Rockne Roll / News-Register##Principal Greg Neuman honors the winning Y-C FFA ag sales team, Elsie Duyn, Ryan Berhorst and Abbey Berhorst, at an assembly Tuesday.  Liberty Greenlund, a 2016 Y-C High graduate, also went to the national competition.
Rockne Roll / News-Register##Principal Greg Neuman honors the winning Y-C FFA ag sales team, Elsie Duyn, Ryan Berhorst and Abbey Berhorst, at an assembly Tuesday. Liberty Greenlund, a 2016 Y-C High graduate, also went to the national competition.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Y-C's FFA team places second in nation

Ryan Berhorst, a freshman from Yamhill who started as an alternate, became one of the youngest national first-place winners ever, according to senior teammates Abbey Berhorst and Elsie Duyn. He credited his coaches and teammates with helping him earn the top individual score among 160 competitors from around the country.

Ryan, Abbey, Elsie and a fourth teammate, 2016 Y-C grad Liberty Greenlund, practiced throughout the summer and fall with coaches Greg Wildhauber and Ivory McLaughlin. Accompanied by adviser Nicole Spearman, they joined about 68,000 other young people last week at the national FFA convention in Indianapolis.

The Y-C team qualified for nationals by placing second in district competition last year, then taking the top spot at the state level.

At that point, the team included Hayley DeHaan, who attended Western Mennonite School but participated in FFA at Y-C. Now in college, she was unable to return for nationals, so Ryan was chosen to take her place.

Students can join FFA when they’re in seventh grade, but cannot compete at the national level until their freshman year — just the right timing in Ryan’s case. He joined as a seventh-grader at Yamhill-Carlton Intermediate School.

He competed successfully in tractor driving competitions, then added leadership and sales activities as well. He’s now serving as treasurer of the Y-C High chapter.

His sister, Abbey, joined FFA when she was a freshman. She was reluctant at first, but was persuaded to continue by her parents, Jeff and Charmaine Berhorst.

She said she soon came to love showing animals and participating in contests and leadership activities.

Now chapter vice president, she’s made friends through FFA. She plans to become an ag educator, which will give her a chance to encourage others to join the organization in the future.

Elsie, chapter president, said she also has enjoyed building relationships and making friends through the organization — and showing hogs and sheep. In addition, she said, she has gained valuable public speaking skills and confidence when making presentations — skills that will continue to serve her as she goes on to college and becomes an OB nurse.

“FFA is so much more than just livestock,” said Elsie, daughter of Joe and Joy Duyn.

In the ag sales contest, students develop marketing plans, take a written test and make sales presentations.

The latter are more than attempts to sell a product, Elise said. Student sales reps try to develop relationships with customers and show how their products can meet customers’ needs.

“We go in and shake hands and introduce ourselves, then build a rapport,” she said.

The Y-C team members told the customers — the judges — about themselves and their state.

“I’m from the Willamette Valley, where we grow hazelnuts and grass seed,” Abbey began in a demonstration of her sales technique. “I have market lambs and play softball in high school.”

She said she and her teammates wanted the customers to get to know them. But even more, she said, they wanted to get the customers talking in order to build trust and determine needs.

Ryan said their goal was to build a longtime relationship with a customer, not just make a one-time sale. After the relationship was established, he and his sister said, FFA members would move on to describing their products and showing how those products would help customers.

At the distrct and state levels, students choose their own products to sell.

Elsie, who is interested in genetics, sold a product for breeding hogs. Abbey sold ear tags for sheep and other animals. Ryan represented a company that sells  supplies used to bring out the best in show animals. Liberty, who worked at Argyle Winery, sold wine grapes.

For the national competition, everyone was assigned what to sell — John Deere balers.

As soon as they learned their assignment, the Y-C team began intensive study. Most of the team knew nothing about balers, Elsie said, but Ryan was familiar with them from watching them work on his family’s farm.

To learn more about the subject, they read about balers and Skyped with engineers and designers from John Deere headquarters.

They also visited with local farmers like Mark Gabler. They went to Pape Machinery, the John Deere dealership in McMinnville, to confer with Bryan Sempke on both balers and salesmanship.

Conferring with local professionals was helpful, Abbey said.

“It helped us get a perspective,” she said. “The ag business is different than some other businesses. It’s about connecting with family and family operations.”