Exeter FFA alumni to compete at the national level

Grace Jardon, a 2019 Exeter Union High School graduate, will once again represent the Exeter FFA Chapter at the 93rd National FFA Convention and Expo. Jardon is competing with her proficiency project in the Agriscience Research – Animal Systems category based on her research titled “Epidemiology and Treatment of Spinose Ear Ticks on a California Dairy.” She is a two-time National FFA Agriscience finalist and has been recognized as a four-time California FFA agriscience state champion and team member.

As a junior, Jardon began her research of the spinose ear tick as an Exeter FFA Agriscience project. She became interested in entomology with the encouragement of her father, Phillip Jardon, and Rick Peyton, both veterinarians. Their support was influential in “my ability to do this project in the first place,” she shared.  The Fresno State University sophomore has assessed the effects and control of spinose ear ticks in dairy cattle by meeting with several veterinarians, dairymen, and industry professionals and by running several trials. “Spinose ear ticks are pests that live in the ears of their host, causing irritation and pain. Although these ticks can live in other hosts, my research focused on dairy cattle infestations,” she said. Jardon has identified “potential methods for controlling spinose ear tick infestations and [can] pinpoint where these ticks live on freestall dairies.”

While pursuing a degree in Dairy Science, Jardon was able to showcase this examination alongside Dr. Alec Gerry, Professor of Entomology at the University of California at Riverside. Her work was shared at the 2020 Golden State Dairy Management Conference in March. Her FFA research experience has “instilled a great interest in animal science.” She hopes to attend graduate school to continue researching ways to improve animal agriculture.

Jardon is now preparing to present her research and proficiency project at the National FFA Convention which will be held virtually. “Under normal circumstances,” Jardon explains, “I would have traveled to Indianapolis and completed an interview” with a panel of judges from the dairy industry. Instead, she is submitting a pre-recorded video answering three questions specific to her proficiency project. The National FFA Convention will be held from October 27-29 and the results from the proficiency areas will be announced during that time.

Exeter FFA Advisor Kevy Mendes said that working with Jardon, “has allowed me to assist with her project at all levels and provide support whenever needed.” Mendes described the thrill of working with students to complete projects and compete at the highest level. “It has been a great experience to watch Grace take on this project and to continue to expand on her scientific skills and knowledge.”

Additionally, the Exeter FFA Chapter will be receiving a Three-Star National Chapter Award at the convention, meaning that “we have excelled at the quality standards set forth by the National FFA Organization,” explained Mendes. The highest recognition the National FFA Organization can offer to a local FFA chapter, this award is presented to chapters that provide innovative activities under three categories: growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture. Prerequisites for consideration of this honor include being in the top 10% of chapters in each state, and must rank at the “gold” level in order to compete at the national level. Exeter FFA is one of 9 of California’s 300 FFA Chapters to receive the accolade this year.

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