Staples-Motley students place 2nd at National FFA Convention

Colton Converse and Caden Mrazek will take what they learned with them into their future agricultural careers.

Staples-Motley High School students Colton Converse (left) and Caden Mrazek placed second at the National FFA Convention earlier this fall with their project on the efficiency of livestock bedding. Submitted Photo

Two Staples-Motley High School students are well on their way to futures in the agricultural field after placing second in the National FFA Convention earlier this fall.

Junior Colton Converse and sophomore Caden Mrazek each earned $750 scholarships for their project on livestock bedding types in the animal systems division. The second place finish marks the first time Staples-Motley students have even participated in the state or national convention, let alone placed.

“I think it’s pretty special,” FFA adviser Joe Ramstad said of the boys’ accomplishment. “They worked really hard, and it makes me proud to be watching them grow and develop as leaders.”

Ramstad is in his second year teaching agricultural science and said seeing his students excel at this level so early in his career is phenomenal.

“And they’re both such great kids, and I think that that’s just a small sample of the awesome students that we have here at Staples.”


Converse’s and Mrazek’s project consisted of testing the absorbency levels of five different materials used for livestock bedding to determine which was most efficient. They used water and pudding to simulate animal excretion.

“Our findings matter to us and other farmers/ranchers because they can help narrow down the options for which bedding to use,” Mrazek said in a statement. “Even if most farmers/ranchers don't use this bedding, they can be better educated about bedding.”

Both boys plan on pursuing careers in the agricultural field — Mrazek as an ag teacher and Converse in raising livestock — and they believe their FFA experience will help them along the way.

“The knowledge I gained from this project helped expand my overall knowledge of livestock production,” Converse said. “... Knowing which bedding is the most absorbent can help me greatly improve my facilities.”

Mrazek said one of the most beneficial things he learned was how to conduct a proper study.

The duo had to write a paper on their findings and participate in a virtual interview, as this year’s convention could not take place in person. They plan to expand on the project next year for another shot at a national title.

Two other Staples-Motley students — Abby Flaa and Sophie Albie — didn’t place in the Top 10 but received a bronze rating for their participation. The Staples-Motley FFA program was named a three-star chapter, which is the highest honor an FFA chapter can earn at the national level.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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