasted sample cups of the milk before taking notes on clipboards.

The purpose of this event was to judge the quality of the milk, explained Madison Xiong, a student at Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School. Students had to figure out what the defects were in the different samples of milk. Another part of the event involved telling the differences between dairy and non-dairy products, Xiong said.

“I think it’s a good event,” WWG student Elena Yang said of being part of the Ag Bowl Invitational.

“It’s good practice for competing,” Xiong said. Minnesota’s state FFA convention is coming up in April.

Being able to take part in the Ag Bowl invitational was fun, students said.

“It’s a great experience, and it’s nice to visit the campus,” said Mountain Lake High School student Chase Anacker.


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