Denair High Grad Ken Carder Earns Prestigious FFA Award


Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Ken Carder will join an elite group of high-achieving ag students at this week’s FFA national convention in Indianapolis.

Carder, a 2015 Denair High graduate, will receive the American FFA degree, which is awarded to only about 1% of students nationally. According to the FFA website, only those members “who have demonstrated the highest level of commitment to FFA and made significant accomplishments in their supervised agricultural experiences” earn the award.

Carder, 19, has been an FFA member for six years and represented Denair many times at the Stanislaus County Fair. He has shown cows, pigs, chickens and goats. In 2012, his Yorkshire pig was named grand champion.

“I’m been raising pigs the longest, so they’re my favorite, but I also like dairy cattle because they’re different to control,” he said.

There are nearly 630,000 FFA members across the country. Of that group, about 4,500 are being honored at a ceremony Saturday morning with American FFA degrees. Carder is one of about 350 recipients from California and the first from Denair High in six years.

Carder now attends Modesto Junior College while working at the Taylor Vet Clinic in Turlock, helping with small animals and occasionally horses. His goal is to transfer to Chico State, Cal Poly, Fresno State or possibly Kansas State, majoring in ag business.

Carder’s stepmother, Michelle Bettencourt, said he promised her a few years he would achieve a higher FFA rank than she did as a student at Downey High in Modesto. Bettencourt got as high as the state level during her FFA career.

“He said he was going to beat me and he did,” said Bettencourt, who will accompany her husband and Carder to Indiana this week.

Carder said it’s the friendships that he will miss most as his FFA ends after this weekend’s ceremony.

“I mainly just focus on the times I’ve spent with my friends at competitions or meetings,” he said when asked about a favorite memory. “I look back and know I couldn’t have done it without their support. They kept me sane.”

Denair High FFA Students Excel at Stanislaus County Fair

Denair FFA Sign

Submitted by Denair High School

The 28 Denair High FFA students had an exceptional 10 days at the recently completed Stanislaus County Fair, collecting award after award and successfully competing against much larger schools.

“I believe our students represented the quality of school, community and FFA programs we have at Denair. Across the board, our students have thrived and I am committed to continue to build the FFA program at Denair for all students,” said Matthew Marshall, one of the high school’s two ag teachers.

Here is a complete list of Denair’s awards from the fair, which ran from July 8-17.


  • Denair FFA: 1st place Clean Barn Award, 3rd place Grade Dairy Chapter Group Award, 5th place Registered Dairy Chapter Group Award
  • Carson Haringa: 4th place Advanced Dairy Showmanship
  • Ryan Haringa: 1st place intermediate Dairy Showmanship
  • Chase Pritt: 1st Place novice Dairy Showmanship
  • Bryson Prock: 6th place intermediate Dairy Showmanship
  • Alyce Silva: 8th place intermediate Dairy Showmanship

Meat Goats

  • Denair FFA: 2nd place Chapter Group Award
  • Kelsey Park: 3rd place Novice Goat Showmanship
  • Markus Rocha: Champion Drive Market Goat, Reserve Junior Buck,  2nd place Advanced Breeding Meat Goat Showmanship, 7th place Master Showmanship (7th best showman, out of 1,400+ exhibitors)
  • Cierra Rodriguez: 8th place Novice Goat Showmanship

Dairy Goats

  • Heidi Johnson: 5th place Advanced dairy goat showmanship

Continue reading “Denair High FFA Students Excel at Stanislaus County Fair” »

28 Denair High Students Enter Stanislaus County Fair

Denair FFA Sign

Submitted by Denair High School

The Stanislaus County Fair opened Friday, but the preparations by 28 Denair High School FFA students began much, much earlier. Animals were bought and trained, and metal and wood projects were designed and crafted.

And even before fair officials swung open their gates for the 105th time, some of the Denair contingent already had collected ribbons.

Because there is not enough space in the crowded livestock areas, judging of goats, sheep, cows and other animals began as early as July 6.

