AT the 87th National FFA Convention & Expo, Sarah Davis, Carly Fuller, Davis Kappert, Jason Moore and team advisor Nicholas Anders of Southern Alamance FFA in North Carolina walked away with the National FFA Floriculture Career Development Event’s (CDE) top prize. Four-person teams from Perry FFA in Georgia and Mount Baker FFA in Washington won second and third place, respectively. Fuller, Davis and Kappert also placed as individual competitors, snagging the top three spots. Cash prizes were awarded to the top 10 individuals and national winning team.
When asked what gave them the competitive edge, the first place team insists it was a combination of a great teacher and good old-fashioned hard work.
“Competing at nationals was an awesome experience,” says Kappert, who listed Anders’ “winning record and relentless work ethic” as the reason why he wanted to be on his advisor’s plant sciences team.
“The difference between our team and the other states’ teams was our attention to detail and desire for perfection. We got so nervous when we missed a question or messed up a small part of an arrangement. We finally realized that the long hours of practice had prepared us for that very moment.”
Moore agrees, saying, “It was such a great feeling knowing how much time we put in and how hard we worked. It all paid off in the end, and we finally won.”
And winning was no easy feat. Held in Louisville, Ky, the Floriculture CDE tested FFA members’ knowledge of flowers, plants and foliage. According to a press release issued following the event, competitors must “complete a general knowledge exam on the floriculture industry, identify plant materials, demonstrate problem-solving and decision-making skills, employment and customer service skills, technical floral skills and the ability to work as a team.”
This comprehensive list of activities gives FFA members the opportunity to tackle real-life floriculture challenges by applying the knowledge and skills they learn in the classroom.
Based on the rules in the National FFA CDE handbook, certain assignments are completed as a team and others require each team member to work alone. While team events might involve packing plants for a shipment and updating an inventory, individual activities ranged from crafting a $35 floral arrangement to setting up a product display.
When asked about the most (and least) enjoyable activities, some clear favorites emerged.
“My favorite assignments were anything that involved working with actual flowers and putting arrangements together,” Fuller says. “My least favorite was all of the knowledge tests we did every day.”
Her team members agree, stating that the hands-on portions offered opportunities to showcase their individual strengths and work together as a team. Davis says while the competition was “extremely stressful,” winning was “absolutely amazing.”
“We were very fortunate and had a great coach to help us achieve this goal,” she says. “We also had some pretty cool people donate their time to help us out.”
The CDE’s overall purpose is to foster interest in floriculture production and retailing through an agricultural education curriculum. For the Southern Alamance team at least, the event has been a resounding success. All four members have caught the agriculture bug. Although the national winners are barred from competing in the Floriculture FFA event again, Kappert, Fuller and Davis are training to compete in the Nursery and Landscape CDE next year.
Meanwhile, Moore, who cannot compete because he graduated, is in a transfer program at Alamance Community College that will eventually allow him to study horticulture science at North Carolina State University.