Woodbury FFA Finds Success at National and State Levels


Woodbury FFA/@woodbury_ffa on Instagram

The Woodbury FFA’s floriculture team earned a silver medal at the 94th National FFA Convention in October in Indianapolis.

Madelynn Orosz, Reporter

WOODBURY — The Woodbury FFA chapter at Nonnewaug has been ramping up its competitive spirit since early fall. The Tractor Driving CDE took place Oct. 7, followed by the 94th National FFA Convention from Oct. 27-30, and finally, the fall CDE teams competed at states at the University of Connecticut on Nov. 5. 

Members competed against each other for the chapter tractor driving championship. Peyton Cocchiola and Kevin DeCesare won and moved on to the district-level competition. 

The 94th National FFA Convention was held in Indianapolis. The Woodbury FFA sent the state champion poultry judging and Floriculture teams along with their advisors to Indiana to compete. Both teams were successful, with poultry judging placing 16th in the nation and floriculture earning silver.

National Floriculture team from left to right, Oliva Dages, Meghan Fennelly, Mya Julian and Hannah Wisiewski. (Below) National Poultry Judging team from left to right, Hannah Kostka, Jennifer-Marie Stocker, Camryn Sudimick and Adeline Angelini. (@woodbury_ffa on Instagram )

Eric Birkenberger, the floriculture advisor, had the challenge of organizing the team members’ college schedules to ensure they could attend the competition since several team members are Nonnewaug graduates.

“It was weird having to wait two years to compete,” Birkenberger said. “The thing I was super nervous about was that three kids were graduates and I wasn’t sure if those three were coming back from college.”

The floriculture team was supposed to compete at nationals in 2020, but due to the cancellation of the convention due to COVID-19, they had to wait an extra year to compete.

“Did they not care now?” Birkenberger wondered. “Were they scared to miss class time? It energized the team when they decided to carry on and compete.” 

In a normal year, the chapter officer team also attends the convention for the numerous leadership workshops, career exploration and main exposition, as well as the team bonding activities like the concert and rodeo. Due to COVID, the Region 14 Board of Education decided to only allow the competing teams to attend. This disappointed many of the chapter officers, including vice president Joe Velky. 

Velky, a junior, would have competed in extemporaneous public speaking at the convention this year but did not make it out of the preliminary round.

“I do wish I was able to attend the National Convention, but I am happy that the teams that needed to compete were able to go,” said Velky. “Hopefully everything will clear up and go back to normal within the next year.”

Claire and Danielle Demers, recent graduates of NHS, traveled to Indiana on their own to receive their American Degrees, the highest degree an FFA member can receive. 

With the closing of the National Convention, it marked the return of state competitions for the first time in two years for Connecticut. As with the national contests, masks were required indoors and social distancing was encouraged. 

Competitions took place at UConn in the various agricultural facilities such as food labs, livestock arenas and greenhouses. Teams competing included nursery/landscape, milk quality, livestock evaluation, floriculture, horse evaluation, meats evaluation, and poultry evaluation. 

Teams competed in their respective areas all day in team and individual activities. Charlie Stock, a senior, was excited to get back into competing. He competed in dairy product evaluation.

After a long day of teamwork and brainpower, the Woodbury FFA fall CDE teams pose for a group selfie after eating their well deserved ice cream. Teams had different activities during the day including plant identification, creating floral designs, handling live chickens, judging a variety of animals and animal products. (not pictured- horse judging) (J. Jedd)

“I am glad I was able to compete again this year. Going to events like these you meet entirely new people who share similar interests as you,” Stock said. “It was nice to get back with the people that I have met over the years in FFA.”

The nursery landscape, floriculture, and meats evaluation teams all finished in first place. The livestock evaluation and horse evaluation teams both placed second, while the poultry evaluation squad finished among the top five and the milk quality team placed among the top 10.

The fall CDE day ended with a stop at UConn’s famous Dairy Bar afterwards to celebrate the students’ hard work during the fall to prepare for the contests and the friendships they formed.