SMITHVILLE, Ohio — Years ago, Austin Dotterer started his FFA supervised agricultural experience with a simple question from his aunt. She asked if he would like to help their family harvest a new crop of blackberries they were starting to grow. Little did he know how much a simple question would change his life.
During the fifth general session of the 2019 National FFA Convention Nov. 1 in Indianapolis, Austin Dotterer was named the National FFA’s Fruit Production Proficiency winner.
In Indianapolis, the culmination of Austin’s presentation, interview, records, and application came together to showcase his work as he received the 2019 national award. He is the only member — of more than 700,000 members nationwide — to receive this award.
From that simple question, Austin shared, “I thought that picking would be an occasional occurrence — maybe once a week — to help them out. But before we left that day, my aunt asked us about working for the rest of the summer.”
At that time, he realized that this might become something that would consume more time and give him a little income to put into the bank. Through the next four years, Austin Dotterer’s responsibilities grew as the blackberries started to produce more fruit.
He said, “In 2018, I logged about 250 hours and was one of the few people responsible for primocane training, which involves selecting the best primocanes and attaching them horizontally to the trellis system.”
His next big project was harvesting the berries. Once the harvesting was completed, he again was one of a small handful of people that cut out old growth, removed bird netting, and trained the laterals that had grown over the summer.
Austin Dotterer graduated from Smithville High School in 2019 and has been a member of the Smithville FFA since his freshman year in high school. Dotterer is now attending OSU/ATI of Wooster with a planned degree in Sustainable Agriculture. After school, he hopes to create a sustainable produce farm.
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