Kendall County honors Newark agriculture teacher and students

Kendall County Board Chairman Matt Kellogg, from left, presented awards for the Newark High School Future Farmers of America program to Ty Steffen, Joe Steffen and Nate Toftoy on Oct. 3.

The science of agriculture has changed dramatically over the last few decades and Newark High School teacher Joe Steffen has kept his students up-to-date with the latest on bio-technology and modern farming practices.

Steffen, along with students who have earned the Future Farmers of America State Degree, were honored by the Kendall County Board on Oct. 3.

Newark High School students receiving the state FFA degree include Steffen’s son Ty Steffen, along with classmates Nate Toftoy, Zach Carlson, Macy Wickens, Jolie Johnson, Tayton Hardecopf and Travis Leggett.

Both Steffens and Toftoy attended the County Board session and were lauded for their achievements.

Joe Steffen began as an agriculture teacher at Newark High School in 1993 and continues there today as the FFA advisor, where he is credited with guiding students to numerous agricultural awards and careers.

Joe Steffen, left, agriculture teacher at Newark High School, shares their school made honey on the comb with Kendall County students.

Steffen earned his state FFA degree in 1988, followed by his bachelor’s degree in agriculture education at Illinois State University and his master’s from Olivet Nazarene University.

He was awarded the Coca-Cola Teacher of the Year in 1998 and given the Distinguished Service Award by the Illinois FFA Foundation in 1999.

Steffen has served on the Kendall County Fair Board for 29 years. He also serves on the Kendall County 4-H Extension Council and the Kendall County 4-H Foundation.

In addition, Steffen is Superintendent of the Kendall County Fair Truck and Tractor Pull and the Sandwich Fair FFA Farm Zoo and Draft Horse Pull.

And with an impressive beard, Steffen is known in Newark for playing Santa Claus.

Son Ty Steffen and classmate Toftoy graduated from Newark High School this past spring and now are both studying agri-business at Joliet Junior College.

Earning the state FFA degree requires students to complete a rigorous course of study including 360 hours of agriculture education, along with community service projects and FFA leadership activities.

Ty Steffen was a national award finalist in the Diversified Crop Production Entrepreneurship category at the FAA convention in Indianapolis last year, growing pumpkins, gourds, broom corn and other vegetables.

Toftoy said he has grown up on the agriculture industry and has worked for a landscaping firm.

“Your achievements and commitment to Newark FFA are truly inspiring,” Kendall County Board Chairman Matt Kellogg said.