Six thousand years ago, new technology in agriculture meant the invention of the scratch plow in Mesopotamia. Today, new technologies are helping researchers develop seeds with higher levels of healthy oil and better starch content for ethanol production, even seeds that can protect themselves against drought, insects and disease. Garst Seed Company's 2007 Ag Communications Curriculum and FFA Commercial Competition helps high school students understand the advancements in seed technology that will one day benefit farmers around the world, and provides hands-on learning activities for FFA classes.



The 2007 competition theme is "Technologies of the Future." The updated curriculum is now available for download on Garst's Web site: www.garstseed.com, under the FFA Support button.



"This year's FFA curriculum and competition theme reflects Garst's ongoing pledge to be the innovative seed leader that provides growers with new seed products to improve their productivity," said Steve Klein, director of marketing for Garst Seed Company. "Young people are often the first to learn about and adopt new technologies, so it's natural for Garst to help them learn about technology's important role in future crop production."



Each spring, Garst develops a unique classroom curriculum, available free of charge to FFA advisers, to teach high school students the basic principles of marketing communications. A second component of the curriculum is a nationwide competition in which FFA chapters apply the principles they learn in the classroom to develop communications or "commercials" about each year's theme. FFA chapters compete for $7,500 in cash and prizes.



New to the competition this year, Garst is asking students to brand, launch and market their own seed product. Students will choose from one of four products currently in the seed industry's technology pipeline-drought-resistant corn, aphid-resistant soybeans, ultra low-linolenic soybeans or ethanol corn hybrids. Students will create a brand name, slogan and logo for the seed product they choose.



"Garst's curriculum is great because it motivates students to learn the material and complete the homework so they can enter the competition. The contest is a good goal to keep them interested and involved," said Brent Niemeyer, FFA adviser from Sweet Springs, Mo., whose team took home first place in the radio ad category in 2006. "This curriculum applies to everyone, not just those working toward agriculture-specific careers. We all hope our FFA students will choose jobs in the field of agriculture, but that doesn't always happen. This curriculum helps prepare them for any career in the business world."



There are four categories in the FFA Commercial Competition: print ads, television ads, radio ads and public relations. Each FFA Chapter may enter the public relations category and one ad category. Garst will donate $750 to the winning chapter in each division. Second- and third-place prizes of $500 and $250, respectively, will be awarded in each of the four categories. An additional $500 will be awarded for Best of Show. As an added incentive this year, Garst will give a free t-shirt to every student who enters the competition.

Competition winners will be announced at the annual National FFA Convention, held Oct. 24-27 in Indianapolis, Ind. The top entries in each category will be on display at the Garst Seed Company booth throughout the convention and will be posted on Garst's Web site.



"Last year was our first year to enter the competition, and we were thrilled with our win," Niemeyer said. "I would definitely encourage other FFA chapters to participate. The curriculum is big enough to have substance, but compact enough to add as an extra unit without throwing off your class schedule. My students really enjoy it."



Ag instructors may request the curriculum and competition materials by sending an e-mail to askgarst@garstseedco.com or by logging onto Garst's Web site at www.garstseed.com to download the materials under the FFA Support button. Entries for the commercial competition must be postmarked no later than Oct. 6, 2007.



In addition to the FFA curriculum program, Garst has committed $75,000 to the FFA Collegiate Scholarship Program to be awarded over three years. Continuing this year, 25 FFA students from around the country will receive a $1,000 scholarship to help them pursue an ag-related college degree. The donation was in honor of Garst's 75th anniversary in 2005. Students interested in applying for Garst's 2008 FFA Collegiate Scholarship should ask their FFA adviser or the National FFA Organization for an application.