By Steve White email@example.com
For young farmers, there are few weeks as big as this one. The state FFA convention is their chance to make friends and also compete in a variety of events. And this year for the first time ever, Grand Island hosted one of the events.
There was no reason to fear the state trooper looking over their shoulders, as kids climbed in, under, and around a semi.
Dane Hansen of Sargent said, "It's pretty cool. Haven't been up close to a semi."
34 FFA chapters from across the state competed in an ag mechanics contest that requires real teamwork.
Marc Dickerson was one of four kids on a team from Sargent, include Dane Hansen, Jacob Clark, and Trace Gumb.
Dickerson said, "I'm probably the writing and speaking part, everyone else -- Jacob and Dane are the mechanical guys, Trace is the math."
Trace said they all enjoy their FFA experience. He said, "I think it's a lot of fun and you get to see a lot of people, learn something and go home with something special maybe."
When trooper Phil Thede was their age, he never saw big rigs on the farm.
"When I grew up it was tractors and trailers," he explained.
Now farmers, including his own brother haul grain in massive semis. Mike Thede of Palmer is on the United Soybean Board and Ethanol Board and when Phil's not keeping trucks safe on the road, he helps his brother with his big trucks."
"And a lot of them are starting to switch from small five and three axle trucks to five axle semis, some are getting up to seven axle semis for efficiency's sake but as they do so, responsibility on the road gets higher and higher," Thede said.
In this exercise, kids not only inspected the truck, but crunched the numbers to see what it would cost to haul a load of seed corn.
Duane Waddle of Central Community College in Columbus coordinated the ag mechanics competition.
He said, "They're going to have to make sure that the truck is road worthy, those things and put presentation together to haul freight from point A to point B."
Kids say learning these skills will pay off on the farm.
Sargent's Jacob Clark said, "You don't have to go to the local mechanic and pay to however much it is."
So with his knowledge from the road and farm, Trooper Thede sees what kids have learned.
"I'm quite impressed, to be honest," he said with a smile.
The ag mechanics competition was Wednesday at the state fairgrounds. The rest of the events are taking place in Lincoln.