Agriscience Research – Animal Systems State Proficiency Winner: Thomas “Kade” Boatman. From left: father Tom Boatman, mother Tammy Boatman, Kade, and advisor Eric Tryggestad.

    Members of the Byron FFA chapter attended the 96th annual Illinois State FFA Convention June 11-13 along with more than 5,000 other FFA members, advisors, and guests. With a 2024 theme of “United As One,” the three-day event annually recognizes achievements of Illinois FFA members, elects the major state officer team, and celebrates agriculture.

    During the convention, the following awards were presented to the Byron FFA chapter:

    • Illinois State FFA Degree: Bruce A. Gehrke was conferred with the State FFA Degree by the Illinois Association for meeting all requirements including productive financial investments and earnings in a supervised agricultural experience and FFA participation, leadership, and academic excellence. The State FFA Degree is the highest achievement an FFA member can achieve in Illinois; less than 2% of members statewide earn this prestigious recognition.

    • State Winner Horse Evaluation (non-reasons) Discovery Career Development Event: The chapter was recognized for winning the state middle school Horse Evaluation CDE, which requires members to evaluate and rank horses based on breed characteristics, conformation, and performance.

    • Horse Evaluation (non-reasons) Discovery Career Development Event High Individual: Hayden Hall was

recognized for the top individual score at the state middle school Horse Evaluation CDE.

    • Agriscience Research – Animal Systems State Proficiency Winner: Thomas “Kade” Boatman was selected as the State FFA Proficiency Winner in Agriscience Research – Animal Systems. Kade is the son of Tom and Tammy Boatman. He is a member of the Byron FFA Chapter, advised by Maggie Folk and Eric Tryggestad. For his Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), Kade focuses on finding heritability patterns with the scur gene in Hereford cattle. He researched 79 total calves in a recent calf crop. The data collected strongly suggests that the “nub” trait is correlated to the scur gene, but he looks forward to testing his hypothesis further in the future. If he can find a way to reduce the amount of scurs in herds, he will benefit not only his operation, but the Hereford breed as a whole.

    • State Star Farmer Finalist – District 1: Bruce A. Gehrke was selected as the 2024 District 1 State Star Farmer. Bruce is the son of Jason and Kathi Gehrke. He is a member of the Byron FFA Chapter, advised by Maggie Folk and Eric Tryggestad. For his Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs) in beef, swine, and poultry entrepreneurship, Bruce runs his own cow/calf operation and raises market beef, swine, and laying hens. These projects represent his passion for agriculture, helped him grow his knowledge, skills, and abilities, and prepared him for a future career in the agricultural industry.

    Students at the convention were greeted with activities including a career fair featuring colleges and agribusinesses and an opportunity to engage in the history of Illinois’ capital city. The sessions featured addresses by National FFA Western Region Vice President Emily Gossett of New Mexico and from each of the retiring major state officers.

About Illinois Association FFA

    The Illinois Association FFA is part of the National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America. 42,788 students are enrolled in 387 FFA chapters in the State of Illinois. FFA is a national youth organization of 945,988 student members with a mission of making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Visit for more information.

About the Illinois Foundation FFA

    Illinois Foundation FFA engages individuals, industry, education, government, and foundations in securing funds to support quality agricultural education and FFA programs in Illinois, including providing awards at the State FFA Convention. To learn more and become involved, visit

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