NEW BERLIN – A Unadilla Valley CSD senior won top honors in the country last week at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.
Morgan Hodge, competing against peers from across the nation, took first place in the Dairy Cattle Handlers Activity. She is the daughter of Lee and Jennifer Hodge.
Students in this activity present animals for evaluation as part of the Dairy Cattle Management and Evaluation Career Development Event. Handlers earn recognition for their ability to set up their assigned animal to its best advantage, maintain the animal in its most advantageous post, exhibit effective restraint and move the animal as requested by the event ringmaster. Each state is allowed just one participant. Morgan won the 2021 NY FFA Virtual National Qualifying Dairy Handlers Career Development Event last July, which qualified her to represent NYS in the National FFA Competition.
The FFA competitions are just two of many she has been involved with over the years. Morgan competed virtually last year in the Prepared Public Speaking Leadership Development Event at the district and sub-state levels.
Morgan said that her experience with dairy cattle began “practically since I could walk.” She is the fourth generation to exhibit dairy cattle. She has exhibited and competed at local, state, and national shows.
“It’s hard work, it takes hours of practice and patience,” Morgan said. “Cows are not humans. They can’t tell you what they specifically want. Each animal is different, and you have to earn their trust.”
For the National FFA Convention, the challenge was for contestants to work with an animal they had never worked with before.
“At Nationals, I only had a couple of minutes to work with the animal before I had to show it off to the best of my ability,” Morgan said.
Morgan, who started with FFA in 10th grade and is the current chapter vice president, credits the support of fellow FFA members, her family and FFA advisor Jessica DeVries.
“It’s pretty special,” she said. “Without Mrs. DeVries, I wouldn’t be here.”
While her family doesn’t maintain a full, working-dairy farm, they do have dairy cattle. Morgan also serves as an ambassador for the dairy industry through her role as Chenango County Dairy Princess.
Farmers and agribusiness in general are an important part of the fabric of the communities served by Unadilla Valley CSD. Morgan said that supporting them through FFA and her other activities is important.
“They are the ones that feed the world, and we want to make sure they get enough credit,” she said.
Morgan said she feels honored to not only represent her school, but also New York State.
“It was an experience that I will never forget”, she said.
The National FFA Convention is the world's largest in school youth convention. This year, nearly 55,000 FFA members and guests gather to learn about careers in the agriculture industry, volunteer in the community, and shape the future of the National FFA Organization. With more than 735,038 FFA members in 8,817 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the National FFA Organization has a strong presence as the largest student-led organization in the nation. Through Career and Leadership Development Events, participating FFA members in grades 7 to 12 are challenged to develop critical thinking skills and effective decision-making skills, foster teamwork and promote communication while recognizing the value of ethical competition and individual achievement. CDE and LDE events occur at the local, state and national levels.
– From Unadilla Valley CSD