Heaper started growing vegetables in junior high
Sweet Springs FFA member Hope Heaper began her Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) at a young age, helping her older sister raise and sell nursery plants to the community.
"Because of my sister being in high school, I just went ahead and joined in her business in seventh and eighth grade," Heaper said.
The work paid off in more ways than one. In April at the Missouri FFA convention, Heaper, a 2012 Sweet Springs graduate was awarded the State FFA Degree.
"It was a huge honor, honestly," she said.
Heaper, the daughter of Rodney and Sherrie Heaper, utilizes a portion of the school's greenhouse for her business.
"When I started doing my SAE they weren't really utilizing the greenhouse the best way, and my sister and I stepped in and asked if we could use it," she said.
She spends up to 30 to 40 hours a week in late winter and spring watering and taking care of the plants. Her sister, now married and a mother, still helps Heaper when she has time.
"It is still a family run business," she said.
Heaper joined FFA officially as a high school freshman, influenced by the organization's officers and her sister.
Today she would absolutely recommend FFA to incoming high school students.
"I would tell them it is probably the best thing that can probably happen to them growing up in Missouri and agriculture being all around us," she said.
Heaper's favorite part of FFA was meeting and staying in touch with new people.
"I can remember when I was at FFA camp my freshman year, I met people there, and then this year there are two or three of them that are sitting up on stage at state convention and they all got state offices," she said.
She enjoyed attending the conventions, but her favorite community activity was Toys for Tots.
"Members donate toys, and then we wrap them, and we donate back to families who may not be able to afford items for Christmas or anything for the holiday season," Heaper said. "It brings everybody in, because we have a pizza party, and we just talk and have a good time."
Through her four years in FFA, Heaper learned more about agriculture and "where my food comes from."
Her SAE taught her how to efficiently run a business and how to overcome her shyness.
Heaper was very involved in FFA, serving as assistant reporter, chapter secretary and as a senior, second vice-president. She also served as Area VI historian.
She has won numerous awards, including second place statewide for Vegetable Production proficiency. On the local level, Heaper won proficiency awards in Agriculture Sales and Floriculture. At the recent FFA banquet she won the Chapter Star Farmer Award. She also received the Friends of the FFA Scholarship, $250; Russell and Barbara Sims Family FFA Scholarship, $250 and the Houston Mull Memorial FFA Scholarship of $500.
She participated in several Career Development Event teams which advanced to state competition: FFA knowledge, Entomology and Agriculture Sales. Individually, Heaper placed 16th statewide in Ag Sales, earning a Group I rating.
Heaper was very involved in sports, playing volleyball, basketball, track --qualifying for state three consecutive years. She plays in the high school band, serves as FCCLA president; FCA treasurer, S-club treasurer, National Honor Society vice-president and student council vice-president. She also is a member of the Academic and Math Relay teams.
She also finds time to volunteer, helping at the local food pantry, serving as a youth leader for several church bible schools and helping out at local fairs and livestock shows. She is a member of Saline County 4-H Junior Leaders and St. John's United Church of Christ in Emma, singing in the church choir.
Admittedly "always busy" Heaper likes to hang out with her sister and niece in her spare time. She also likes "talking to my parents on our deck," jogging, running, reading and taking pictures.
This fall she will attend State Fair Community College, entering the nursing program. She plans to become a registered nurse, obtaining a bachelor's degree through a joint program with Central Methodist College.