Bio: Watton, Dakota - American FFA Degree (Watton – 2020)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Watton, Gerhardt

----Source: Clark County Press Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 11/11/2020

Receives American FFA Degree (Watton – 2020)

Watton Receives American FFA Degree
By Valerie Brecht

Neillsville Native Dakota Watton has earned the highest degree an FFA member can earn, the American FFA Degree. Submitted photo.

A Neillsville native was recently awarded the highest degree achievable in the National FFA Organization. Dakota Watton earned the American FFA Degree, something that less than one precent of all FFA members achieve.

“It’s a huge honor and I’m super proud. I’m grateful,” said Watton.

The American FFA Degree is bestowed upon a select group of students in recognition of their years of academic and professional excellence. This year 4,136 American Degrees were awarded at the 93rd National FFA Convention and Expo, which took place virtually Oct. 27 through 29.

Sponsored by Case IH, Elanco Animal Health and Syngenta, the award recognizers demonstrated ability and outstanding achievements in agricultural business, production, processing or service programs. To be eligible, FFA members must have earned and productively invested $10,000 through a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program in which they own their own business or hold a professional position as an employee.

Recipients must also complete 50 hours of community service and demonstrate outstanding leadership abilities and civic involvement through completion of a long list of FFA and community activities.

Watton’s FFA journey began as a freshman in high school. She had attended St. John’s Lutheran School up until that point, so starting at a new school was a little nerve-wracking she said. However, she got involved in FFA right away and it helped her gain confidence.

“I can’t say enough positive things about FFA. It definitely helped me come out of my shell,” said Watton.

Watton participated in speaking contests, volunteer opportunities and leadership trainings. She traveled to Washington, D.C.; Louisville, KY; Duluth, MN; and Nashville, TN for various conferences. She attended the national convention three times, twice as part of the National FFA Chorus. Locally, she served as her chapter’s treasurer for two years and president or one year.

“I pretty much became known as the FFA girl in my class and I was all right, with that,” said Watton.

Watton’s SAE consisted of raising beef and hogs to show at the county fair. She also worked at Citizens State Bank during high school, which serves agricultural customers. After graduation, Watton decided to attend Chippewa Valley Technical College to study accounting. She earned her associate’s degree there. In August 2018, she started working for Meyer Brothers Grain in Elk Mound as an accounting clerk. She worked there for one year and was responsible for billing customers. While there, she learned about the Chicago Board of Trade and how it sets market prices for commodities, and how those prices influence the prices set by the grain elevator. She also learned about trucking industry regulations, hedging crops, pricing and more..

In the fall of 2019, Watton went back to school, this time at UW-River Falls to pursue a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business. She is set to graduate in May. She has also been working from home for Grassland Dairy Products’ accounts receivable department. In addition, she works for Chartwells Dining Services, the university’s dining service, doing accounting work. After graduation, Watton plans to pursue a career in agricultural accounting.

During her time in college, Watton has continued to volunteer. She volunteers with the Miracle League of the Chippewa Valley, which is a baseball team for children with special needs. She also returns to Neillsville periodically to help with FFA events.

Watton sat down with Neillsville FFA advisor Amy Gerhardt in January to fill out her American FFA Degree application.

“When I filled out the application, I was thinking, ‘Did I get enough hours?’ I wasn’t entirely sure,” said Watton.

On the application, Watton had to list all the hours spent working on SAEs, working in agricultural positions, volunteering and serving in leadership roles. She also had to show she was taking steps toward financial independence, which for her looked like purchasing a car from her job earnings. Also, to be eligible, she had to first earn the State FFA Degree, which she completed in June 2017. After adding everything up, Watton realized she indeed met all the requirements.

“I feel very accomplished because not many people go on after high school to earn this degree,” said Watton. “I know there are four or five others from my class that could have applied for the degree, but either chose not to or they didn’t have enough hours to earn it. I feel very proud.”

Watton credits her time in FFA with allowing her to form friendships with people across the country and even as far away as Puerto Rico. She also credits the organization with helping her realize that she enjoyed being in leadership and would like a management role someday.”

“[FFA] helped me grow as a person. … I grew so much in those years,” she said.

Watton received a gold American FFA Degree key and certificate at Convention in recognition of her award.



© Every submission is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.


Show your appreciation of this freely provided information by not copying it to any other site without our permission.


Become a Clark County History Buff


Report Broken Links

A site created and maintained by the Clark County History Buffs
and supported by your generous donations.


Webmasters: Leon Konieczny, Tanya Paschke,

Janet & Stan Schwarze, James W. Sternitzky,

Crystal Wendt & Al Wessel