INDIANAPOLIS (October 27, 2012/National FFA Organization) – What started humbly as converting a front yard into a sweet corn field quickly grew into a successful business and a large farming operation. Now, it has turned into the most prestigious honor offered to FFA members.
Clayton Carley, from Milford, Ill., was named the National FFA Organization’s 2012 American Star Farmer Saturday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on the final day of the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo. Carley, 20, was one of four FFA members nationwide selected as an American Star Farmer finalist after judging this past summer.
“It is exhilarating to have the highest honor FFA bestows and an absolute honor after seven years of hard work,” said Carley. “A lot of time and energy goes into where we all are today.”
The American Star Farmer is one of four American Star Awards available to FFA members annually in four separate areas including agribusiness, agriscience and agricultural placement. The American FFA Degree recognition programs, such as the American Star Awards, are co-sponsored by Alltech Inc., Case IH, Elanco, Farm Credit, Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business, and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.
These American Star Awards honor FFA members who have developed the organization’s most outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through their supervised agricultural experience; demonstrated outstanding management skills; and earned the American FFA Degree – the organization’s highest level of accomplishment.
Eligible FFA members must also have met other agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements. A panel of judges who ultimately name the top candidate in each area interviews each finalist. Carley’s name was called in an on-stage ceremony and will receive an award of $4,000. Each of the three other finalists will each receive $2,000.
Carley began farming to earn money to buy his own car and is now the owner and operator of the Sweet Corn Shack, which is located on his family’s farm in eastern Illinois. His first crop was three-tenths of an acre, which was once part of his family’s front yard. Utilizing his experiences from his time with the Cissna Park FFA Chapter, Carley now raises more than seven acres of sweet corn that he sells to local residents. In addition, Carley farms more than 400 acres of corn and soybeans. He conducts extensive research to determine best management practices for his operation and hopes that his experience will allow him to graduate college debt-free and pursue a career in agriculture.
Currently, Carley is a sophomore at the University of Illinois, where he is pursuing a double major in agronomy and agricultural education. He is considering an advanced degree in agronomy, with a long-term goal of mastering research in crop genetics. The 2011-12 Illinois State FFA Treasurer, Carley is the son of Kenton and Lisa Carley. His advisor at Cissna Park FFA was Jeff Clifton.