Rifle FFA boasts 2 national champs | PostIndependent.com

Rifle FFA boasts 2 national champs

Amanda Holt Miller
Post Independent Staff

RIFLE ” The law of averages should have limited the Rifle High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) program to one national champion every 144 years. But Julie Chelewski and Jarrid Garner didn’t pay any attention to averages.

Chelewski won the national proficiency championship in diversified horticulture for her work at the West Canyon Tree Farm in New Castle.

Garner took the proficiency championship for diversified livestock production. He has raised cattle, trained horses and worked at the Rifle Packing Plant.

Both Chelewski and Garner have gone on to college to study what they love. Chelewski is studying chemistry at Colorado Mountain College and intends to go to Colorado State University to get a degree in food science and one day prevent bioterrorism against the food supply.

Garner is at Northeastern Community College in Sterling studying agricultural business and equine science. He plans to go back to his home state and study at Oklahoma State University.

The natural gas business brought Garner to western Colorado away from his family ranch in Oklahoma when he was a junior in high school. Here, he worked on other people’s ranches, roping cattle and handling the livestock. He also started his own business breaking and training horses.

“I’ve been pretty lucky,” Garner said of his time on the ranches. “I’ve never broken any bones on a horse. And I’ve had ’em fall on me and roll over on me.”

Garner traded the ranch for a packing house when school picked up in the winter and it was hard to get out to the ranch as much. There he learned how to slaughter, skin and pack meat.

Garner’s wide range of experience in livestock production is what won him the championship.

“I’ve been doing it all my life anyway,” Garner said. “I just started keeping records. I didn’t expect to win.”

Those records are what secured a championship for Garner and for Chelewski. They both submitted records of their work with essays and were judged by those submissions until they reached the final four. Only the top four competitors in the nation ever met their judges.

Chelewski enjoyed the interview process. She was able to tell the judges about her passion for horticulture and her interest in pursuing a career having to do with plants. Chelewski learned a lot working at the West Canyon Tree Farm.

“For example, if you have lilacs, you don’t want to prune them in the fall,” Chelewski said. “They’ve already set their buds for spring.”

She will go to Costa Rica next summer on an educational trip she won in the FFA competition.

Chelewski has been involved with FFA since she was a baby. Her family took her to her first state competition when she was only a year old. She always wanted to win a national championship.

“Winning it was a dream come true for me,” Chelewski said. “You need to set your goals high.”

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