Agriculture interests stay with SOU student

SOU student maintains passion for agriculture

No two SOU students are alike in all ways, but Abigail Rademacher may be among the least typical. For starters, she is now an economics major at SOU, a medium-sized liberal arts university – and has a passion for agriculture and livestock, having transferred from a large ag school.

But Rademacher stands out even among others who share her farming/ranching interests; she took a brief break from classes this fall for a trip to Indiana, where she was awarded an FFA American Degree – an honor bestowed on fewer than 1 percent of the nation’s Future Farmers of America members.

“I thought that this might inspire other students that dedication to their passions and extracurricular activities can help to enhance their education at an undergraduate level,” she said.

Rademacher received her FFA State Degree in 2019, while a junior at Eagle Point High School, then graduated with honors – and a 3.8 GPA – a year later. The difference between the FFA State Degree and American Degree is mostly a matter of scale – the American Degree requires much higher levels of community service, investment and profits from agricultural or livestock projects. Rademacher also completed the equivalent of 360 hours secondary and post-secondary agricultural education to qualify for the national-level honor, through a combination of college-level courses while in high school and ag-specific coursework at Iowa State University prior to her transfer to SOU.

Then there’s the requirement for American Degree recipients to have invested at least $7,500 and earned at least $10,000 – and spent at least 2,500 paid and unpaid hours – in agricultural projects. Rademacher checked those boxes through a variety of FFA “Supervised Agricultural Experiences,” which are similar to 4-H projects. She completed a swine production project, showed both swine and steers, wrote an agricultural blog, worked in the garden department of a Lowes home improvement store, worked at an agricultural magazine at Iowa State, attended a Global Youth Institute conference and created a wine label for a local winery.

She completed community service and demonstrated leadership by volunteering with an Adopt a Family, Hearts with a Mission, the Maslow Project and Feed America, and at events including an agricultural dinner and auction, a cattlemen’s annual meeting and at an annual quilt show. She served as a group leader at the Global Youth Institute conference, as public relations chair and vice president of her Public Relations Student Association of America chapter and as Eagle Point High School’s Pear Blossom princess for 2020.

Rademacher landed this fall at SOU – where her grandparents and mother are alumni – after leaving Iowa for health reasons. She changed her focus from business to economics following a conversation with Bret Anderson, an associate professor and chair of SOU’s economics program.

“My goal after my bachelor’s is to pursue a Ph.D. in agricultural economics with a potential career as a policy analyst within the Department of Agriculture,” Rademacher said. “I haven’t heard of many opportunities at SOU related to ag, and would love any suggestions.”