Happy National FFA Week! It’s a week dedicated to recognizing our FFA members and advisors for the work they do to promote agriculture in their communities, their state and across the nation.
The Daily Globe honored FFA chapters from southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa in a special publication included in last Saturday’s edition. It’s a special project that I’m responsible for each year … not only because I’m the farm reporter, but because the FFA is near and dear to my heart.
Oh, the memories I made while in the FFA … driving my pickup down the gravel roads north of Bigelow asking for donations of corn or cash during the chapter’s annual Corn Drive; competing in poultry judging, meats judging and dairy judging contests; winning trips to the State FFA Convention; going to Kansas City for the National FFA Convention and … perhaps best of all, joining the WHS FFA Chapter officers on a summer retreat on Green Lake at Spicer.
Mr. Mahlberg and Mr. Ryswyk were our advisors that summer of 1988. (There’s a respect I have for my ag teachers … I rarely call them by their first names.) Anyway, we stayed in a couple of cabins at Ye Olde Mill Inn Resort on Spicer’s North Shore Drive.
There were just two girls on the officer team that year. We shared a cabin with Mr. Ryswyk, and Mr. Mahlberg took the troublemakers … well, perhaps just a few of them were troublemakers! As I recall, all of the cooking was done in our cabin and, thus, all of the clean-up too.
I do remember one thing … we never had a fish fry!
While the retreat was a chance for the officer team to mesh … to get to know each other outside of the classroom, it was also a time to plan our FFA event calendar, practice our parliamentary procedure (I was the chapter’s Parliamentarian), and set goals. Scattered in between were fun times on the lake.
We fished by the big wheel at the Mill, we fished from the boat, we learned how to pedal a paddleboat and we learned how not to ski … courtesy of Mr. Mahlberg! Ouch, I still have pictures of that little incident!
I learned that our chapter president took his fishing very seriously, and I learned that one of the boys on our team thought washing dishes was "girl’s work." Oh, we showed him … on second thought, our advisors showed him!
Those few days we spent together turned out to be my best memory from high school. In fact, for my 20th class reunion last summer, I shared my favorite memory … the fishing contest from our FFA Officer Retreat. Everyone, with the exception of me, put money into a kitty on the drive to Spicer … the one who caught the biggest fish earned not only the bragging rights but the money.
Well, I didn’t contribute. I don’t remember why. Maybe I didn’t have any money, or maybe I was just being a stubborn teenager.
Anyway, it turned out that the only fish (other than bullheads) caught on the trip was a small-mouth bass, reeled in by me! Here our chapter president, Deron Ruesch, had all these lures in his arsenal and this bass went for my hook and crawler! It was the first bass I ever caught, and I was grinning from ear to ear! It didn’t even bother me that I couldn’t have the money in the kitty.
That summer retreat was the first time I caught anything other than a bullhead, perch or sunfish. It was one of the rare times I’ve ever been fishing in a boat. It was the first and only time I’ve stayed in a cabin on a lake, and it was the first and only time I was on a paddleboat.
Growing up in a farm family, we never went on camping trips. We never stayed in cabins, we never went boating and we never made supper over a campfire. Our version of wiener roasts and s’mores were over the burn pile, and even those were a rarity.
I joined the FFA because agriculture had always been a part of me. I loved farm life, it’s where I learned the importance of working hard and doing a job right the first time. I respected the blue and gold worn by all three of my brothers and several of my cousins, and I knew the FFA would be good for me. In the end, it opened my eyes to so many things in life I had not yet experienced.
The FFA is still opening eyes for countless teens across the country today, and for that I am truly thankful.