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GROWMARK Announces 2023 Essay Contest Winners

Bloomington, Ill. | Megan Waeltz of Marissa, Illinois, has been named the national winner of the 2023 GROWMARK essay contest for FFA members. The theme of this year’s contest was “How can agricultural cooperatives stay relevant to future generations?” Waeltz is a student at Marissa High School and a member of the Marissa FFA Chapter. Her FFA advisor is Kim Portz. She will receive a $1000 award from GROWMARK, and the Marissa FFA will receive $750. In her essay, Waeltz said: “For example, co-ops help farmers build the future of their operation by providing products and services at lower costs, assuring that products produced on the farm are marketed and distributed, and offering tools essential to farm money management… Agriculture cooperatives will always be relevant because they allow farmers to invest in the future of their operations.” Four runners-up were also selected. They each receive $500 and their FFA chapters receive $300. They are, in alphabetical order: • Thaddeus Bergschneider, of Franklin, Illinois. He is a member of the Franklin FFA Chapter and a student at Franklin High School. His FFA advisor is Brent Nelson. • Trinity Gibbs, of Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is a member of the Courtland High School FFA Chapter and a student at Courtland High School. Her FFA advisor is Cutler Blankenship. • Ava Knapke, of Celina, Ohio. She is a member of the Celina FFA Chapter and a student at Celina High School. Her FFA advisor is Emily Turner. • Rebecca Shields, of Dry Fork, Virginia. She is a member of the Chatham FFA Chapter and a student at Chatham High School. Her FFA advisor is Cassidy Shelton.

This is the 30th year for the program, sponsored by the GROWMARK System and FS member cooperatives, in conjunction with state FFA leaders, to help young people develop their writing skills, learn about current issues in agriculture, and understand the unique role of cooperatives.


GROWMARK is an agricultural cooperative serving almost 400,000 customers across North America, providing agronomy, energy, facility engineering and construction, and logistics products and services, as well as grain marketing and risk management services. Headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois, GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, which is used by member cooperatives. GROWMARK also owns and operates SEEDWAY, the largest full-line seed company in the United States. More information is available at


Media Contact: Karen Jones Youth and Young Producers Specialist GROWMARK, Inc. 309-557-6184


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