FFA Chapters Across Hawai’i Compete At State Convention

Trey Yamamoto, Reporter

     Agriculture was a driving force in shaping Hawai’i, but today it is a struggling industry. There are fewer and fewer farms on the islands and equally less interest and awareness about the importance of agriculture. The Future Farmers of America (FFA) is a youth organization that prepares its members for leadership roles and personal growth through agricultural education. From April 3 to 5, the FFA held their state convention at McKinley High School. FFA chapters from MHS and schools state-wide competed against each other to demonstrate and celebrate their accomplishments in building agricultural awareness. The categories judged consisted of Agricultural Demonstration, Plant Identification, Corsage Making, Prepared Public Speaking and Creed Recitation.

    “FFA I think is a great organization, they really helped push the students in a path that I think, if they want to go into agriculture when they graduate from high school, they kind of know what to do, but even if they choose not to go into agriculture I think it’s a great experience for them just to learn good work ethics and just to learn about sustainability and just how to take care of the land,” said Agriculture teacher Matthew Calica.

    Calica attended this event as a first-year teacher at MHS. It was with the help of his students that he was able to compete at such a high level. “The kids were really great, but for the most part, I was really impressed with how they did and I’m really proud of them and for the most part, they taught me a lot. When it really comes down to it, because I was never in FFA, the students kind of had to help me with some of the rules of FFA and I’m just really happy that we had such good results,” said Calica. “And even for those that didn’t place, we had a couple students who didn’t place, but even then I just saw how hard they were working and I was really impressed with that.”

    Unlike Calica’s experience with the FFA, this has been Senior Chynna Chun and Junior Kamryn Shimizu’s second year competing at the competition. Chun won first place in the category Prepared Public Speaking with her speech titled, “The Importance of Advocacy in Hawai’i Based Agriculture.” “So my personal issue was very current, it was about advocacy or advocating for agriculture in Hawai’i. My topic was more focused on advocating for the current agriculture issues that are hindering our success here such as unused farmlands, food insecurity and the scarcity of young farmers,” said Chun. “So my goal was more about advocating and reaching out to our local state legislators because they are in charge of making the laws here. As students here of Future Farmers of America, we are here to I guess, promote those issues.”

    As for Shimizu, she and her partner Junior Kylie Hull placed second in Agricultural Demonstration. Their topic was on the construction of a tumbling compost system. “It was pretty difficult, making it to the level by writing it myself, usually we go off of what we already have,” said Shimizu. “And we were competing against other schools and they did really interesting things, one group did aquaponics and hydroponics, the other competing group in our chapter did seed sprouts. So I personally didn’t think that it would go that far, because a lot of people know what composting is.”

    While the state convention allowed for students to showcase and demonstrate knowledge of their selected topics, it also provided them the opportunity to learn the importance of FFA. The organization helps students to become stronger leaders and improve their ability to work with others. “FFA is more of, it is more of agriculture-based, but it is about finding your voice and advocating for what you believe in,” said Chun. “So with FFA you advocate for agricultural issues or issues that you know, may need more awareness, but it’s also about finding your voice. I think through FFA, it helps you prepare for things like being able to reach out to build connections with other people.”

    Shimizu added, “ And I can do calculus problems and I can read a book, but after high school, I can use the skills that I’ve learned in FFA, learning about leadership and advocacy, like I can carry that for the rest of my life and it’s from the opportunity that was given in FFA.”

    As for the future of the FFA, Chun has been elected as the new FFA State Treasurer and Shimizu has been chosen to be the next FFA President for the MHS chapter in the 2019-2020 school year. “So being a state officer, I think a lot of our future plans is to gain better connections with the current FFA chapters now, you know usually we only see each other during districts or state competitions, so we’re trying to incorporate a lot of like small activities and days where we can just get to know each other better and just better our connections with every chapter because maybe we can support each other in some way,” said Chun.

    Shimizu added, “I really want to get our chapter more involved with whether it is more service projects, getting out more, doing more things, getting more people encouraged to be in FFA. ‘Cause our current chapter is mostly going to be juniors, so we’re all going (to) graduate and I really want to make sure that the chapter stays alive.” Shimizu also is following in the footsteps of her older sister Kaitlyn Shimizu, current Hawai’i state FFA President, and is determined to keep the FFA alive and thriving, “So I want to get our group encouraged and keep going and I just want us to all have fun and get more involved with whether it be other chapters from Kalani or Waipahu, Castle (High School).”

    In addition to Chun and Shimizu, other students from the MHS FFA chapter placed in the competition. In Plant Identification, Kylie Hull and partner Junior Aren Pai placed first, and in Creed Recitation, Sophmore Aaron Otsu placed first.