Holdrege FFA’s Grady Johnson named American Star Farmer

Holdrege FFA’s Grady Johnson named American Star Farmer
October 29th, 2021 | Bryce Doeschot

Grady Johnson of Holdrege, Nebraska was named the American Star Farmer at this year’s National FFA Convention.

The American Star Farmer is awarded to the FFA member that demonstrates the top production agriculture SAE in the nation.

The member must demonstrate outstanding achievement, active FFA participation and an exemplary scholastic record.

Watch: Grady speaks with the Rural Radio Network following the announcement on Friday

Johnson’s primarily Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) is baling corn stalks. He got his start as an independent farmer by raising sheep.

Johnson follows in the footsteps of his father for the top honor by the organization. Gady’s father, Blake Johnson, was named American Star Farmer in 1991.

Grady and Blake Johnson

Grady is a 2018 graduate from Holdrege Public Schools, and he served as the 2018-29 Nebraska FFA state secretary.

Grady Johnson Feature by the National FFA Organization
Agriculture is an industry with many technological advancements behind the scenes, and Grady Johnson wants to use the latest and greatest tech to help his farming operation succeed.

“For me, it’s just seeing what’s next,” Johnson, a member of the Holdrege FFA, said. “There’s been a lot of innovations in agriculture, and it’s fun to be on the forefront of those and see how we can do more with less.”

Nebraska is famous for its corn, and Johnson’s SAE is primarily about baling corn stalks. While he sells a lot of his bales to feed yards so Nebraska’s livestock have something to eat, he said the production of ethanol — a corn-based innovation in the fuel industry — is also a crucial part of his forward-thinking business strategy.

Corn and ethanol weren’t always what Johnson was focused on, though. He got his start as an independent farmer by raising sheep.

“It started when I was between my freshman and sophomore year of high school,” he said. “I got into sheep production. I always worked for the family operation, but I wanted to start my own business. … And then that [sheep] went to the wayside as the years went on.”

As a business owner, he learned some of the most valuable information related to finances and management in his ag classes. The Agricultural Experience Tracker, or AET, was a particularly helpful bit of technology during his formative years.

“AET was really my first experience with some sort of financial or record-keeping system,” he said. “And it showed you the importance of that, and it helped your operation grow.”

Johnson’s best advice for FFA members who want to start their SAEs is to keep an open mind and embrace new techniques, innovations and ideas.

“I felt like FFA was the way to let you step out of the comfort zone and try something new,” he said. “You can make anything possible. Start early and figure out what you like.”

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