NEPONSET — The FFA’s highest honor has been received by Benjamin Pickering, 20, of Neponset.
Pickering received the American FFA Degree at ceremonies in Louisville, Ky., last Saturday. The elite honor is bestowed on only one half of 1 percent of FFA members. Pickering also received a gold American FFA Degree key in recognition for the award. He was joined by his parents Jon and Gail Pickering of Neponset, at the ceremony.
The award winner graduated from Kewanee High School in 2012. He currently attends the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and is studying crop sciences.
In order to earn the award, Pickering had to demonstrate outstanding leadership skills and the ability to earn at least $7,500 and productively invest at least $1,500. Pickering also had to complete the three years of high school agriculture classes and one year of college agriculture classes. Additionally, Pickering had to document participation in community service activities. He also worked as an agriculture intern.
As part of earning the degree, Pickering had to log all the money earned and spent from his agricultural internship. He also had to log work activities performed and explain what was learned from his internship experience.
“I got an internship with AgriGold Hybrids of St. Francisville, Ill., which helped me earn money applicable to the degree,” Pickering explained. “I was a sales intern and helped put up field signs and deliver seed. I also developed sales leads.” He said it took many hours to document his work as an intern.
To reach the American FFA Degree, he also had to earn the FFA’s Greenhand, Chapter Degree and State Degree levels.
Pickering got interested in agriculture through corn detasseling in the summer. He also worked as a farm hand to gain more experience in agriculture.
Pickering said he became interested in the FFA because of the learning environment it sponsors. “I enjoyed being around people with similar interests,” Pickering said. “Many of us came from the same backgrounds, and it gave me a bridge. I went from going to a small school in Neponset to a larger one in Kewanee.”
The FFA taught him a work ethic and the ability to get out of his comfort zone Pickering said. “I learned how to explore different ideas and to express them through public speaking.”
He said he also received a lot of experience about how to participate in job interviews. Other life skills he learned were learning to feel at ease meeting and getting along with new people as the club president.
Reflecting on his time with the FFA, Pickering admitted he didn’t expect to gain so much from the organization.
“I joined because the people in it seemed like a lot of fun,” Pickering said. “Still, I took advantage of the opportunities, and I ended up with the American Degree. I didn’t think it was possible when I started with the organization.”
Pickering participated in the FFA in high school whenever he had time away from football where he played center.
His future plans with the FFA are to join the alumni association. For now he is focusing on graduating in 2016. His ultimate goal is to work in seed corn production for an agriculture business in Iowa.
Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.