Iron Mountain FFA: 95th Annual National FFA Convention


Teak Barhaug, Iron Mountain FFA President

October 24th to Oct. 30th, 2022 was the 95th Annual National FFA (Future Farmers of America) Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. Your very own SHS chapter, the Iron Mountain FFA Chapter, traveled to Indianapolis to compete nationally for the fourth year in a row. At the National FFA Convention, there were 26 competition events, as well as the final rounds of competition for Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) proficiencies and the granting of the American FFA Degree, the highest honor one can achieve in FFA. The awards for these were presented in the Lucas Oil Stadium, which was packed every session with nearly 70,000 convention attendees. 

In addition to competitions, the National FFA Convention is also home to the National FFA Expo, where hundreds of companies, schools, and organizations come together in the Indiana Convention Center. This expo is one of the favorite parts of the National Convention for Trevor Guernsey, one of the five Iron Mountain FFA members who traveled to Indianapolis this year. In addition to the variety of competitions and the extensive expo, there was a wealth of student workshops, with varying topics, from leadership to advocacy, agricultural sales, veterinary science, and numerous others. 

Furthermore, during the National Convention, the National FFA Teacher Ambassadors met, with workshops and activities throughout for both advisors and students. Seward High School and Seward Middle School’s very own Kim Barhaug is Alaska’s National Teacher Ambassador, bringing the attending Iron Mountain members to some of the workshops. At one of which, the students were pulled into a separate room, and National FFA Staff led a workshop that was the favorite part of the National Convention for several of the Iron Mountain members (seen above). Thus, traveling to the National Convention is always a blast, but is quite expensive, so Iron Mountain FFA has been fundraising all year long to do so. With that in mind, even though the Convention and Expo are amazing in their own right, why did Iron Mountain go?

This year, the Iron Mountain team competed in the Agricultural Issues Forum. In this competition, each team creates a group presentation on an issue that the agricultural industry faces. This year’s team consisted of Aly Guernsey, Trevor Guernsey, Jordan Hartman, Katie Vanbuskirk, and Teak Barhaug. Together, we chose the topic of climate change in Alaska, focusing on how it affects our marine ecosystems and subsequently, the Alaskan economy. 

Such a topic included many smaller issues, known as multi-stressors, that are the results of climate change, some of which make it even worse. These multi-stressors included ocean acidification, seabird die-offs, rising water temperatures, whale populations, invasive species, and several more. Each year, the commercial fishing industry of Alaska hauls up 5-6 billion pounds of seafood, which accounts for over 60% of the U.S. annual seafood harvest. As a result, the Alaskan economy is threatened by climate change, as this industry provides nearly 70,000 Alaskan jobs and accounts for over $5.6 billion of annual state revenue. This equates to around $12.8 billion of revenue nationwide. Meaning, the issues that threaten Alaska, threaten the rest of the U.S. as well. 

Thus, not only did we go to compete, but also advocated for Alaska. Through our competition, and simply being 5 of 15 Alaskans at National Convention (seen below), we were able to reach out to people from across the nation, from Puerto Rico to Maine, and Texas to Michigan.

In the end, the Iron Mountain FFA Ag. Issues Team placed 17th out of the top 34 teams in the nation. This is a massive accomplishment, as the Iron Mountain FFA Chapter, with 9 members, was competing against teams from chapters as large as 300 each, which is almost as many FFA members as are in the entire state of Alaska. Compared to Texas, with nearly 200,000 members, being in FFA in Alaska provides opportunities beyond your imagination that would be extremely difficult to gain in any other state, from scholarships to competitions to career and leadership experience. With that being said, the annual National FFA Convention is an amazing experience, showing just how large of an organization the FFA is, and its impact on the United States.