Ag’s a way of life for Rifle grad |

Ag’s a way of life for Rifle grad

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

Julie Chelewski has always loved the outdoors.Growing up with a father who was an agriculture teacher, and living in Rifle – a town where agriculture is a big part of life – it seemed like an obvious choice for her to do something in the field.She’s well on her way, too.Chelewski’s been involved in the National FFA Organization since her freshman year in high school. The program teaches kids the importance of the agriculture industry while developing their leadership skills and building character. And this girl’s chock-full of those.Chelewski took first place in the National FFA Organization’s Entrepreneurship/Placement Proficiency Award Program. The award in the Nursery Operations category was presented to her in Indianapolis, Ind., in late October at the FAA’s annual National Convention. She was recognized for her work at the West Canyon Tree Farm and Nursery in Glenwood Springs.”I was really excited,” Chelewski said.

Not only was this is a national award, but it was also her second consecutive award in this category.”You don’t expect to come back after winning the previous year,” she said.She was happy just to make it into the top four once again.”It was a pretty exciting time,” she said.Winning twice has happened before, but it doesn’t happen all the time. And there hasn’t been a back-to-back winner in the state of Colorado for at least 10 years, Chelewski said.The Proficiency Awards recognize FFA members who excel as agricultural entrepreneurs, employees or volunteers while gaining hands-on career experience. Chelewski mainly worked in the retail services of the garden center for the nursery and ended up training new employees in customer service.”It was a little unusual,” she said. “As the senior employee and being so young, I was training people who were older than me.”Since graduating from Rifle High in 2005, she’s been a state officer for the FFA representing the 4,100 members across the state. Her duties included promoting knowledge and education about the program and the agricultural industry to other freshman college students.

Working at the nursery, along with her time in FFA, has helped her choose the agriculture industry as a career.She currently attends Colorado Mountain College and will receive an associates degree in science in the spring of 2007. Then her plans will more than likely take her to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., to study food science and safety. Her primary interest is bio-terrorism on the food supply. However, her immediate plans are to continue as an officer for the FFA organization. Through the organization she’s also received her American FFA degree, the highest degree one can receive, and only about 0.5 percent of members get the degree.But Chelewski’s FFA career is coming to an end.”It’s kind of an end,” she said. “But it’s ending on a very good note.”Spending much of her time on the road tending to her duties for the FFA, she still finds some down time. And that time is usually spent outside, too.”I just love being outside,” she said. “I love fishing, nothing big, but just being with my family fishing and having a good Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext.

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