Sumter County High School senior Joan Tovar-Martinez receives recognition

Published 12:59 pm Thursday, September 15, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Staff Reports

Sumter County High School senior Joan Tovar-Martinez was recently named a national finalist for the Future Farmers of America’s “Grain Production Proficiency Award.” Tovar-Martinez is the first student in the history of the Sumter County FFA to reach the national level in any proficiency award category. He is one of only four finalists in the nation.

The FFA’s agricultural proficiency award honors student members who have developed specialized skills in a particular category, skills which may later be applied in pursuing a career in the industry. Every year students from around the United States compete for proficiency awards in nearly 50 categories ranging from agricultural communications to wildlife management.

Tovar-Martinez has reached the finalist stage. On September 21st he will interview before a panel of judges via Zoom as part of the final selection. Following the zoom interview he will travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, in October to participate in the 95th National FFA Convention and Expo where results of the competition will be announced live on stage.

Tovar-Martinez said he was thrilled to learn he made finalist. “I was on stage in Macon when I found out,” he said. “I am honored to be one of the top four in the nation. This feels really good.”

As part of the process, Tovar-Martinez had to create what is known as an SAE (Supervised Agriculture Experience). According to SCHS Agriculture Science instructor Ben Pope: “SAEs are taken very seriously in the world of FFA. It’s a very sophisticated instrument, very technical in nature. Every step along the way is documented, and each student completing an SAE is guided throughout the process by mentors.” In this case, Tovar-Martinez was assisted by Pope, by John Minor of Minor Brothers Farms, and by his grandfather, Wencelasco Martinez, also of Minor Brothers Farms.

(left to right) Ben Pope, Joan Tovar-Martinez, Philip Gentry

Tovar-Martinez said he started working on his SAE as far back as early 2020. “I have learned a lot about grain production at Minor Brothers Farms, where I work. I drive the tractor, plant and harvest corn, manage the grain elevator, and work on irrigation equipment.”

“My (SAE) project is focused more on ag-tech, specifically precision agriculture, which is about trying to make planting, harvesting, and processing more efficient.”

He added, “Everyone at my job is real excited about my award.”

Tovar-Martinez said he is definitely planning for a career in agriculture. “I like working with the technical side of agriculture. I want to get into a precision ag career, something to do with tractors and GPS systems.”