Ryan Stewart will be a senior in high school next year and he has already set a goal for his fifth year in FFA -- he wants a fifth State Proficiency Award in a fifth category.
"I don't know yet what I want to major in when I get to college. I've got a lot of options," he says. He does know that he wants to come back to the family farm as the next generation operating the farming and seed sales operation his father, Rodney, now runs in Washington County. He said he might follow in the footsteps of his sister, Ashley, who is an agronomy graduate and now works for the Pioneer research lab in Manhattan, in majoring in agronomy.
He collected his latest plaque on Thursday during the second day of this year's 88th Kansas FFA Convention and shared stories about some of the work he did to win the award during the annual awards luncheon at K-State before being presented his plaque by Kansas Farmer editor, P.J. Griekspoor.
Stewart’s SAE for 2016 was with Mid Continent Farms and Stewart Family Farms, LLC. At first his duties were limited to general farm chores, but as his skills with technology and communications evolved, so did his job duties.
Fascinated with the technology of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, he purchased two quadcopters for taking crop scouting videos. He says he hopes to trade up to a higher-performance model soon.
He has FAA registration for both his drones.
He soon discovered that UAVs were good for far more than crop scouting.
He has taken photos which he uses to create sale catalogs, flyers and promotional ads. Stewart has also created educational crop videos.
But maybe the highlight when a corn cob recycling business nearby caught fire, he sprang into action and soon his photos were being used in newspapers and on TV stations.
"The mountain of cobs was actually called 'Mount Cobb' around Washington," Stewart said. "Since the fire, the company has spread the cobs out in long windrows, designed to reduce the fire damage."
Ryan says the fire came the night before he was scheduled to leave on a trip to Texas with his FFA chapter at 7 a.m., departing from Concordia, about an hour from his home farm.
"I was up until about 2 a.m. Then I went home, processed my photos and got cleaned up and slept about 20 minutes and then headed out to catch the bus," he said. "Then, all day long, I kept getting calls from newspapers and TV stations wanting my video. It was amazing."
Now, Ryan says, maybe ag communications needs to be on his list of possible careers.
Congratulations, Ryan Stewart, this year's Kansas Ag Proficiency Award winner in Ag Communications.
Watch for more about other Proficiency Award winners and news from the 88th Kansas FFA Convention on this space and in the July edition of Kansas Farmer.