Grady Johnson on the National FFA stage after receiving the award
Grady Johnson stands on stage after he was selected as American Star Farmer.

Grady Johnson of Holdrege, Nebraska, was named the American Star Farmer at the 2021 National FFA Convention 30 years after his dad won the same award. His dad threw up his fist when he was recognized on the National FFA stage in 1991 and couldn’t help but shed a tear as his son was recognized for the same award this year.

Blake Johnson wins the American Star Farmer on the National FFA stage in 1991.

“This is the pinnacle achievement for FFA members: recognition for years of work, dedication, and an exemplary Supervised Agriculture Experience,” said Sarah Heideman, Nebraska’s State FFA Advisor.

The National FFA Organization is a student organization for those interested in agriculture. It has a membership of 735,038 members, aged 12-21, in 8,817 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as of 2021.


Grady Johnson wins the American Star Farmer and is accompanied on stage by his parents, Blake and Holly, and his FFA advisor, Jeff Moore. Footage courtesy of National FFA.

Johnson has been a member of his FFA chapter since he was a freshman in high school. He served as a Nebraska State FFA Officer in 2018-2019 and is currently in his senior year at UNL studying agriculture economics. Since the start of his time in FFA, he has been building his Supervised Agriculture Experience, or SAE.

Johnson’s experience includes growing a herd of feeder lambs and breeding ewes, renting land for corn and soybean production and baling cornstalk residue. Johnson had to complete detailed records of his work on the farm for the six years of work he was submitting for this award.

Grady Johnson on his Supervised Agriculture Experience.

“Grady is grounded in agriculture – it is what drives him – and it gives him purpose,” said Donnie Wolters, Nebraska’s State FFA Leadership and Program Manager.

Johnson works on the farm with his dad, Blake Johnson, who was the American Star Farmer in 1991.

“It’s been rewarding to watch him go through the same things I did and watch him go through the process of learning as well as him winning the award,” Blake said.

Grady said his dad has always been a role model to him.

“I remember getting out the old VHS tapes out once and watching it and I thought how cool that would be to shoot for as an end goal to end my FFA career,” Grady said.

Both Grady and his dad, Blake, mentioned how much their farm has grown since Blake won the award. They feel proud that they have been able to continue to keep up with the advances in agriculture and that they’re building an operation that will continue to last through time.

“Agriculture has progressed a lot over the last 30 years and just to know that I created an operation just like he did 30 years ago that is sustainable and will hopefully be there 30 years later for my kids,” Grady said.

Grady won Nebraska Star Farmer in 2018 as he competed against the other applicants from Nebraska. Each state is allowed one candidate for the American Star Farmer award each year. Johnson and his records were competing against the best of the best from each state.

The records he submitted were reviewed and of the candidates, four were selected to be interviewed. Then, at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, one of the four is selected as the year’s American Star Farmer. There are three other categories for students to submit in including star in agribusiness, star in agricultural placement and star in agriscience.

Grady Johnson shares more about what it took to apply for the American Star Farmer.

At National Convention, Grady, his parents and his high school FFA advisor were all invited on stage as the winner was announced. His dad described being on stage with his son as he won as both rewarding and emotional.

Both Grady and Blake shared their appreciation for the National FFA Organization and how it has helped their family grow and advance their operation.

Grady Johnson at his farm explaining his agricultural experience. Footage courtesy of National FFA.

Senior Journalism major from Elgin, Nebraska. Minoring in agricultural communications and currently interning at Vivayic.