Each year, the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization honors FFA members who show the utmost dedication to the organization through their desire to develop their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

The American FFA Degree is bestowed upon a select group of students in recognition of their years of academic and professional excellence. This year, 4,262 American Degrees were awarded.

Casey Murphy, 19, of McDowell became the first FFA member from the county to receive the outstanding accomplishment at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo Oct. 24-27 in Indianapolis. Murphy graduated from McDowell High School in 2017. She currently works at the Animal Hospital of Marion as a receptionist, but plans to pursue a career in the medical field.

“(The American FFA Degree) is something I have always wanted to do since I learned about it,” said Murphy. “I was blessed with people to help me achieve this. I’m glad I can start a pathway for others in the county to achieve this award.”

Sponsored by Case IH, Elanco Animal Health and Syngenta, the award recognizes demonstrated ability and outstanding achievements in agricultural business, production, processing or service programs. To be eligible, FFA members must have earned and productively invested $10,000 through a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program in which they start, own or hold a professional position in an existing agricultural enterprise. Recipients must also complete 50 hours community service and demonstrate outstanding leadership abilities and civic involvement.

Murphy said she couldn’t have achieved the degree without her horse “Cocoa,” a thoroughbred offtrack.

“My horse was the main project that got me this award,” said Murphy. “It’s something I worked on all four years of high school.”

Cocoa used to be a race horse, but was starved when Murphy got her.

“She raced for three years, and unfortunately was on the lower end of the racing world and got kicked to the curb,” said Murphy. “We trained her and started putting weight on her, and now we compete in show jumping.”

Each recipient of the American FFA Degree receives a gold American FFA Degree key and certificate after being recognized on stage at the national convention.

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 653,359 student members who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is also supported by 344,239 alumni members in 2,051 alumni chapters throughout the U.S.

Ginny Rhodes contributed to this report.

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