INDIANAPOLIS (September, 2012/National FFA Organization) – Ask Justin Cochran his first career choice and the 20-year-old from Lavonia, Ga., will tell you about his dreams of becoming a beef cattle rancher – a great, lucrative career but hard to achieve without land or resources. With the help of his agricultural education teacher, Cochran quickly learned that he lives in a state leading the nation in broiler production, with more than 24 million pounds of chicken and 14 million eggs produced a year. The poultry industry alone brings the state a healthy $13.5 billion, and a growing demand for employees will keep the industry afloat for years to come.
It became a no-brainer for Cochran as to where he was headed. He secured a job at a friend’s poultry farm, performing small jobs on the afternoon and weekend, and then as a high school junior, enrolled in an agricultural education co-op program and applied for a job at Columbia Farms. Now his efforts could earn him top honors.
The National FFA Organization has named Cochran a 2012 American Star in Agricultural Placement 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.
Cochran began his career with Columbia Farms, cleaning and assisting with the hatchery that produces more than 750,000 baby chicks each week. As his skills increased, he was promoted to setting eggs and eventually to field service, where he currently manages the farm’s pullet and broiler flocks.
“Many of my accomplishments would not have been possible without the skills learned in my agricultural education classes and the support of people in the community,” Cochran said. “I have learned that setting goals facilitates success. I am confident that if I work hard toward reaching all of my goals, I will be very successful in my future education and career.”
In addition to working at Columbia Farms, Cochran currently attends Gainesville State College and majors in poultry science. His parents are Scott and Darlene Cochran and his FFA advisors are Gary Minyard, Cale Watkins and Owen Thomason.
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.