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Ball draws crowd, raises money

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Worland – As FFA members, state officers and supporters of the Wyoming FFA Foundation gathered for the Blue Jeans, Black Tie Ball on Sept. 17, they enjoyed an evening including a prime rib dinner, auction and dance, as well as a keynote address by Justin Mills.

In partnership with the Worland FFA Chapter, the Wyoming FFA Foundation organized the second annual Blue Jeans, Black Tie Ball at the Washakie Museum and Community Center in Worland.

Court Shilt, Wyoming FFA Foundation Board of Directors Chairman, said, “It is fun that I get to hang out with FFA members and Foundation members tonight, and that is certainly a good thing.”

“The Wyoming FFA Foundation is made up of anybody who supports FFA members and anybody who supports the FFA,” said Shilt, “whether that means helping out with a judging contest or a speech contest, financial gifts or donations to the auction.”

Shilt said planning for this year’s ball started as soon as the event ended in Pinedale last year, and when advisor Grace Jorgenson agreed to co-host the event in Worland.

Both a silent and live auction were held during the event, raising nearly $14,000 dollars for the Foundation. The silent auction generated $3,402.25, and the live auction brought $10,535 from the sale of just 20 items.

Shilt mentioned, “For those who wonder where the Wyoming FFA Foundation has been over the past year, between corporate sponsors and individuals, in Fiscal Year 2010-2011 the Foundation moved almost $100,000 to FFA members around the state. That’s quite an accomplishment, I think.”

Featured among the speakers at the event was FFA member and Wyoming’s National Officer candidate Catlin Caines of Hyattville.

“This is the second year I have been selected as Wyoming’s National Officer candidate,” said Caines. “I am more determined than ever to bring a national FFA office back to Wyoming.”

Caines thanked the Foundation and its members for their help in developing a National Officer Candidate fund, which has provided him with the financial support to attend training and prepare for both the selection process and a national FFA office.

For this year, Caines provided a decorative piece created by Cathy Caines, as well as quilt donated by the Collegiate FFA, to be auctioned for the National Officer Candidate fund.

Justin Mills of Montana delivered the keynote address of the evening. Mills is a past Wyoming FFA officer, radio personality and the manager of the Northern International Livestock Expo (NILE) in Billings, Mont. Mills impressed upon members and guests the idea that one organization or one person can start a chain of events that results in great things happening.

Mills shared a story, starting with a man named Moses Carver who rescued a young black child from the hands of his mothers’ murderers. Moses named the boy George Washington Carver. Carver, in turn, influenced a young boy named Henry Wallace, the son of a scientist who worked at Iowa State University, where Carver attended college.

During Carver’s studies, Wallace developed both a relationship with him and a love of agriculture. Carver became a professor and was asked to consult with a group in Alabama who had depleted their soil from growing cotton without rotating crops. Carver figured out a solution to the cotton problem, as well as the problem of how to use the peanuts that were used in the crop rotation.

Henry Wallace, who became Vice President of the U.S., created agricultural research stations and hired a man named Norman Borlaug. Today, Borlaug is credited as the man who saved a billion lives by working to solve world hunger and who won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The chain of events leading up to Borlaug’s scientific achievement and the start of the “Green Revolution” all began with Moses Carver.

“Who gets the credit here?” asked Mills, “Is it George Washington Carver himself? Where do you start and where do you stop with that? This just shows the significance that someone or something or an organization can have from the very beginning.”

Mills emphasized the detachment of America’s people from the agriculture industry, saying, “In 1862 when the USDA was created by Congress, it was called the People’s Department, because, at that time, nine out of 10 people lived on a farm. Today, less than five percent of people are tied to production agriculture. We are now three to four generations removed from the family farm.”

“The importance of giving back and teaching youth about agriculture is significant,” continued Mills. “Should the gap between production agriculture and the consumer continue to grow, so does our ability to protect agriculture.”

“I feel it is tremendously critical that we invest ourselves in organizations and events that protect agriculture and educate the younger generation,” said Mills. “Some of the slightest things can be huge to a young person.”

Mills concluded, saying, “As we saw with Moses Carver, one slight action can influence future generations. What you are doing here tonight is a Moses Carver situation, and I commend you for that.”

BP, Cloud Peak Energy, Devon Energy and EnCana sponsored the Blue Jeans, Black Tie Ball, which also featured table sponsors from the Wyoming Business Council Agribusiness Division, American National Bank, McGarvin-Moberly Construction, Pinnacle Bank and Andreen Hunt Construction.

Funds raised at the Blue Jeans, Black Tie Ball, as well as all donations given to the Wyoming FFA Foundation, are used to provide financial support to Wyoming FFA members.

Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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