Multimedia Journalist

FFA competition makes better consumers

FFA students from Missouri high schools participated in cheese testing at the dairy foods competition. Tuesday, students from all over Missouri were tested on career development events on the Lincoln University campus.
Danisha Hogue/News Tribune

Contrary to popular belief, cheese should be left covered and outside of the refrigerator for the best taste.

That’s why Lincoln University Agricultural and Environmental Sciences department head Adrian Andrei set out 15 popular cheeses at 6 a.m. Tuesday to perfect the flavor.

The samples allowed more than 100 area FFA students to test their knowledge by identifying the food products.

The students had an hour to complete the tasting portion of the test at LU’s Lorenzo Greene South Campus. They opened containers of milk, each which had been safely tainted by staff, and inhaled deeply before taking a sip. Some products contained garlic and salt or tasted more bitter or acidic than they should.

Some students frowned when they came across an unpleasant taste.

“If they end up working in the dairy industry, the business is based on milk fat,” Andrei said. “If you don’t feed your cows right or your cows eat the wrong kind of food, that taste will end up in the milk.”

More than 900 students spread across the campus to participate in career development events in dairy foods, livestock, florticulture and other areas. The university has held the competitions on its campus for 37 years. Community volunteers and professionals come to judge the students on written and oral exams throughout the day.

“They’re not all farm kids,” Andrei said. “These are urban and suburban kids who are interested in food.”

These experiences help students recognize the quality of products, he added.

Chairperson Amy Bax said the competitions are a great experience for the students and a chance for them to demonstrate what they have been practicing within their high schools.

“We have (almost) 1,000 kids representing 42 schools in Missouri coming to Jefferson City,” Bax said.

Russellville High School freshman Angel McKinnon said she was excited to participate in the test.

“Each time I’ve done these I’ve gone up more,” McKinnon said. “My goal is to keep moving up and forward.”

She said the club plays a big part in her connecting to people with similar interests.

Erin Carl and Laura Apperson helped lead the dairy food test.

Jamestown senior Jarrett Gorman has been in the organization for three years. Prior to the tests, he worked with Carl and Apperson on cheese and milk testing weekly.

He said FFA has helped him prepare for his future. The next step is to prepare for district competitions in April.

“These contests in FFA have really helped me with my speaking skills,” Gorman said.

At the livestock competition on LU’s George Washington Carver Research Farm, students judged hogs, sheep, cows and goats.

Apperson said she hopes students come out of this better consumers who make educated decisions when purchasing products.

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