Royalton FFA president earns State Degree

Austin Schmitt was presented with the FFA State Degree at a Feb. 8 FFA event in Staples. At the same event, he was given a star in Proficiency Dairy Production - Placement. Pictured are (from left): Royalton FFA chapter members Brittany Brower, Schmitt and Morgan Leners.

Austin Schmitt was approved to receive his FFA State Degree at a Feb. 8 FFA event in Staples. At the same event, he was given a star in Proficiency Dairy Production – Placement. Pictured are (from left): Royalton FFA chapter members Brittany Brower, Schmitt and Morgan Leners.

Austin Schmitt also awarded star in Proficiency Dairy Production – Placement

by Jennie ZeitlerStaff Writer

Royalton FFA Chapter President Austin Schmitt continues to lead his peers forward in greater agricultural experience and knowledge. He was approved to receive his State Degree at a regional event in Staples Feb. 8, and will be rewarded for his time and efforts when he is awarded his State Degree at the State FFA Convention in St. Paul in April.

Schmitt earned his Chapter Degree two years ago as a sophomore, using community service hours. With a State Degree under his belt, he is on his way to earning his American Degree.

“I’ll wait two or three years before applying for that,” said Schmitt. “I need to build up more financial records.”

Members can stay in FFA through their fourth national convention after high school graduation.

For his State Degree, Schmitt needed to prove that he earned $7,500 through his supervised agricultural experience (SAE), which he does working on his parents’ dairy farm.

“I had to establish a base for recordkeeping and can build proficiency on that,” he said. “I also needed 25 hours of community service and 360 hours of agricultural classes.”

Ag classes during Schmitt’s freshman and sophomore years were taught by half-time teacher Randy Voyles, so Schmitt didn’t accrue many hours. During his junior year, there was no ag teacher at Royalton. The FFA program was advised by Pat Tax of Pierz.

To accumulate enough hours to qualify for his degree, Schmitt took ag classes online through Socrates.

At the same time that he received his State Degree, Schmitt was also recognized for earning a star in Proficiency Dairy Production-Placement.

“I had to provide financial records and describe the skills I’ve developed at my job over the last four years with knowledge gained,” Schmitt said.

He submitted an application and was given an interview.

Adding to his position as local chapter president, Schmitt has also served as region president for most of the current school year. He plans to run for state FFA office this spring.

“You just apply. There is a first-round elimination which leaves 18 candidates,” Schmitt said. “Of them, six are chosen and the committee chooses which positions they fill.”

Schmitt will go to the state FFA convention in St. Paul two days early to participate in interviews for state officer.

In addition to FFA activities, Schmitt is an A Honor Roll student and does milking and chores at home. His uncle was injured and underwent surgery in early February, so Schmitt will be milking for him for about four months.

“I sleep from about midnight to about 5 a.m.,” said Schmitt. “I take my laptop to every class to keep track of things and work on applications every spare second.”

As a senior in his last semester of high school, Schmitt is now filling out scholarship applications. He will be attending the University of Minnesota (U of M)-Twin Cities, majoring in animal science or agribusiness.

Schmitt’s older siblings, Jonathan, Michael and Katie are all attending the U of M now with various majors in the College of Food and Natural Sciences.

The four Schmitts have been strategizing for a number of years about their future with the farm.

“The master plan had to be tweaked when Katie changed her major from vet science to communications,” Schmitt said with a grin.

His upcoming summer activities all depend on whether he gets a state office. If he does, he will be spending much of the summer helping with FFA camps at Deep Portage.

“If I can make it work, I still want to show cows,” he said.

“Austin is a talented hard-working young man,” said Royalton Ag Teacher Robert Skwira. “It was a great day for Austin to be awarded his State Degree and a star in Proficiency Dairy Production – Placement.”

What is most rewarding for Schmitt is seeing a younger student telling parents that they are staying after school to do FFA stuff.

“Little things like that make me happy — seeing someone excited about FFA,” he said. “I know what it did for me and I want other kids to have that experience.

“I really love what I do. I like all aspects of farming,” Schmitt said. “(All the effort) will be worth it.”

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