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HomeAt Home & BeyondBabione Sisters: FFA Cream of the Crop

Babione Sisters: FFA Cream of the Crop

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The Future Farmers of America is a national youth organization that is devoted to preparing students for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success by way of agricultural education. In this organization, the highest degree achievable is the American FFA Degree, which honors an FFA member’s dedication to his or her chapter and state FFA association as demonstrated through their supervised agricultural experience, outstanding leadership abilities, and community involvement. Less than 1 percent of FFA students nationwide have earned this degree, including four students who completed the Hernando High School FFA program under the leadership of teacher Rick Ahrens.

These gifted young ladies have one other thing in common as well; they’re sisters! The Babione sisters hail from a Brooksville farm family and are all alumni of Hernando High School. All of them have received the American FFA Degree, along with an experience that all four sisters credit with setting the course of their lives.

Ruth (Babione) McCorquodale is grateful for the educational enrichment supplied through her FFA experiences. She shared, “FFA gave me the opportunity to learn about leadership, basic leadership principles.”

From raising animals to speaking in public to competing at events, FFA offered Ruth a crash course in agricultural studies, not to mention basic life skills. “Kids who enjoy agriscience should definitely join FFA. This is great for kids interested in agriculture, who can spend time together and learn,” she said.

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She particularly enjoyed FFA living projects. “I loved hands-on-projects, like showing animals,” she said. “We put in a lot of effort. I sharpened my leadership and public speaking skills.” Ruth has found an excellent application for her skills as a teacher at a Michigan-based nature camp. She stated, “Between being raised on a farm and participating in FFA, I am thankful for the experience that prepared me for life.”

Recent college graduate Sarah Babione, who earned a physics degree from Berry College, finds that a childhood passed on a family farm set the stage for a successful run in FFA. “My sisters and I grew up on a farm and raised animals together,” she said. “As part of FFA, I did everything from show steers at the county fair to compete in speaking competitions. And I won first in state at the agriscience fair, which inspired my interest in physics.”

Sarah shared that she was deeply honored by the winning of the American FFA Degree. “The degree to me represents so much time, all of the hours invested, so much effort,” she stated. “It represents all the joy.” And what advice would Sarah Babione have for kids considering FFA? “They should definitely join FFA,” she said. “It’s a big family.”
Anna Babione, who is also a recent college graduate, first joined FFA at the urging of her sisters. “My older sisters were in the FFA and had fun. We were always outside working with the animals at home and I was so excited to join FFA,” she said.

Anna also greatly enjoyed competing in agriscience fairs and particularly enjoyed learning research skills. Now, she is poised to travel overseas as a teacher at international schools. “I love teaching,” she said. “The skills I learned in FFA helped me love learning and honed my studying skills in college.”

Anna Babione said she was particularly excited to earn the American FFA Degree, calling it “the pinnacle of FFA.” What she values most is the knowledge she has gained about the agriscience industry. “This is the food we eat, and the environment all around the world,” she stated.

Mary Babione, the youngest of the four sisters, graduated in spring 2021 from Hernando High School and is currently pursuing a nursing degree at Liberty University in Virginia. “FFA gave me the chance to achieve,” she said. “I learned agriscience and a lot of life skills.”

Mary Babione said that she was able to show animals at state fairs and was named a FFA State Ambassador. “After growing up in nature with three older sisters, I discovered the STEM side of farming through FFA,” she said. “And Mr. Ahrens played a large part in shaping the person I am. He showed so much care for his students, and taught us about how the real world works.”Her experience in FFA gave Mary Babione the courage to “step up as a leader” and to study the science skills currently preparing her for a career in nursing.

Jeannette Babione, mother of the Babione family, takes great pride in her daughters’ achievements. “Rick always challenged the students in FFA,” she said. “He taught them so many skills, and gave them so much motivation.”

Dan Babione says that FFA gave his daughters a good agricultural perspective.”They learned where their food comes from,” he said. “And they gained leadership and public speaking skills. So many different skills.” From agriscience fairs to animal showing, Jeannette Babione calls her daughters’ FFA activities “a rich high school experience.”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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