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Catching on Quick: Georgia Teen Grows Up Around Irrigation Technology

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Written by Andy Oerman |

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting females in agriculture. Check back for more in the weeks ahead.

By her own admission, when Madison McDonald first entered high school, she would have said you were “crazy” to think that she would join FFA. So when she won 2nd place nationally with an FFA project about remote irrigation monitoring, it might have come as a surprise to some.

One person who was definitely NOT surprised was her father, Dale McDonald of Shades of Green, a Valley® Irrigation dealer in Quitman, GA.

“She’s been with me the whole time. She’s been kind of my little buddy,” Dale said. “She goes out with me when we set up new customers with Valley ICON® panels. Younger people pick up the tech faster than older people, obviously, but for being 16 years old, she catches on quicker than anybody I’ve ever seen.”

Madison McDonald 3Madison McDonald is fascinated by ag tech, and spends many hours in the field with her father, a Valley Irrigation dealer.

AgSense Makes Sense

Madison’s FFA project last school year involved irrigation technology: testing whether the AgSense app was accurate compared with analog measurements.

“What I learned over the course of this project is that a manual pressure gauge and the AgSense app produce similar measurements,” Madison said. “However, the AgSense app is more efficient. Growers should use AgSense, because with this irrigation technology a grower can save time and money.”

Madison competed against about 25 other students at the Georgia state level and won. At the national level, she competed against 12 in her division and took 2nd place overall.

Madison McDonald1Madison won 2nd place in a national competition with her FFA project about remote irrigation technology.

According to Dale, Madison has always been “infatuated with technology, and infatuated with AgSense.”

“What I like about AgSense is you have complete control over your pivot through a smartphone, meaning you could be in Hawaii on vacation and turn your center pivot on and off in Georgia,” Madison explained.

Madison loves technology, but she also loves spending time with her dad. “Dad is usually really busy, but when I go out with him we spend that time together,” she said. “He has taught me the purpose of farming, and the part I enjoy most about going out with Dad is having him explain every little detail to me, and learning new things about agriculture.”

Growing Self-Esteem

Dale has been in the center pivot business for eight years, with Valley since 2014, and grew up with FFA himself, so he knew it was a great organization for young kids. “Madison’s got a love for ag, like her dad and granddad. She’s always showed animals – cows and pigs – and FFA has done wonders for her self- esteem. She was always kind of shy, but having to go up in front of crowds and judges, we’ve really seen her open up.”

What Madison likes most about FFA is the feeling of family. “You make a bond with everyone you come into contact with,” she said. “FFA has pushed me to excel higher than I ever thought I would. I have always been the type of girl to sit back and listen, and now that I have been a part of this organization, I have really opened up to meeting new people and having a conversation with them.”

FFA Awards2Madison and her father credit FFA with helping Madison to come out of her shell.

Madison encourages students who are not yet part of FFA to get involved now. “Since I joined this organization, it has opened my eyes. When you are with your FFA family, they understand you more than anyone has before.”

The theme of the 2018 FFA National Convention & Expo, where Madison’s project took 2nd place, was “Just One.” That’s a phrase that resonates with Madison, who says not all of her friends understand why she wanted to join FFA in the first place. “You can be that one in your school to prove everyone wrong. Everyone might have said ‘You will never go anywhere with that’ or ‘That’s stupid.’ Go out and prove all of them wrong. There are tons of things you can do, just like I did with my Agri-science project. So go out and get involved today.”

The Future

As you would expect from a young person so involved with technology, Madison has her eyes fixed firmly on the future. “What I am looking to do on my next project is test soil moisture using the AgSense app once again versus a more manual way of doing so,” she said. “I am doing these types of irrigation technology projects just in case a grower cannot afford it or is skeptical if the AgSense app is more efficient versus a more manual way.”

Madison at PivotMadison is just one of a growing number of females who will continue to transform agriculture with their contributions.

In terms of her long-term career, Madison is certain she wants to do something in the field of agriculture. “I would love to be an Ag teacher. My Ag teacher, Mr. James Corbett from Lowndes High School, pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me open up, and that is why I want to be an Ag teacher.”

Congratulations to Madison McDonald (and her father), and best wishes on what is sure to be a bright future!

For more information on remote irrigation technology or any other smart irrigation solutions from Valley, contact your local dealer today!

 

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