You don’t need to ask Adam Cope what it means to be “proficient.” He’s proven it in a big way.
The 2011 Marion High School graduate from Florence was recognized last month for being one of the top four performers among his FFA peers across the entire country in the area of Beef Production-Placement.
He and the national finalists in the 46 other proficiency program areas were recognized on stage before some 55,000 fellow attenders at the 84th annual national convention Oct. 19-22 in Indianapolis, Ind.
“It was a great experience to be recognized at such a high level,” said Cope, now a freshman at Kansas State University.
The proficiency awards recognize outstanding student achievement in agribusiness gained through establishment of a new business, working for an existing company or otherwise gaining hands-on career experience.
Cope, the first member of the Marion-Florence FFA chapter to be named a national finalist, got his hands-on experience at the Doyle Creek Land & Cattle Co. near Florence, where his father is the manager.
“I’ve worked there forever,” Cope said. “I started when I was 14. I pretty much did all the basic ranch chores.
“I?grew up on the ranch my whole life, so I knew what needed to be done,” he added. “I acted more as a full-time employee. I did everything.”
Because FFA’s proficiency award program is more about what a student has learned about the area of focus rather than the size of the operation, Cope’s project addressed everything from traditional herd-management techniques to his more specialized experiences in the cutting edge of artificial insemination and embryo transplants.
“I started the application process my sophomore year,” Cope said, noting the support he received from Mark Meyer, the Marion-Florence FFA adviser.
The application form is in-depth.
“It wasn’t just a front-and-back deal,” Cope said with a chuckle. “You have to show skills that you’ve learned, the knowledge you’ve gained, how you got started, the history of the ranch, and when I started. Also, some financial records, what you did with your money, how you spent it—pretty much everything that we’ve done.”
Cope competed at the district level his sophomore and junior years, then won the state’s top award as a senior, which qualified him for consideration as a national finalist. His selection as a national finalist was announced in August.
But the competition for the top honors didn’t end there. Upon arrival at Indianapolis last month, national finalists in the various areas participated in a 15-minute interview before a panel of judges comprised of teachers and some of the top agricultural experts from the business world.
Cope said some of their questions focused on the details of his application form, while others were broader to include such areas as the future of agriculture in a global economy.
Admitting to being “kind of nervous” going into the interview, Cope said he felt he did as well as he could have.
The announcement of the national winner was made on stage during the convention. The winner in Cope’s category came from Kentucky.
“I was really pleased just to be a national finalist,” Cope said, admitting to a natural twinge of disappointment. “I was pretty laid back about it all. I know there’s always someone better than me. I didn’t really go there with an expectation to win. Anytime you’re at that level, it’s just good to be there.”
Cope and the other national finalists each received a plaque and a check for $500.
Cope said he’s enjoying his classes at K-State and just last week enrolled for the spring semester. He is majoring in animal science, production and industry management.
While he envisions a future in ranching, he isn’t sure what that will be at this point.
“I’ve just always enjoyed being around cattle,” he said. “In the summer, I’m on horseback a lot. Really, I’ve been at it my whole life. In my judgment, there’s just nothing greater than tending cattle on horseback.”
As much as he enjoyed growing up on the Doyle Creek Land & Cattle Co., Cope said he doesn’t necessarily see his post-college career with that operation.
“I’d rather do something on my own,” he said. “Maybe take over my grandpa’s operation.
“I don’t know yet. I kind of want to go out and conquer the world.”