The 2019 Ag Venture Capital Grant recipients were, from left, Sophia Smith, who received $1,000 for her SAE-based business, Kaitlyn Wiseman, Lexie Miller, Olivia Moore, Benjamin Williams and Casey Howell. (Photo submitted)

Olivia Moore braved the Shark Tank at the Kentucky Future Farmers of America convention and came home with a sizable grant to help grow her business.

Moore is a rising junior at Western Hills High School and an active member of that school’s FFA chapter. She owns Moore Goodness, a farm to fork produce operation focused on providing fresh, local and reliable vegetables. She recently took part in the Kentucky FFA Shark Tank, a grant competition styled after the popular television show with the same name.

FFA members in ninth through 11th grades were invited to submit a 4 to 6-minute video explaining their enterprise and how a grant would help advance their business. Moore was one of 10 finalists selected to present her idea live in front of a panel of judges and an audience at the state FFA convention, which eventually led to her selection as one of the five $5,000 grant recipients.

Moore plans to use the grant to help expand her greenhouse, which will allow her to better control the growing environment for her plants. The Shark Tank format of the competition gave her other assets she’ll be able to use in her business as well.

“Having the chance to do research about something ag related that I’m interested in was a good opportunity,” she said. “I also gained a lot of strength being able to present about what I’m doing. That’s something I’ve grown to enjoy as I’ve done it more.”

The student enterprises in the competition were also Supervised Agricultural Experience projects. All students who are in school-based agriculture classes in Kentucky have the opportunity to develop their own SAE and participate in leadership development through FFA. Both of those experiences complement the in-class instruction they receive.

“I don’t know of another youth organization that prepares a student to be career ready like FFA,” said Darrell Billings, one of the judges for the final portion of the competition and a member of the Kentucky FFA Foundation board of trustees. 

This year’s agriculture venture capital grants were made possible by a donation from Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn.

“When Dr. Lynn gave us the money to use, he said just go make a difference,” said Billings. “That was opening us up to be able to change the whole world … and for these kids, he did.”

“I’ve always said if you’re feeling down about the future, come to the state FFA convention,” said Kyle Kelly, another final round judge and Kentucky FFA Foundation board of trustees member. “These students are really thinking outside of the box. We went from traditional SAE’s all the way up to a young man who had diversified into building roll cages for UTV’s. They’re already making money, investing money and putting money back into their local communities. Dr. Lynn and all of us will see a return on investment that will impact students for the rest of their lifetimes. We couldn’t have done that without his support.”

The Kentucky FFA Foundation cultivates partnerships which support the FFA vision to grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture. Kentucky FFA Foundation initiatives impact more than 14,500 FFA members in 154 FFA chapters across Kentucky.

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