Contributed photo
A total of 37 members of the New York Mills FFA qualified for the state competition this year. The state meet will be held at the end of April. 

By Tucker Henderson


The New York Mills FFA organization has seen a spike in membership this year with just over 60 students involved with the program at the high school level.

“I think a lot is that ninth grade class,” said advisor Brian Schornack. “We have a lot of members coming out of the ninth grade crew right now.”

As the FFA team has worked their way through competitions in the past few months, they are now gearing up for the state convention which is held in the Twin Cities between April 21-23. With over 60 percent of the team qualifying for state, both students and advisors are confident in at least one of their individual teams placing in the top five of their event.

“I’m looking forward to state convention and hopefully we place in the top three and our team does well at state,” said senior Haley Korkowski, who competes in the Nursery and Landscaping event.

“We have a lot of pressure on us because we’re the top team in our region and so is our small animals team,” agreed senior Morgan Guck. “So there’s a lot of pressure on us to do well and we really hope we can do that.”

Guck seeks to be a positive role model for her underclassmen in FFA. Along with a hope to place well in the state competition, she also looks forward to showing the younger students what opportunities the FFA organization can provide them.

“I’m looking forward to bringing the younger kids along to the state competition and showing them what they can do in FFA,” said Guck. “I think they’re going to be really excited to see what state convention is all about.”

Sophomore, Payton Lausten, joined the team to gain knowledge about animals as she is interested in becoming a veterinarian after she graduates. She competes on the small animal team.

“I like the skills that it gives me for leadership, as well as the career I’m interested in,” said Lausten. “I’m also looking forward to state because our small animals team has not always been the most successful, so I’m eager to change that.”

Ashton Lehman, a junior, is also interested in learning more about animals and the practical lessons that FFA can offer. He competes in general livestock and meats and is looking forward to placing at the state competition.

“I was interested in the aspect of FFA and about working with animals and agriculture,” said Lehman. “I wanted to do something more personalized, more realistic for after high school.”

Dixie Dykhoff, also a junior, joined FFA partially because it’s a longstanding family tradition with around 60 years of involvement. She is competing in milk quality this year. She mentioned that her favorite part of the program is working with the other members of her team.

The team is excited to have such a large presence in the NY Mills School this year with over 60 members. They look forward to seeing all 37 students compete at state this year. They said that a large part of their successes have come from advisors Brian Schornack and Kendra Geiser, the latter being new to the leadership this year.

“We just got a new assistant advisor, Kendra Geiser,” said Guck. “Having another advisor with all these kids has been a huge help, it really impacted us students’ abilities. It’s nice having another person there for us.”

Schornack, who has been the sole FFA advisor for the past seven years, wholeheartedly agrees.

“It’s a great thing that happened to us with the large enrollment,” said Schornack. “We were starting to look for some additional help for myself, so we looked at the staff and saw that there were a few different staff members that had been FFA members and Kendra was one of those people that had a strong background in FFA.

“We knew she would definitely have some things that she could add to the program that would help us out,” he continued. “A lot of leadership stuff and just with having more involvement, it’s nice to have somebody that’s worked with them to help me out.”

Schornack noted that with the spike in membership this year, he was happy to see the high involvement from students, but it was necessary to add another advisor and that the students have greatly benefited from it so far.

“I never thought I’d see the day where this would become a two person program, so it was a big accomplishment to see that there’s interest there,” he said. “We’re a huge agriculture community, so there’s definitely people in our community that have great backgrounds in the industry. We identified Kendra as somebody that would definitely be a big benefit to our program and she definitely has been.”

Schornack is also looking forward to the state convention towards the end of April. He noted that the event will take place partially at the University of Minnesota and partially at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

“I look forward to just being around other FFA members, it’s a great community to be involved with, there’s a lot of different connections,” he said. “Networking is a huge thing in FFA, so the more people you get to know and meet, the more avenues you get to go down. It’s always fun to get together with all the other ag. teachers too.”

There will also be other opportunities for the FFA members to take advantage of at the convention including a large career fair, geared towards agricultural education and job placement.

“There’s different colleges there, different career paths there that they get to see,” said Schornack. “Their biggest focus is always on careers, trying to get kids to explore the different careers out there.”

The NY Mills FFA teams will be competing in wildlife, milk quality, dairy cattle judging, horse judging, crops, nursery and landscape, small animal, and farm business management events.

“It’s a wide range of different activities,” said Schornack. “This year I have some pretty high hopes that one of the teams can make it on stage and that means top five in their contest. A couple of seniors that have been around for the last five years in the same contest, I think they’re putting it all together this year.”

A big accomplishment this year for the NY Mills FFA is the fact that the 37 state-qualifying members make up the largest amount the team has ever had. There are several teams that Schornack said will be likely to make it on stage at the competition.