Franklin Tech students take agriculture know-how to national convention

Advisors Amanda Mattison (far left) and Sara Dugas (far right) with FFA members from Franklin County Technical School at the 96th national FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Advisors Amanda Mattison (far left) and Sara Dugas (far right) with FFA members from Franklin County Technical School at the 96th national FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Dani Chagnon at the 96th national FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dani Chagnon at the 96th national FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 11-06-2023 3:27 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Nine Franklin County Technical School students embraced last week’s national FFA Convention and Expo as an invaluable opportunity to connect with agriculturally inclined youth from all over the country.

FFA, which originally stood for “Future Farmers of America” before broadening in scope, annually hosts an event where tens of thousands of middle and high schoolers participate in leadership trainings, community service activities and competitions related to agricultural disciplines, such as farming, landscaping and veterinary science. This year’s convention, held in Indianapolis, Indiana from Nov. 1 to Nov. 4, was attended by 72,954 FFA members and guests from as far away as Hawaii and Puerto Rico, according to Amanda Mattison, a landscaping and horticulture instructor and advisor for Franklin County’s FFA chapter.

“It’s the one time where we’re all the same and we all share something,” said sophomore Dani Chagnon, FFA junior chapter president at Franklin Tech. “No matter who you are, FFA is just an amazing organization and it just brings everyone together.”

The school’s group was the first pool of students from Franklin Tech to go to nationals since 2016, having performed well at consecutive springtime state competitions. Chagnon, for example, was the first-place winner in Massachusetts’ “creed speaking” competition in 2023.

“I was incredibly impressed with the dedication they showed,” said Mattison, who formerly served as a state officer for the Massachusetts FFA Association. “They put in an incredible amount of work to push us to nationals.”

“I was blown away by how well these guys did,” added Sara Dugas, another FFA advisor at Franklin Tech.

Senior and Chapter President Aidan Bailey, who has participated in FFA events throughout his four years of high school, said what students brought to nationals was the highest level of investment he’s ever seen from Franklin Tech’s FFA members. The school’s engagement holds added weight when considering that Massachusetts has few enough participatory schools to count on two hands, the advisors and members emphasized. There are more than 850,000 FFA members, ages 12 to 21, in 8,995 chapters across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the FFA website. All wear official uniforms when attending functions.

“When you look back and you see a sea of blue coats, you feel like you’re definitely there and part of it,” Bailey said, calling Franklin Tech’s participation on the national level a “small but mighty story.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Charlemont planners approve special permit for Hinata Mountainside Resort
$338K fraud drains town coffers in Orange
Fire at Rainbow Motel in Whately leaves 17 without a home
Are Massachusetts politics on immigration changing? Strategists, activists weigh in.
All about the bees: 14th Bee Fest draws record attendance, new statue unveiled at fire station
Greenfield Police Logs: April 20 to May 1, 2024

Franklin Tech came away with bronze medals across the national competition’s different categories, which involved career development and leadership development focuses.

“We’re gonna keep our heads high and keep learning,” said sophomore Gabriel Schutt.

The involved students expressed the most gratitude regarding how they grew their networks at the convention. Chagnon, for example, connected with students from New York, Maine and Alaska during extended waiting periods. She said she hopes two of them could be useful references in the field of farming as she pursues her career, which is more focused toward veterinary science. Bailey added that he connected with Ashley Randle, commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

“This is definitely something I’ll never forget,” Schutt said.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.