Neal Ely of Grafton has been named 2006 Star in Agribusiness, one of the National FFA organization's highest honors. He competed with three other finalists at the 79th National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind.
Ely was given his award during an onstage convention ceremony and received a plaque and an award of $4,000.
The 22-year-old son of Michael and Tami Ely owns Ely Farms Pickled Asparagus Spears. The product is developed through a family recipe and is marketed to gourmet, specialty and gift, grocery and liquor stores in Nebraska and surrounding states. Ely worked with the University of Nebraska Food Processing Facility to develop the pickled asparagus, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Ely converted an old building on the family farm into a commercial kitchen. In spring, he spends hours in the asparagus patch, caring for the plants and later harvesting them to be sold. When he decided to add the pickling process to his endeavor, he spent much of his time producing, marketing, selling and delivering the product.
Ely joined FFA in eighth grade and soon found he had a passion for public speaking. He participated in the state Creed Speaking Career Development Event, as well as National Public Speaking and Persuasive Speaking. He has held many leadership positions, including chapter president.
A member of the Sutton FFA Chapter where his advisor is Tom Hofmann, Ely attends the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is pursing a degree in Agribusiness.
Ely's supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program led him to apply and earn the American FFA Degree, in which a student must earn and invest $7,500 or have earned and productively invested at least $1,500 and worked 2,250 hours in excess of scheduled class time.