Riley Berger, American Star in Agricultural Placement Finalist
Meet Riley Berger, representing Ridgewood FFA as one of Ohio’s Star Finalists. Star Finalists are the best of the best among thousands of American FFA Degree recipients around the country. These students have met rigorous requirements, including completing several SEAs (supervised agricultural experiences), demonstrating excellent management skills, fulfilling education and leadership criteria, and earning the American FFA degree. Riley had no background in agriculture, but he found his niche in FFA in eighth grade when he and his fellow classmates were required to take one semester of FFA at Ridgewood High School. “I really liked it a lot,” said Berger. “I already knew I liked agriculture; I just never have really had the opportunity to do this.” During his freshman year, he officially joined FFA and became more involved by participating in Career Development Events (CDEs) and attending the National FFA Convention & Expo. That’s when his FFA advisors began encouraging him to search for a job opportunity and an SAE to allow him to pursue his passion. “My SAEs included working for ASB Farm, owned by Alan and Susan Brinker, where I worked with market chickens, market hogs, Katahdin sheep, commercial cattle, and gained experience in the show cattle industry,” said Berger. “This SAE gave me the opportunity to show a heifer through the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association BEST Program.” Berger not only participated, he won Champion Crossbred Heifer for the entire program season. Berger admits he was surprised that ASB Farms was willing to hire him because, in his mind, he didn't know anything. Alan started him out slowly, but little by little gave him more responsibilities and eventually began allowing him to help with the cattle. “Alan explained the nutritional values and differences between the multiple types of grass there are,” said Berger. “And eventually, I learned the difference between types of cattle, how efficient they were on grass, and why certain cattle did better on feed.” Berger went from moving cows from field to field to marketing cattle to customers, keeping records and maintaining the herd. “This project and being involved in FFA has really changed my life,” said Berger. I come from a small town where my home life wasn’t very good. I decided to move in with my grandparents and I've lived with them ever since.” Berger credits ASB Farm for providing the knowledge and guidance he needed to become successful and responsible. “They've taught me how to love — love agriculture, love people, and taught me how to be responsible,” said Berger. “They took a chance on me, and now I feel like family.” It was that love, support and experience that has propelled Berger to achieve awards he never thought were possible — including being an American Star Finalist. “All I can say is if I can do it, anybody else can do it because I came from ground zero. I knew absolutely nothing about any of this stuff,” said Berger. “As a kid, I played with toys and dreamed of one day being able to have my own farm, working on a farm and being involved in agriculture.” Berger hopes to continue to be involved with FFA in the future, whether through livestock judging or simply just teaching them about livestock as a small way to give back to those who poured knowledge into him. “I would really like to thank my advisors, Logan Pyers and Sue Davis, for helping me get to where I am today and the Brinker family for guiding me to the person I’ve become and helping me get involved in the cattle industry,” said Berger.