Central team sweeps FFA state star category

By Josette Keelor

Lacey Dysart of Woodstock has always been inquisitive, inspired by questions of how and why things are what they are.

One of three students from Central High School to sweep the state star category at the June convention of the Virginia Future Farmers of America, Dysart put that curiosity to good use.

The 18-year-old recent graduate won the star in agriscience, and fellow classmates Garrett Coffey and Thomas French won star farmer and star in agriculture placement, respectively.

It’s the first time a school has swept the category, according to Central agriculture education teacher and FFA adviser Sherry Heishman. Usually the state FFA awards a star for each of four categories, including a star in agribusiness, but this year there were only three awards.

In the past, the school earned two in one year but never three, Heishman explained.

Dysart is glad all three teammates won and said she couldn’t have won without help from their advisers.

“It was truly an honor,” she said, but “I was truly shocked.”

Since joining FFA in eighth grade, she has sought projects that teach her something new each year, and agriscience is a subject that satisfies her need to know “why and how things truly occur.”

In her ninth grade year, she researched companion planting, which she said helps farmers be self-sufficient and be environmentally conscious by using less herbicide and pesticide.

Next she compared the effects different plant foods had on flower growth. In her junior year she switched from plants to animals to study the progressive mobility of sperm and how it affects cattle in changing temperatures.

Last year, she and her sister Emily teamed on a project that concluded ionophores in food additives positively affect the growth of lambs after four weeks’ time. She said the goal was helping lambs grow bigger while feeding them less and still meeting their basic needs.

The project earned her and her sister, a 17-year-old rising senior at Central, a state contest win.

“It was a huge honor,” Dysart said. “We were really excited. It was the first contest we did together.”

Her star in agriscience recognized that she excelled in “natural resources, research/experimentation or science-based directed lab,” according to the Virginia FFA website, vaffa.org. In winning, she demonstrated outstanding involvement in FFA, school and community activities. She also won $300, a certificate and a medal, provided by the National FFA Foundation.

All three star award winners will represent Virginia at the Big E State Star Contest in Springfield, Massachusetts, in September.

Central also boasted winners in proficiency areas. Nicole Kibler won for her supervised agricultural experience program for beef placement, and Elizabeth Rhodes for swine entrepreneurship. Garrett won for beef entrepreneurship and Thomas for diversified crop placement.

All four plan to compete at the national convention in October along with Central’s state-winning meat judging team, composed of Elizabeth, Nicole, Ashton Duncan and Gracie Bailey.

“It was a great last state convention,” said Dysart, who plans to study dairy science at Virginia Tech this fall.

In the past, she and “the boys,” as she calls them, have competed against each other, but this year they intentionally chose projects that would not place them in competition with each other.

By strategizing on their category choices, she said, “We could make history together and win.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com