Thousands of Oklahoma high school students are at Cox Convention Center this week for the organization’s state convention, bringing diverse talents, ambitions and interests and united by the camaraderie of FFA.
The annual meeting gives members from chapters across the state a chance to connect with their peers. One of the rooms in the convention center is filled with vendors of food and event souvenirs, as well as college representatives passing out information, especially to seniors.
The Tuesday and Wednesday convention is also serving as the culmination of a series of competitions held last week at Oklahoma State University. Awards were presented in more than 30 categories including landscaping, livestock, floriculture and an equine division.
Braden Hague, a sophomore at Edmond North High School, competed Tuesday in the state finals of prepared public speaking. Last week, his speech on precision agriculture won first place in the district competition.
“We’ve started to see the use of a lot of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, which concerns some people,” Hague said. “But precision agriculture has helped control chemicals we put on our fields, which protects the environment and produces higher crop yields that are free from pests and disease. This is necessary to feed a growing population.”
Hague, who joined FFA his freshman year, said he wouldn’t always have been comfortable addressing a crowd.
“I was shy in middle school,” he said. “Then I got into FFA, and now here I am, about to go into a room full of people and give a speech.”
Hague has been involved with the FFA in many ways. He and a partner recently won first place in the state for an agriscience project about semen motility in bulls, and how different storage methods affect artificial insemination and breeding.
Hague said the organization is about much more than farming and ranching. His experience in FFA inspired his desire to attend law school and become an agricultural lawyer.
Wednesday, new officers for the coming year will be announced.
“It’s a bittersweet experience,” said outgoing President Steven Vekony. “It’s been an unforgettable road, and I’ve seen a lot of peoples’ hard work pay off.”
Vekony is a sophomore at OSU, with a double major in animal science and agriculture education. He said he joined FFA somewhat reluctantly at Byng High School. His agriculture teacher convinced him to stick with the program, and Vekony soon realized how much he loved it. Now he plans to become an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser.
“FFA has impacted my life in so many ways,” Vekony said. “I thank God I had the chance to spend a year helping FFA as its president, and I want to continue to help in the future.”