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Student Volunteer Wins National FFA Award

Earth Team Volunteer Mallory McDevitt brings home the FFA National Proficiency Award in Vegetable Production Mallory McDevitt at her garden

Ohio has a very special Earth Team Volunteer.

Mallory McDevitt of Wapakoneta, Ohio, is a real go-getter. This 18-year old high school senior has been an Earth Team Volunteer since she was 14, the youngest age allowable for Earth Team Volunteers. She also serves as the Wapakoneta FFA Chapter Vice President. And if school, FFA, and volunteer activities sound like a lot for a senior, that’s not the case for this senior. Mallory owns and operates her own business, ‘Mals Garden and Landscaping’! She manages and operates a one-acre organic garden, both selling and donating her produce. For her extraordinary gardening accomplishments, she was awarded 1st place in Ohio by the FFA in the Vegetable Production Category of their Proficiency Award competition. She currently is among the top four national finalists in this category and among only 14 students in Ohio to qualify as national finalists in all of the 47 categories. The winner will be determined at the National FFA Convention in October.

When the Feds Feed Families Food Drive was announced, service-minded Mallory saw an opportunity to help. Her father, NRCS employee Steve McDevitt, investigated the possibility of Mallory contributing to the effort and learned she certainly could participate. Mallory decided to do more than participate; she offered to coordinate the food drive for the Wapakoneta Field Office. She worked with the organization that would receive the donations, Mercy Unlimited, Inc., of Wapakoneta and delivered the food collections to them weekly. She also charted weekly progress toward the goal she set for the food drive so everyone could see how they were doing.

The field office goal of collecting 1000 lbs. of food is where the story gets really great. This young lady challenged herself to make a pound-for-pound fresh produce donation equal to the total non-perishable donations collected at the field office. Mallory said, “It has become a personal challenge–not only does the office have a 1,000 lb. goal, but I have a personal goal to provide more pounds of fresh produce than the office total.” Anyone who has ever gardened, particularly using organic methods, knows the work that goes into growing that quantity of food. It requires a lot of know-how, patience, perseverance, and labor to have even a small productive garden. But Mallory sees it this way, “Why let your garden surplus go to waste when our local food bank can distribute to hungry families and individuals.” Why indeed?

Through volunteering and donating, Mallory has learned that doing for others returns many-fold to one’s self. Seeing the joy others experience from her generosity and effort is tremendously rewarding. Mallory says, “Mercy Unlimited gets excited when I pull in and unload. They appreciate what I’m doing, especially the fresh produce, and I get a good feeling about what I’m doing.”

Last week the office met the 1000 lb. goal and more than 500 lbs. of that was fresh produce from Mallory. But even though the official end of the Feds Feeds Families Food Drive is August 31, she isn’t done. To Mallory, a goal is a thing to be surpassed. She says, “I plan to continue giving past the deadline since the garden will still be producing.”

NRCS is fortunate to have a mechanism to harness the passion and skills of people who want to volunteer, people like Mallory. The Earth Team allows anyone age 14 or older to do what they can to help people, help the land, and help society. Mallory McDevitt is a perfect example of an Earth Team Volunteer. Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby thanks Mallory for her extraordinary efforts and her contribution to NRCS. He says, “I wish the best of luck to Mallory in the FFA finals, but she’s already a winner in my book!”

Mallory McDevitt was selected as the National FFA Proficiency Award Winner in Vegetable Production.  Congratulations Mallory!

Mallory's interview with the Ohio's Country Journal

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Dianne Johnson
State Earth Team Volunteer Coordinator, 200 North High Street, Room 522, Columbus, Ohio  43215, (614) 255-2463