Shike wins national title, Unity's FFA teams make their mark

Olivia Shike poses with her gold medal at the 2021 National Agriscience Fair. Photo courtesy Rich McCabe
Unity FFA member Olivia Shike won the national title in the Animal Systems division at the 2021 National Agriscience Fair in Indianapolis.

The fair was held in conjunction with the 94th National FFA Convention & Expo in October. The annual Agriscience Fair encourages the use of scientific principles and emerging technologies by students to investigate complex issues related to agriculture, food, and natural resources. The competition starts at the local level and progresses to the state and ultimately to the national level each year.

Shike's project, which studied the effects of trace mineral injections on the conception rates of cows, also included submitting a 14-page research paper and creating a display detailing her research. "She started her agriscience fair project in the fall of 2020 and has progressed through the local and state judging rounds," according to Unity High School Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor Rich McCabe. One of three finalists at the national level, her research project was chosen as the best, beating out student researchers from South Dakota and Wyoming.

Shike, a sophomore who also runs cross country for the Rockets, was named National Agriscience National winner in Divison 3.

"Olivia was obviously excited to be named the national champion for her agriscience fair project," McCabe said.

Unity's FFA program's Farm Agribusiness and Management team also earned recognition at the national competition. Phillip Hartke, Delaney Kamradt, and Emma Felsman earned Gold Awards and Destiny Williamson earned a Silver Award. As a team, the group representing Unity finished in 8th place overall nationally.

Unity FFA Agribusiness team. Photo courtesy Rich McCabe

The National FFA Farm Agribusiness and Management Career Development Event (CDE) tests the ability of student FFA members to analyze farm and ranch management that challenge modern-day operations by using sound economic principles and agribusiness concepts. In addition to undergoing a problem-solving test, students must answer questions specific to economic principles in farm management.

"The Farm and Agribusiness Management team had to study through the summer and take a very detailed test for over three hours reading a variety of financial statements," McCabe explained.

Unity's Horse Evaluation team also placed at the national event.

"The horse evaluation team members qualified last fall and have been working on and off ever since," McCabe said. "The horse evaluation competition involves delivering a set of oral reasons for their placing to a judge. Some of the members of our team are very shy and I am proud of them for stepping out of their comfort zone."

Olivia Shike, Emma Aders, and Rachel Aders received Gold Awards for their effort, and Marie Baxley brought home a Silver Award from the National FFA Horse Evaluation CDE.

The Unity Horse Evaluation Team ... Photo courtesy Rich McCabe

The horse evaluation event tests each student's ability to select and evaluate horses based on breed characteristics, conformation and performance. Students look at eight selection classes, four performance classes, four sets of oral reasons, and two sets from each evaluation class. Teams also work together to give a presentation to defend their decisions before a panel of expert judges.

"I am extremely proud of the students' accomplishments," McCabe said. "The farm and agribusiness management and horse evaluation teams were thrilled to be named as gold teams.

"This is the first time any of them has participated in a national contest, and they didn't know what to expect. We would have loved to be in the top four and receive the results during the on-stage recognition, but placing gold is the next best opportunity."