Two recent Strawberry Crest graduates and one from Durant were elected by the Florida FFA Association.
The slate of officers recently elected by the Florida FFA Association includes three greater Plant City area residents: President James “J.P.” Prescott, Secretary-at-Large Sydney Swartman and Area 5 Vice President Cole Hanson. Prescott and Swartman recently graduated from Strawberry Crest High School and Hanson is now an alumnus of Durant High School.
Although Plant City is often represented among statewide FFA leadership, it is rare for three of the eight statewide positions to be filled by residents of a single community in one county.
“Beyond that, we have gone on from being friendly competitors for many years in FFA competitions to teammates working to advance agriculture and FFA,” Hanson said. “That’s pretty cool.”
Each Florida state officer serves a one-year term characterized by the association as being “a rewarding, but yet very serious job… considered to be a 24-hour per day job.” In addition to attending state, county and local chapter meetings, the officers have roles in various events such as the Florida State Fair, as well as state and national-level FFA meetings.
“We will also travel within the U.S. and internationally,” Prescott said. One domestic trip is to Iowa for the Iowa Ag Experience, an opportunity for Florida state officers to become familiar with crops and other Ag operations in the Upper Midwest such as corn, soy, wheat, the pork industry and dairy farms.
The Florida leadership group will travel to Spain and Portugal during their term to experience agriculture internationally. The majority of expenses for domestic and in-state travel are covered by the association, while officers must raise funds needed for their international trip.
While there is no pay associated with their year-long commitment, each will receive scholarships from the Florida FFA Foundation, University of Florida, Bank of America and Warner University, should they choose to enroll at Warner. Hanson plans to attend Warner after his year in office and will major in Agriculture Studies and Business Management.
Prescott began his association with agriculture in the seventh grade.
“My friend Dalton Vanderford suggested that we enter a forestry competition together,” he said. “We did and I really enjoyed that competition and have continued to do all I could to learn more about Ag.”
While attending Strawberry Crest High School, Prescott was also a member of the swim team, and served as captain his senior year. Following completion of his year as Florida FFA Association President, Prescott plans to attend the University of Florida College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, studying biological engineering with “emphasis on either the biological or mechanical sides,” he said. He hopes to land a research position in the future.
Swartman was introduced to agriculture by one of her teachers, Jason Stewart.
“Mr. Stewart suggested I use my public speaking skills in my first competitive Ag event, and that led to my interest and love for agriculture,” she said.
In addition to her participation in FFA, Swartman is a martial artist, specializing in Shotokan Karate and competing with Chris Welbon Karate Clubs. UF is also in Swartman’s plan after her term as State FFA Secretary, and she plans to major in biotechnology.
“I hope to be able to create ways to farm and feed the growing population of the world,” she said.
Both Prescott and Swartman are indebted to the FFA team at Strawberry Crest High School which is led by Susan Mayo and advisors Michelle Cesario and Kelsey Humphrey. They both also owe a debt of gratitude to FFA colleagues Anna Ress, Ayden Kelly and Priscella Shreve for their friendship and support over the years.
“We would not be here without them,” said Swartman.
Hanson was introduced to agriculture by his stepfather, who showed animals while in high school.
“That sparked my love for animals and led me to 4-H competitions, starting when I was six and moving on to FFA,” Hanson said. “I ran for office and that has brought me to this dream year as a state officer. “
Durant FFA Ag instructors and FFA Advisors Tim Cribbs and Thomas Sturgis have been important mentors to Hanson.
While a very busy year has just begun for Prescott, Swartman and Hanson, they all feel the same way about a successful term. Additionally, educating all about the importance of agriculture is of equal importance.
“People, especially our lawmakers and regulators, need to have a full understanding of the importance of our industry globally,” they said. “Being able to feed the world is at stake.”