Chris Galhano’s ewe was selected Reserve Supreme Champion, the second-highest award in the sheep category. Similarly, Tristan Haile’s Hampshire/Suffolk lamb finished second, the first of six animals she will show before the fair ends. Denair’s FFA Market Goat Group (Markus Rocha, Courtney Prock, Kelsey Park, Cierra Rodriguez and Hector Obando) was second out of 15 clubs in the Chapter Group competition.

Markus Rocha was second in advanced showmanship with his goat, qualifying him for the master showmanship finals. He also had the Reserve Junior Buck and make it to the FFA Market Goat Champion Drive with his entry.

Marcus RochaRocha also was among a high-achieving group of Coyotes who excelled in projects. His barrel barbecue won a blue ribbon, as did an impressive 12-foot barbecue on a trailer that Joey Freitas built for the Denair Lions Club. Beau Carli’s large orchard float was one of five Best in Show awards for ag mechanics. Other winners were Bryson Prock for his skillful refurbishment of an antique trailer and Galhano for his large entertainment center made of knotty alder. Abi Dirkse earned second place for her wooden potting table.

“For a small school, we are extremely competitive,” said ag teacher Matthew Marshall, who joined the Denair High staff just in time for the 2015 county fair.

This year, Marshall and fellow first-year ag teacher Madison Weigel had much more opportunity to interact with their students to help them imagine and then create their projects. In all, Denair’s FFA members totaled more than 50 entries to the fair, capping a year of renewed enthusiasm and new energy for the school’s ag program. Continue reading “28 Denair High Students Enter Stanislaus County Fair” »

National FFA Week Starts With Students Riding Tractors to School

FFA Tractors.jpg

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Some students ride the bus to school. Others walk or are dropped off by their parents. Denair High senior Tristan Haile and sophomore Bryson Prock did something completely different Monday – they came by tractor.

It was a fun way to kick off and draw attention to National FFA Week, which is being celebrated across the country by Future Farmers of America clubs like the one at Denair.

Bryson said he and his father borrowed the tractor idea from FFA organizations in the Midwest. They pitched it to school officials, who enthusiastically gave their blessing.

So Monday morning, Bryson climbed aboard his family’s Kubota M8560 and navigated his way to Tristan’s home, where she and her New Holland joined the two-tractor caravan to school. They parked the tractors near the ag shop on the high school campus.

“My dad and I had seen pictures of people doing this and thought it would be cool to do it here,” Bryson explained.

There were other fun parts to Monday’s first day of FFA Week. Most of the 120 Denair FFA members – and many of their classmates and teachers – wore camo clothing. At lunch time, there was “target practice” in which students tried to knock over plastic water bottles by throwing tennis balls.

The planned activities for the rest of the week look like this:

  • Tuesday: A hay-bucking contest. Everyone is encouraged to wear an “ag” hat.
  • Wednesday: A milk-drinking contest. The attire is blue and gold — the FFA colors.
  • Thursday: A wood-stacking event. Plaid is the outfit of choice to honor lumberjacks.
  • Friday: Kiss a pig day. Most of Denair High’s teachers will have a jar in their classrooms. Students will deposit loose change. Whichever teacher collects the most has to kiss a pig.

“It’s a fun way to advocate for ag and get the whole campus involved,” said first-year teacher Madison Weigel.

DHS Student Earns FFA State Degree

Kenneth Carder

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Denair High School’s Kenneth Carder is the only member of this senior class who has earned his FFA State Degree. This ambitious student, who has been a member of Denair FFA since eighth grade, previously earned his Greenhand and Chapter Farmer Degrees.

At the 2012 fair, Kenneth won Yorkshire Breed Champion. He placed first in market class for his pig in his freshman and sophomore year, and for his cow during his sophomore year. He also made it to finals in his junior and sophomore year, for showmanship of his pig.

Kenneth is working this year on his FFA American Degree, which is not awarded until next year. Currently enrolled at Modesto Junior College in an Ag Computer Applications class, Kenneth plans to major in Animal Science and become a veterinarian.

Kenneth demonstrates all three circles of the agriculture education model. He is an excellent student in class, attends monthly FFA meetings, and has carried out a Supervised Agricultural Education Project (SAEP) in swine, each year. Students like Kenneth are great role-models to those looking to be involved in FFA.