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Stroh and Swanson Win State FFA Degrees


March 24, 2021

Two members of the Chinook Chapter of the FFA will be honored at the 91st Annual Montana FFA State Convention, April 7-10 in Billings. Rebecca Stroh and Austin Swanson will receive their State FFA Degrees in an awards ceremony on April 7 at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center.

This year's State Convention will be a hybrid event with some competitive events and general sessions held in-person and numerous activities and networking sessions held online and remotely. Because of social distancing protocols, only the award recipients and their Chapter Advisor, Karyn Billmayer will be allowed to attend the State Degree ceremony in-person.

The State Degree is the highest honor a state association can bestow upon its members. This degree is based on FFA Activities, supervised agricultural experiences (SAEs), and Community Service.

On her application for the State Degree, Stroh, who currently serves as the Chapter's President, logged and itemized 10.25 hours of community service in 2020. With her Entrepreneurship SAE, she shows progress in two pathways: Plant Systems and Animal Systems. Although she manages 25 acres at Stroh Farms, her primary focus is on training horses and raising ponies and swine. Between her two equine SAE projects, she owns fifteen horses and ponies. For her efforts with these animals, Stroh also applied for a proficiency in Equine Science.

One of the accomplishments Stroh shared on her State Degree application describes how she taught her horses various tricks. At a trick training clinic she attended in Billings in 2017, Stroh learned methods for teaching a horse to lie down, rear, sit, smile, hug, bow, and Spanish walk. She is working towards perfecting these training techniques-with Spanish walking being somewhat tricky, as it is about training the horse to "have high knees and a lengthened stride." The horse essentially has to reach high and out with each foreleg in the rhythm of the walk.

"I have taught my horse Hondo how to hug and smile, Annie knows how to hug, bow, and lie down, and Fanci knows how to rear," Stroh reported.

Similarly, Swanson logged ten hours of community service in 2020 and showed considerable progress in his Entrepreneurship SAE with the Animal Systems pathway. Running his herd with Shipwheel Cattle Company, he owns four bulls, twelve cows, and twelve heifer and bull calves. Given his commitment to his cattle and his role with Shipwheel Cattle Company, Swanson applied for a proficiency in Beef Production.

When describing how experiences or opportunities in this award area will impact his future, Swanson focused on the importance of keeping records for any business. Accurate records have enabled him to manage cash flow and to assist his father, Klint Swanson with feedlot management.

"Dad and I work with a feed specialist on the rations for each pen of cattle. Working with a nutritionist has taught me the importance of all the proteins, vitamins, and many other minerals that different cattle require. For example, breeding cattle will get a completely different ration than the cattle in a fattening pen. My records must be up to date and written down to make sure I am feeding the correct batch to the cattle intended; otherwise, I could make an expensive mistake."

Reaping the rewards of being efficient with their endeavors, the two Chinook High School seniors are looking forward to receiving their State Degrees.

"Now I know why our former advisor, Robin Allen used to get on me about keeping records and recording finances. It's all paying off with awards like this," Swanson said.


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