The National FFA Organization has chapters across the nation, but for students like Nick Torrance, becoming involved with FFA was a struggle at first.
“Where I went to school, they didn’t have FFA my freshman year,” Torrance said. “I went to a different school [for FFA]. We had to go for two hours in the morning.”
Torrance drove for hours every day to participate in the West Prairie FFA Chapter when he first entered high school, but fortunately, the Macomb FFA Chapter in Illinois was formed in his hometown a year later – and he gladly joined.
“My sophomore year, we got ag programs at my home school,” Torrance said. “We just had one teacher. His name was Mr. McGrew, and he had really helped me … take it to the next level.”
Because of his dedication to FFA, Torrance is now a finalist for the American Star Farmer Award, thanks to his supervised agricultural experience (SAE) on raising his family’s cattle and keeping record books.
“I have beef cattle production, and I have a few books on grain production: one for corn and one for soybeans,” he said. “I got started my freshman year. I had 20 acres of corn and 20 acres of soybeans.”
Though it’s not the most glamorous task, keeping crop production records can help a farm thrive. Torrance recorded how he planted his crops, what the yield was after harvest, what prices he fetched for his produce and more. He indicated his records helped his farm expand from 40 acres to 200 acres by his senior year of high school.
Torrance’s advice for new FFA members wanting to start an SAE is unique: be a sponge.
“Just try to basically be like a sponge and take in as much information as you can,” he said. “Try to learn as much as you can from your FFA advisors, parents, friends, anybody who really has any experience in the ag industry.”
As for himself, Torrance said he plans to graduate from the University of Illinois with a degree in crop science and run the family farm someday. Well, “hopefully.”
“My dad, I don’t think he will ever be ready to retire,” he said with a laugh. “But whenever that time comes, I would hope to be able to take over.”