For the Hartke family, the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo was a family affair. And, for the second time in FFA history, a milestone too.
Quadruplets Alex, Dustin, Garrett, and Taylor Hartke received their American FFA Degrees on Saturday of the convention, and their father David was awarded an Honorary American FFA Degree on Friday.
Taylor serves as the Illinois FFA Treasurer this year, and she was happy to share the stage with her brothers this week.
“It was super exciting to stand on stage and be at Lucas Oil Stadium and hear ‘Alex Hartke, Dustin Hartke, Garrett Hartke, Taylor Hartke’ all in a row,” she said.
Also special to the family was David receiving his honorary degree. He was unable to get his state degree because his chapter closed before he had the opportunity.
David’s father secretly nominated him for the degree, so the whole family was surprised with the news that David would receive the degree in recognition of his support of agricultural education at chapter and state levels as well as his dedication to promoting agriculture, especially with his service to the Illinois Soybean Association and United Soybean Board.
The quadruplets faced challenges on their journey to receiving their American degrees. The Teutopolis chapter that had closed for their father reopened part time a few years before the Hartkes started high school. Together, the four chose supervised agricultural experiences that worked well with each other so the siblings would not be competing too much with one another.
When it came time to apply for the American degree, they met one by one with their advisor, Dale Will, to complete the application and then returned to tell their siblings tips and tricks.
“Eventually, we got it down to a science,” Taylor said. “I was the last one to fill out my application, and my advisor was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you just did that in record time!’”
Now that they have achieved their goals, Taylor reflected on the day they worked so long for.
“I think it’s really cool that we got to get our American degrees together, and it was the last time that we got to wear our jackets together,” she said. “My parents keep reminding me that it’s like the last big thing we’re doing together, so it really means a lot. And my dad gets his as well, so it’s just very heartwarming.”