North America

Idaho FFA launches pilot program of a new Idaho Potato Evaluation career development event

Idaho FFA (Future Farmers of America) launched a pilot program of a new career development event (CDE) this year, paying homage to the Gem State’s most famous crop. FFA is a youth leadership organization for students studying agriculture, food and natural resources.

In Washington, FFA youth compete in the special Apple Evaluation CDE. Alaska’s FFA program has its Marine Technology CDE, recognizing the state’s important fishing industry. In that spirit, Idaho FFA now has the Idaho Potato Evaluation CDE. 

Potato evaluation debuted June 7 at the University of Idaho’s new Seed Potato Germplasm Laboratory, with 46 youth from 12 teams participating, as part of the Idaho FFA State Career Development Events. The annual gathering, hosted June 7-10, includes roughly half of the state’s competitive FFA events.  

State winners of most CDEs get the chance to compete in the national competition, hosted in Indianapolis each October. Though some other state FFA programs have offered potato evaluation as a CDE, it’s not currently available at the national level. Nonetheless, Clara-Leigh Evans, executive director of Idaho FFA, is confident potato evaluation will catch on in Idaho. 

“We see it growing to become a long-term staple of FFA,” Evans said. “The Potato Evaluation CDE gives FFA members hands-on, industry-driven experiences so they can explore the science of potato production and hopefully determine how their career can play a role in this commodity’s impact in the U.S. and globally.”

Competitors on four-member potato evaluation teams must be able to identify 10 different potato blemishes from a list of 13 possibilities. They grade 50 potatoes by quality in their written exam and give oral reasons for the grading of 10 potatoes in the presence of a judge. They must also be able to categorize potato seed by class.

The new potato evaluation CDE and a new Agricultural Education CDE set to launch to 2023 were both proposed by the six youth from throughout the state serving as state FFA officers and approved by the Idaho FFA Board of Directors in the spring. Teams have been preparing for the new CDEs for several weeks. Rules for the pilot program were based on rules for potato evaluation CDEs in other states. Idaho FFA will refine its rules with industry input. 

Staff at the Seed Potato Germplasm Laboratory and potato researchers in CALS helped run the first Idaho Potato Evaluation CDE.

Source: John O’Connell, Assistant Director of Communications – College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Idaho
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