Orion FFA wins state championship

Amelia Martens
The State Championship Ag Issues team from Orion FFA includes, from left, Amelia Martens, Alyssa Zwicker, Ali Seys, Ben Martens and Melissa Fielding. They will compete in nationals this fall.

Orion High School claimed a state championship on Saturday, Feb. 14. 

The FFA chapter’s Ag Issues team won the state competition at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Their presentation was on private property rights.

Team members Melissa Fielding, Amelia Martens, Ben Martens, Ali Seys, and Alyssa Zwicker advance to national competition this fall.

They practiced for two months leading up to the event. 

“I actually enjoyed the practices the most,” Zwicker said. “At every practice we changed the script and were able to put our own personal touch on the presentation.”

Preparation truly began in November with the selection of the topic and the script writing.  

“We chose private property rights because it’s such a prevalent issue in our area,” Ben Martens said.  

After the script was written, practices began. The team practiced before school on some days, after school on others, and both before and after school on certain days.  

“We had to add in a lot of emotions as well as memorize our lines,” Fielding said.

Besides memorizing the scripts, the team also had to compile a portfolio of research on the topic. 

They had to provide documentation of local forums, too. The team gave their presentation to the Henry County Young Farmers, Orion FFA Ag Alumni, OHS staff, Henry County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and judges at the Section 3, District 1, contest.  

The local forums provided the team with great opportunities to practice in front of others and to gather some useful suggestions.

Over winter break the team met to discuss their presentation and work on their PowerPoint presentation.  

Props were selected and final character names were chosen. The issue was presented in a TV talk-show format.  

The cast of Ag Line’s “Private Property Rights: the Never Ending Debate” episode included Fielding, Ag Line Host; Amelia Martens, Illinois Farm Bureau Representative; Ben Martens as Mr. Johnson, a hunter and ATV rider; Seys, an ATV and snowmobile rider, and Alyssa Zwicker, a property owner.  

The episode focused on Zwicker’s troubles with trespassers. Johnson and Seys had been trespassing on her land for quite some time and Zwicker was fed up with it.

Amelia Martens provided legal facts on the issue, while Johnson and Seys defended themselves.  

In the meantime, Zwicker fought for her rights.  

“Arguing was my favorite part,” Ben Martens said.

In the end, no conclusion was reached, as the solution was left up to the viewers.

The purpose of the presentation was to educate both team members and viewers about private property rights.  

“I learned the consequences of trespassing,” Seys stated.  

“I never knew there were so many specific laws regarding the issue,” Fielding added.

“As the weeks leading up to the state competition progressed, I knew our team stood a good chance,” Orion FFA advisor Jay Solomonson remarked.

On Feb.14, the team put on their game faces and gave the presentation their all. When all was said and done the winners were announced: Orion was first and would be competing at nationals.

“I am super-excited and proud of everyone,” Seys commented after winning.

“I am so excited,” Miss Zwicker exclaimed. “I know that if we put enough hard work into it, we’ll do well at nationals.”

“I’m ecstatic because I know we’ll do well,” Fielding added.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll do a great job,” Ben Martens said.

“It’s very exciting because this is the first time that a Career Development Event team from Orion has ever won a state contest and advanced to nationals,” Solomonson said. “It’s very exciting for team members, the school, and the community.”

“We are a great group of friends and I know that we’ll have fun at national convention no matter what,” Zwicker concluded.

The team will compete at the FFA National Convention to be held from Wednesday, Oct. 21, through Saturday, Oct. 24 in Indianapolis.