A Thomas County Central High School Class of 2018 graduate is already building upon the agricultural knowledge foundation he gained from his time as a Career Technical Agricultural Education student.
Brentley Odom, 18, won a 2018 National Agricultural Proficiency Award from National FFA Oct. 26 during the sixth general session at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. Awards were presented in 47 categories. Odom’s proficiency award is in the category of Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management – Entrepreneurship/Placement.
Odom says the win feels amazing and believes his passion for his project helped him mount the podium.
“After all these years of time and effort, it was an awesome way to go out with a bang,” he said. “It was extraordinary to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity, and with it being the last contest I compete with FFA, it made it that much more worthwhile.”
Odom advanced to national competition after placing first in this category at the 90th Georgia FFA Convention last April. According to a press release from the National FFA Organization, students in Odom’s category receive hands-on knowledge in the principles and practices of managing and/or improving the environment and natural resources.
Odom began his supervised agricultural experience (SAE) in the ninth grade while participating in his third agriscience project. This led him to conservation, and the next year he completed research testing on till and no-till farming practices.
According to the release, Placement/Internship programs insert students in food, agriculture or natural resources-related businesses "to provide a 'learning by doing’ environment." Through the TCCHS Work-Based Learning program, Odom volunteered with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. He learned to survey, read water meters and pipe designs, and to use a laser system to map land slope and equilibrium.
To prepare for national competition, Odom practiced answering interview questions and writing his two-minute introduction speech, studied questions and, accompanied by his father, attended the state proficiency practice trial.
To make it to nationals, Odom faced challengers from the 50 states and two U.S. territories. Only four individuals in each category advance to the national level and compete at the National FFA Convention.
“We went through a 15 minute rigorous interview process and each of us gave a two-minute introduction speech in the room,” Odom said of the competition. “My amazing competitors were from Oklahoma, Michigan and Missouri. They had fantastic proficiencies as well, and every single one of them did an excellent job in it.”
According to the release, each national finalist receives a $500 cash award and a plaque. As a winner, Odom also receives an additional $500 award and a plaque.
Odom thanks his family for their support, especially his father for his help throughout the years in FFA.
“He got to walk across the national stage with me in Indianapolis and that meant more than winning that contest 100 times over,” Odom said.
He also thanks his TCCHS National FFA Organization chapter advisors Nikki Smith, Donald Dalton and Glen Gosier, the latter of whom accompanied Odom to national competition and was his onstage advisor.
Advisor Nikki Smith says Odom is a positive role model for current FFA members.
“He’s very, very dedicated,” Smith said. “He put in a lot of time and effort. He 100 percent deserved to win at nationals.”
Odom is currently a student at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. He is studying animal science.