Salem brothers see success with sibling rivalry in FFA

Farm Forum

SALEM, S.D. — Good ol’ sibling rivalry.

It wasn’t just rivalry, however, that pushed Andrew Streff to break a South Dakota state agricultural record; his brother, Mark, was his equal, support system and business partner.

Andrew, a senior at McCook Central High School, had his shining moment at the State FFA Convention in Brookings, the Mitchell Daily Republic reported. He became the only FFA member in South Dakota history to receive a total of three Star Awards.

“It took a long time for it to sink in that I had gotten three Star Awards,” Andrew said. “It’s something that’s never been done in our state and only matched at the national level. Very few people can do it or ever will do it.”

The Star Awards honor students who create an SAE, or supervised agricultural experience, which allows them to learn through involvement on the farm and in the classroom. Andrew called this a great way to make your education work for you.

“That’s really a great part about this program; you can do whatever you want with it because agriculture is so diverse,” he said.

In Andrew’s case, he plans to be a crop farmer, so he tailored his education toward corn and soybean production.

He and Mark, who is one year older, have been customizing their agricultural education this way for years. Though the two grew up on their family’s farm a mile and a half northwest of Salem, Andrew admitted he knew nothing of FFA for most of his youth. He did, however, know without a doubt that he was passionate about the world of agriculture. Now, the brothers run three farming businesses together, which resulted in Andrew’s Star in Agribusiness Award.

First, they started a custom rolling business leveling fields and making them easier to combine.

“That’s where we take our giant rolling pin and go across soybean ground,” Andrew said.

The second business is for custom side dressing, which involves the injection of liquid fertilizer between corn rows around the knee-high stage, he explained.

For the third business, the brothers wash, wax and detail farm equipment.

The second Star Award that Andrew earned at the State Convention was the Star in Ag Placement. This was for his hours worked on the farm and for the enthusiasm he put into learning to improve himself and his knowledge of agriculture, he said.

During Andrew’s sophomore year, he won the Star Greenhand Award for his overall involvement in agriculture.

Mark, who is a freshman business major at Dakota State University in Madison, was one of four Star finalists in the state last year in the Agribusiness category. As a freshman in college, this is Mark’s last year of eligibility in FFA, and he thanked his younger brother for keeping him involved.

“I don’t know if I would have stayed in it so long if he hadn’t been pushing me,” Mark said of Andrew. “Competing for awards, that’s been fun. Sibling rivalry.”

The rivalry seemed to carry over to who is most humble, as Andrew, in turn, praised his brother’s work, saying it’s been a “team effort” from the very beginning.

Andrew explained that in addition to being a Star finalist last year, Mark has won countless Proficiency Awards over the years. These awards honor FFA members who have developed specialized skills through their SAEs that can be applied toward their future careers.

“Last year, (Mark) won more proficiency awards than I did, so there was a rivalry, and this year I won more than he did,” Andrew said. “There was some teasing back and forth but we try to work together on it.”

Mark said he isn’t certain if he’ll remain in the agricultural field, but explained that his business degree could easily apply to farming in the future. Andrew, on the other hand, continues to dive deeper into agriculture.

Currently his local FFA chapter’s vice president, Andrew was chosen at the State Convention as the 2016-17 state FFA treasurer for South Dakota.

Today, Andrew will be attending his first training session as treasurer to learn how to better present speeches and small group discussions while advocating for agriculture.

“They’re preparing me to visit all the different chapters in the state where I’ll be presenting ideas and speaking to students,” he said.

He also has a summer internship lined up with the agronomy division of Central Farmers Cooperative. Acting as a field scout, Andrew will be trained in much of what an agronomist does, further diversifying his knowledge, he said.

In the fall, he plans to attend South Dakota State University in Brookings to pursue an ag business major.

“Then, I’ll return to the farm and continue producing food and fuel for the world,” he said.

Aside from agriculture, Andrew is on the school’s yearbook staff, writes for the school newspaper, is a member of the National Honor Society and has helped with basketball stats and the live streaming of games.

Andrew explained that he “tries to keep busy,” reflecting a similar work ethic he sees in his FFA adviser, Terry Rieckman.

“Our adviser pushes us to work very hard,” Andrew said. “He gets here I think at 6:30 in the morning, or even before that, and is here until late into the evening. We know that he is always here to help us succeed and that’s a very driving factor.”

And Andrew isn’t the only one who has been driven by Rieckman’s support. Last year, McCook Central senior Adam Eichacker won two Star Awards in the same year and was, at that time, the only student in the state to have done so.

Rieckman said he couldn’t be happier about the successes of his students.

“That’s pretty sweet, ain’t it?” he said. “I should just retire and go off into the sunset.”

Rieckman will, in fact, be retiring on May 15. With approximately 92 of the high school’s 110 kids in the FFA program, the school is known for its strong FFA legacy. Many of the students credit this to Rieckman, but he said, “We work hard at it. I’m just here. I would hope to think that if somebody else was here they’d do the same thing.”