Making nationals: Raising rabbits earns teen spot at FFA National Convention

Strasburg High School FFA student Makenzie Kline, 17, grooms one of her approximately 25 rabbits inside the outbuilding behind her home. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – A 17-year-old Strasburg High School student has earned a spot to compete for a national award at the FFA National Convention by raising rabbits.

Makenzie Kline has been named one of four FFA National Proficiency Finalists in the area of small animal production and care. She is going to the 2018 National FFA Convention and Expo in October in Indianapolis to compete for first place and win a national award.

Makenzie was at home alone when she got a text last month from her adviser telling her she made nationals.

“I was excited because I did not think I would go that far. I was at home by myself, and I had to wait for my mom to get home to tell her,” Makenzie said as she stood amid her furry white rabbits. They have names like Summer, Gronk and Buggs.

Buggs is one of the resident older rabbits that she shows. “I think he has the record for wins,” she said.

Makenzie Kline, 17, of Strasburg, holds her dwarf hotot rabbit Gronk outside her Strasburg home. The Strasburg High School senior is president of the school's FFA organization. Rich Cooley/Daily

Most of them will be sold, except for Gronk, who she plans to keep as a resident bunny for showing.

As a finalist, Makenzie will have to give a 10-minute speech about what she does to run her business. She will also be interviewed by contest judges.

“I am a little nervous, but I think I have this just because I have been doing it so long,” she said.

Makenzie started in FFA in the sixth grade.

“My mom wanted to get me involved because I was shy,” Makenzie said. “I thought it was cool because there were so many different kids.”

The FFA named her sixth-grade representative, and Makenzie became more comfortable and more confident as she became more involved.

In 2009, when she was 8,  she began raising rabbits, even before joining the FFA. It began as a project with her dad as the two built a hutch and purchased two rabbits to raise.

“Back then I thought they were cute and cuddly pets. Since then I have more information and learned that they play a large role in agriculture,” Makenzie said.

Today, she has about 25 dwarf hotot rabbits.

Dwarf hotot is a breed that is popular because of its all-white coloring with black around each eye, she said.

“I sell to 4H and FFA kids, and many other people, even some who have been breeding rabbits for many years,” Makenzie said, adding that she makes enough money to break even.

There is a lot of work in raising the rabbits for an FFA competition – keeping records of the rabbits bought and sold, keeping breeding and pedigree records as well as revenue and expense records.

“I try to have fun,” Makenzie said. “It has given me confidence. There is a lot I enjoy, such as traveling to rabbit shows. I have been all over, from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.”

Makenzie soon will be heading off to a four-year college and knows she will continue to study in an agricultural field but what that may be she is not sure.