A solid Future Farmers of America background has led to early life success for a local graduate.
Justin Preece, a 2020 Urbana High School graduate, participated in the Urbana FFA program for five years. He joined in the 8th grade when Urbana had a middle school program. Over the years, Preece has been active with FFA and in the community, accomplishing many difficult tasks.
The commitment to learning has paid off with a career and national recognition.
Preece won the state proficiency area of Agricultural Mechanics Repair and Maintenance Job Placement in a recent competition. His application then advanced on to national and he was named to the final 4. He then went through an interview process for the judges to select a national winner. Preece was announced on stage with the other finalists on Thursday, October 28.
“As a part of the Ag program, students are required to have a supervised agricultural experience. Justin chose to get a job as his project and started working at Farmer’s Equipment in Urbana his freshman year,” said FFA Advisor Mallory Zachrich. “He started as a basic helper doing simple tasks like cleaning, taking out trash, sweeping floors. From there he flourished with his passion for equipment and mechanics. Justin observed veteran mechanics, took on small tasks, gained experience and trust and took on more and more responsibilities.”
After graduation, Preece attended the Hobart Institute of Welding on several scholarships and earned his welding certifications in 10 months.
Preece explained the steps to success in a recent interview.
“My SAE (supervised agricultural experience) project is working at Farmers Equipment in Urbana,” Preece told Brownfield Ag News for America. “I started working there as a freshman in high school. Over the years I got more and more tasks. It grew from me cleaning, to me assembling new augers and working on new combines. After graduating, I got a full-time position at Farmers Equipment. Now I am the lead technician for our Kubota line. As it goes on, I have learned more and more.”
Preece said his grandfather’s John Deere 3020 sparked his interest as a young child.
“Being around that atmosphere, I always wanted to stick to it. It is what I grew up around,” he said.
According to Zachrich, Preece was extremely active in the FFA chapter at Urbana. He participated in numerous career development competitions, attended several leadership conferences and conventions, served on planning committees, served as an officer and finished out his senior year as the chapter president.
Preece participated in the calf scramble at the Champaign County Fair and showed his calf in 2019.
During Preece’s senior year, he took on a project of restoring a 1951 Farmall H that was donated to the chapter by a former Urbana Ag teacher.
“His hard work has provided the chapter with a beautiful tractor to use at events like Farm Day to give elementary students hay rides and at the annual homecoming parade,” said Zachrich.
Preece was awarded the Champaign County FFA boy of the year award at the 2021 fair.