MUSCATINE, Iowa–Over the long President’s Day weekend, Muscatine High School FFA students kept busy and braved freezing temperatures to participate in the Iowa Beef Expo and their FFA sub-district competitions. The first in person competitions many had gone to for the 2020-2021 school year, these events gave students a chance to put their agriculture related skills and knowledge to the test.
On Feb. 14, several Muscatine FFA students traveled to the Iowa State Fair Grounds in Des Moines to compete in the Iowa Beef Expo. At the contest, they went up against 36 other schools to judge 10 rounds of cattle and answer three rounds of questions. Muscatine’s team placed third overall. The students who participated found it a positive, if rather chilly, experience. Jaiden Schmelzer, a junior who has participated in FFA since sixth grade and who plans to study animal science and veterinary medicine at Iowa State University after graduating high school, valued the chance to get to work with animals first hand again. “It was fun to get to see the cattle again,” she said.
The following day, about 25 Muscatine FFA members competed in the sub-district competitions, held in Maquoketa. Though the event had no spectators and enforced strict social distancing and masking rules, Ashley Wiebe, one of Muscatine FFA’s sponsors, believed students did well at the event. “They were really resilient–they did a good job prepping and they knew what they were up against,” she shared. “The kids were just happy to compete in person.”
“Danika Garrett, a first year student competing in creed speaking for the first time, valued the opportunity to try something new. “It’s definitely a little nerve wracking because it’s a solo competition, but you realize it’s all up to you and do your best,” she remarked.
Garrett earned second place and will continue to compete at the FFA district competitions March 6. “I think it feels very good to have gotten that far and I hope to take first in districts,” she added.
Grace Williams, a junior who earned third place in prepared public speaking and will advance to districts, also considered the contests enjoyable. “I really liked the experience,” she stated: “For that contest, you have to write a speech about an ag topic. By writing my speech, I learned a lot about my topic. I like talking with people, so I really enjoyed my competition.”
Regardless of which contest they participated in, Sam Paul, another FFA sponsor, hoped that students found opportunities to test their skills and to gain real world experiences that will benefit them no matter what they plan to do after high school, despite the challenges of competing during a pandemic. “Both groups had good days–there were a lot of unknowns and we had fewer opportunities to practice together,” he said.
Looking ahead to the spring and summer, Muscatine FFA has numerous in person competitions scheduled. They also plan to continue their annual flower sale, which will begin the first weekend in April. You may view Muscatine’s full results from both the Iowa Beef Expo and the FFA sub-district contests at www.discovermuscatine.com.