AUSTIN, Minn. ― Braden Greibrok, a senior at Austin High School, is this year's Minnesota State FFA Star in Agriscience.
For his Supervised Ag Experience, Greibrok used data science programs to compare two hybrid corn varieties in an effort to be more profitable on his family farm. Greibrok picked hybrids from two seed companies and planted them side by side throughout a field.
"I was able to receive information with my data that will benefit me in the future with selecting hybrids for different types of soils," Greibrok said. "We'll be able to select the most profitable one or the most productive one."
He said his family in the past usually planted just one variety in a single field or sometimes split down the middle, but they never really looked into the yield data.
"They were excited that I was getting more involved into the farming and being able to see different financial aspects of it," he said of his family's reaction to the project.
His dad and cousins, whom he farms with, were happy to have his research benefit their bottom line. Greibrok said his family's farm has been around since the 1940s, making him part of the third generation to run the land.
"I've been farming since I was little and being able to actually get out and do it myself is really exciting," Greibrok said.
He said new technology is what separates the operation from what it was when his dad was closer to his age.
"With our new auto steer, and all of our data maps, we're able to pinpoint our location or yield data and our yield loss and all of that," he said. "Whereas when my dad was my age, you wouldn't be able to do a project like this."
He said it's technology that will really help their farm into the future.
"It can make us more accurate," Greibrok said.
Although his dad received his fair share of FFA state awards, Greibrok has bragging rights now as the only family member to win a Star award.
Kim Schechinger is the co-adviser of the Austin FFA program along with Nick Schiltz, who teaches agriculture at the high school. Schechinger and Schiltz have been running the program for only about eight months, after the former adviser moved to Alexandria.
Schechinger said the time has gone fast because it's a joy getting to work closely with the FFA members in Austin. The position is one she's excited to grow in.
"I do see myself sticking in the role, because I've known these kids not only from the high school, but I've watched them in the 4-H programs and from being in the community," she said. "We've got long-term plans as to what we're going to do with the program."
Along with being a state Star recipient, Schechinger said that Greibrok has been a great leader as vice president of the Austin FFA chapter.
"He's always willing to help and has a good solution to everything; he has a good head on him," she said of Greibrok. "He's always thinking about his teammates and not just himself. He's a good team player."
There are no state FFA recognitions higher than the Star awards, said Schechinger, and Greibrok set a strong example for future members interested in pursuing a Star recognition.
A research SAE in FFA requires months of work to complete and in Greibrok's case it lasted over a year. Research SAE students have to plan and conduct "major agricultural experiments using the scientific process" to uncover something new in the field. Schechinger said the most difficult aspect of a research SAE for students can be writing the description.
"Braden came in after school regularly and we would work two or three hours on it," Schechinger said. "He would come in on weekends and on Sundays, so we found all the time to be able to sit with him and work through his essay because it's quite a lengthy process."
His advisers could lend him a hand when it came to the writing portion of the project, but Schechinger said Greibrok was totally alone when it came to the interview process that applicants have to go through, done virtually this year.
"He just took it like a champ and did very well, because he knew what he was talking about," she said of Greibrok. "That's what they want to see, is somebody that's going to talk the talk and that can walk the walk."
Schechinger said a couple weeks before Greibrok was given the state Star award, the advisers were notified that state and national FFA leaders, along with FFA foundation staff, would be coming to the school to present the award to him in person.
It was a team effort by advisers and Austin FFA members and alumni to be discreet while they waited to surprise Greibrok, who they kept distracted on the floor above.
"Braden was just like, wow, you know, he was taken away," she said. "It was a good surprise for him and it was a heartful warming for us to know these eight months that we've worked with these kids, especially Braden, that the efforts paid off."
Greibrok will be attending South Dakota State University next fall to earn an agronomy degree, which he said will allow him to work at local co-ops.
"Then I can bring my degree back to our farm and I can do our own farm's agronomy, even possibly the neighbor's, and that'll save us that much more money each year," he said.