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Sebastopol high school student is a finalist in national FFA contest

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For 16-year-old Kiley Andersen, the livestock industry is her life.

Andersen has shown sheep and other animals at county fairs since she was little. Now a junior at Analy High School, she is an active member of the Sebastopol chapter of the National FFA Organization, an American youth group that promotes agricultural education in middle and high school. When she decided to do a supervised agriculture experience project for FFA, she thought it would be a good opportunity to gain more knowledge in a field she already was passionate about.

She certainly didn’t expect to be one of only four national finalists in her category for the National FFA Proficiency Award.

“I had no idea I would be a national finalist,” Andersen said. “That was incredible.”

The award has nearly 50 categories, and Andersen’s project fit into the agriculture sales division. Her project involves selling products for her family’s Sebastopol business, Leading Edge Supplements and Supplies, which carries items needed for showing, raising and breeding livestock.

To enter the FFA competition, Andersen had to complete an extensive 25-page application describing her project and outlining her goals. She had to include pictures of her at work, as well as a recommendation letter, and describe the challenges she faced with the business.

After winning the regional competition and then being chosen as a state finalist, she advanced to the national finalist round last month.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Heidi Mickelson, Andersen’s FFA advisor and Analy High School’s agricultural science teacher. “As her adviser, I’m super excited to see it has grown her and challenged her.”

Leading Edge started off as a small business out of the family garage. But now, Andersen’s family has a trailer they use to travel to county fairs in California, Oregon and Nevada to promote and sell their products.

Andersen shows clients how to use some of the products, and also helps her family sell and ship products to customers across the country. She said working for her family business has helped her learn more about animals and the ways she can help people care for their livestock.

In October, Andersen will travel to Indianapolis for the final round of the competition at the National FFA Convention and Expo. She and the other three finalists each will give a short presentation about their project before doing individual interviews with a panel of experts in the agriculture sales industry.

“I’m really nervous to do the interview and the little speech, but I’m also really excited and grateful for the opportunity, especially because we started off so small in the business and now we’re growing,” Andersen said.

Since August, Andersen has been busy practicing for her interview. Mickelson said that while she is the only FFA adviser at Analy High School, Andersen has a “huge community” in the agriculture industry and has made helpful connections through her family business.

“I know that she’s got what it takes,” Mickelson said. “We’re all super proud of her.”

You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com.

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