There are some nerves on the road to Nationals, but the Susanville FFA Floriculture team has spent countless hours preparing and they’ll soon board a plane to Indianapolis, Indiana and take on the top teams from throughout the country.
The group of four, Marisa Flux, Becky Struthers, Elena German and Christina West-Lucchesi, has been hard at work studying for the 92nd annual National FFA Convention for the Floricultural Career Development Event Oct. 30 through Nov. 2.
Ever since the team won State in May, they have been spending at least three hours a week together, numerous hours alone researching and studying, and have had to read three textbooks. The pressure is mounting, they said, and they’re eager to tackle the challenge.
“We’ve been studying since state ended,” Flux remarked.
Ever since then, German noted, “It’s all a blur.”
The group has somewhat of a divide: Two of the team members, Struthers and West-Lucchesi, graduated from Lassen High School in June. Struthers is studying at Lassen Community College and West-Lucchesi is at Kansas State. She’ll meet the rest of her team at the event. German and Flux are still Lassen High students, both seniors this year. Before summer ended, the four met as a team and prepared for the team events. West-Lucchesi, although out of the area, has been continuing her studies as well. Nothing is stopping them from mastering the various aspects of the competition.
According to the FFA website, during the National competition, “Students must identify plants, make pertinent decisions in solving day-to-day problems that occur in any part of the business and complete an exam that tests their general knowledge. Skill activities, such as flower arranging and corsage design, allow students to showcase their knowledge and talent.”
In May, the local team blew the other competition out of the greenhouse, winning the state finals by 111 points. Three of the members placed in the top 10, and they show no signs of slowing down.
“This is my best floral team I’ve ever had,” said the team’s advisor Holly Egan.
So far, Egan noted, the highest a California floral team has placed is 5th at nationals, and this is the local floriculture team’s first appearance at the national event.
“This four-person team event is designed to create an interest in career preparation for all current and future aspects of the floriculture industry through leadership development and hands-on technical skill development using industry standards that are delivered through the agricultural education curriculum. Teams are judged on their ability to perform an assignment similar to one routinely performed in the floriculture industry. Additionally, individual members are called up to contribute to the team’s effort by completing events such as a general floriculture examination, an identification of plant materials and equipment, a problem-solving exercise, a practicum, a job interview and a floral arrangement,” read the FFA website.
So the preparation continues. On Thursday, Oct. 17, three of the team members gathered in advisor Holly Egan’s classroom with photos of different plants covering the tables in the room. The goal is to be able to provide the scientific name for up to 200 plants just by looking. Although they won’t be tested on the lot, they don’t know which of the 200 they’ll be required to identify. They’ll also have to be able identify around 100 tools. This is just one facet of the whole competition which spans two days.
The team is also preparing, as much as they can, for a team activity where they’ll have to plan, design, construct and price an arraignment.
This is an area where the group shines, Egan shared, noting the four members each bring something important to the group dynamic. West-Lucchesi, who has worked at Milwood Florist and Nursery, is good at taking the lead, Struthers is great with math and pricing the designs, German is talented at forming larger designs and Flux has a detailed eye for finer arraignments.
“They complement each other so well,” Egan said.
There is added pressure to do well at Nationals, the team said. With vet science winning the national title for their career development event one year ago, the stakes are high — but winning or not, it’s not for a lack of preparation and knowledge.
The team embarks on its nationals adventure Sunday, Oct. 27. When they arrive they’ll visit some local greenhouses and nurseries and brush up on their strategies even more.
County organizations and fundraising have even ensured the four teammates don’t have to pay out of pocket for the trip. With $1,700 through fundraising efforts, $1,700 from the CCPOA at High Desert State Prison, $1,000 from the Knights of Columbus, and $500 each from the Lassen County CattleWomen and the Lassen County Farm Bureau, they’re set for their adventure.
As they leave and compete, the team members hope the community sends good thoughts their way, but with their individual and combined talents, they’re ready and they’re passionate.
Flux, German and Struthers each have a hard time picking out their favorite plants, but their faces light up when discussing the top choices.
For Struthers it’s the Coleus: “They’re so pretty because they come in so many different colors and patterns, and I love it.”
German loves daffodils and Flux just loves them all.
With passion like that, good taste and months of preparation, it’s time for Nationals.
“No matter what, we’re going to do our best and have fun,” said Egan.