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East Idaho farmer wins FFA raffle grand prize

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

MERIDIAN – East Idaho farmer Justin Place buys tickets each year for the Idaho FFA Foundation’s annual raffle program.

Like many people around the state who purchase FFA raffle tickets, he doesn’t expect to win.

Place views the tickets he buys as a donation to the state’s FFA program since the raffle raises money for FFA student scholarships as well as the state’s 95 FFA chapters.

This year, one of Place’s tickets floated to the top and, to his shock, he was the grand prize winner, nabbing a 2021 Can Am Maverick side-by-side.

He was stunned when he received a call from FFA officials notifying him that he had won.

“I was kind of in disbelief; I thought there was no way I’d would win that sucker,” said Place, who farms wheat, barley, hay and mustard in Hamer.

The fact Place had this year’s winning ticket is even more surprising considering he purchased his tickets this year – 10 for a total of $200 –at the last moment after almost forgetting to do so.

Place said FFA has treated him well – he was a member while attending West Jefferson High School – and he views his annual ticket purchases as donations to the program.

“I totally didn’t expect to win anything,” he said.

Place said he was planning to trade in his old side-by-side for a new one this summer.

“I’m excited,” he said of his new side-by-side. “We’re going to use it on the farm.”

Place’s name was drawn by Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould June 17 during the 12th annual Idaho FFA Foundation Scholarship Raffle drawing.

The grand prize for the first 10 years of the raffle program was a refurbished tractor but the main prize the last two years has been a side-by-side.

Next year’s grand prize is a 2022 Yamaha Wolverine side-by-side. Tickets for the 2022-2023 raffle go on sale July 1.

FFA members from across the state sold a record 6,509 tickets for this year’s raffle at $20 a piece, raising a total of $130,180.

Half that money goes directly back to the chapters that sold the tickets while the rest is used for scholarships for FFA members.

Since the raffle program began, it has raised $641,751, according to Idaho FFA officials.

Of that total, $475,660 is from ticket sales, $157,555 is from in-kind contributions from businesses and citizens and $128,650 is from banner sponsorships from Idaho businesses.

The program has resulted in a total of $217,000 in scholarships being awarded to 211 students throughout the state.

Before drawing this year’s winning tickets, Gould said the money raised through the raffle program is being well spent.

“The best days in my job are the days I get to spend with these blue jackets,” she said in reference to the iconic blue jackets worn by FFA members. “I get to see first-hand what a huge, huge contribution they make to our state and, in particular, to agriculture. What I see astounds me.”

Gould thanked all the people and businesses that have supported the raffle program through the years.

“I so appreciate the people that have worked on this program because these FFA members are the future of agriculture,” she said. “This is what we’re investing in. These kids are our future.”

The raffle program was started in 2010 by Caldwell farmer Sid Freeman and his wife, Pam. The first tractor, a 1940 International Farmall H, was donated by the Freemans and raffled off in 2011.

Freeman, who is an Idaho Farm Bureau Federation member, said he and his wife wanted to raise money to fund a program they believe strongly in.

That turned out to be the state’s FFA program.

Freeman said statistics show that students who participate in FFA are far more likely to graduate from high school, go on to receive a post-secondary education and then come back and be leaders in their communities later.

“My faith in the ag ed programs and the FFA in the state of Idaho and throughout the nation is just tremendous because these students statistically have a higher success rate than any other student in our secondary education system, bar none,” he said. “That’s a fact.”

The reason for that success, he added, “is because of the lessons they are being taught in their ag ed programs and the leadership skills they gain through the FFA. If I’m going to support something, this is what I’m going to support.”

Besides raising money for FFA students, Freeman said, the raffle has become a visual symbol of Idaho’s FFA program and helped educate people about the importance of agricultural education and FFA.

“The No. 1 thing with the raffle is we try to raise money and we’ve done that,” he said. “But we’ve found that the secondary benefit of this whole scholarship program is the promotion of the ag education and FFA programs.”

The second-place winner in this year’s raffle drawing was Dustin Grooms of Nampa, who won a Traeger Grill.

Third place went to Matt Ineck of Nampa, who won a Cordova cooler filled with BBQ essentials.

The fourth-place ticket was held by Steve White of Caldwell, who won a $250 gift card to D&B Supply.

About the author

Sean Ellis