Illinois entrepreneur named 2012 Star Farmer finalist by National FFA Organization

INDIANAPOLIS (September, 2012/National FFA Organization) - What started humbly as converting the front yard into a sweet corn field has quickly grown into a successful business and a large farming operation. Clayton Carley began farming to earn money to buy his own car. He now hopes that his experience will allow him to graduate college debt-free and pursue a career in agriculture.

The National FFA Organization has named the 20-year-old Milford, Ill., resident a 2012 American Star Farmer finalist, one of the organization’s highest honors. He will compete with three other finalists at the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo, Oct. 24 - 27, in Indianapolis.

Each year at the national convention and expo, 16 national finalists – four in each category – vie for the organization’s top awards: American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience. These awards honor students who have developed outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through their supervised agricultural experience; demonstrated outstanding management skills; earned the American FFA Degree – the organization’s highest level of accomplishment; and met other agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements. Each finalist will be interviewed by a panel of judges, who will ultimately name the top candidate in each area. The winner will be announced in an onstage ceremony and will receive a plaque and an award of $4,000. The runners-up will also receive a plaque and $2,000 each.

Carley is the owner and operator of the Sweet Corn Shack, which is located on his family’s farm in eastern Illinois. His first crop was three-tenths of an acre, which was once part of his family’s front yard. He now raises more than seven acres of sweet corn that he sells to local residents. In addition, Carley farms more than 400 acres of corn and soybeans. He conducts extensive research to determine best management practices for his operation.

Carley is a sophomore at the University of Illinois, where he is pursuing a double major in agronomy and agricultural education. He is considering an advanced degree in agronomy, with a longterm goal of mastering research in crop genetics. He is the son of Kenton and Lisa Carley and was a member of Cissna Park FFA in Illinois. His advisor was Jeff Clifton. Carley served as Illinois State FFA Treasurer in 2011-2012.

The American FFA Degree recognition programs, such as the American Star Awards, are co-sponsored by Alltech Inc.; Case IH; Elanco; Farm Credit; Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business; and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.