Wells, Minnesota – FFA United South Central High School sends 10 students to 94th national convention and exhibition of the FFA in Indianapolis, including a senior who is a finalist for a national award.
USC FFA, advised by Dan Dylla and Doug Sahr, has over 220 active members. At the convention on October 27-30, which returns in person this year, three students from the USC chapter will receive US degrees from the FFA, and USC senior Caldyn Huper, finalist for the National Proficiency Award in Ag Mechanics Repair and Maintenance Entrepreneurship, will be honored.
Huper conducted his interview virtually in September with industry judges. Despite this being his last year of competing as a high school student, Huper said he was excited to continue FFA competition for a few years after graduation.
First-year FFA members at USC must complete at least one supervised agricultural experience proficiency application, Huper said. He became addicted after this first step.
“It’s a good experience because it’s basically like filling out your CV,” Huper said of the SAE process.
For the first part of his farm mechanics and entrepreneurship project, Huper restored a 1944 Farmall-B tractor. It was a job he was capable of through his education, working alongside his father who operates a repair shop. independent outside of Alden, Minnesota.
“I’ve been working on tractors since I was 5 or 6,” Huper said.
He treated SAE as more than just a competitive bid for FFA, but as a chance to do real professional work.
“I demolished this tractor and took just about all the bolts out of it, and overhauled the engine and transmission,” Huper said. “As long as we had (the tractor) everything apart, I decided to sand it and paint it too.”
Huper’s restoration went so far as to redo the tin work, which made the finished work look “beautiful, shiny, and working well,” he said. The end result demonstrated just how strong his mechanical skills were – something he had been aware of for some time.
“My goal is eventually to come home and work with Dad in his repair shop, and possibly pick up on that someday,” Huper said.
While the practical parts of the job have always come naturally to him, Huper said his years at the FFA made him better at record keeping and organization.
“The FFA is focusing more on the administrative side of things and on how to explain to others what you are really doing,” he said. “Instead of just going into the store and turning the keys every day.”
He said his interview last month for the National Proficiency Award went well and he never felt overwhelmed.
“We don’t normally train a lot for this,” he said of the contest interview. “I’m pretty thorough on what I’m talking about, so it came naturally.”
Sahr said it was the right approach for a child like Huper.
“If they know their project, it shows in the interview,” he said.
Sahr and Dylla appreciate how genuine Huper is in his competition category.
“I’ve done a lot of interviews for FFA in the past and I can tell when the kids are really rehearsing, because it’s like every word has been orchestrated, and that bothers me,” Dylla said.
Dylla said Huper’s father was one of the first students he counseled at FFA and that he saw in Caldyn some natural traits his father had in high school.
“I have a pretty close bond with a lot of these kids,” Dylla said.