I still remember my first trip to the Minnesota FFA Convention in St. Paul. I had packed my black pants, my freshly ironed white shirts and that blue corduroy jacket – the one with my name stitched in gold thread and cursive lettering. Oh, how proud I was to wear the blue and gold.
It hangs in my closet now, still bearing the pins I earned as a Greenhand and a Minnesota FFA Degree recipient.
It’s been more than two decades since I’ve attended a state FFA convention, and 20 years ago this year that I attended my last National FFA Convention, but oh, the memories I have of sitting through inspiring programs, feeling the call to do better – to be better – and to reach for the stars.
I admired the kids my age who had so much going for them, the shining stars who became our state officers and our national award winners. I dreamed of one day earning my American Farmer Degree, but raising dairy goats as my Supervised Agricultural Experience was far from lucrative enough to reach the level it takes to be the cream of the crop.
These days, I get to relive my dreams of success in the FFA through the next generation of students who strive toward their goals by “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live and Living to Serve.”
The FFA motto is something I still apply in my life today, and I can’t imagine a life led any different. I’m pretty sure a lot of present and past FFA members feel the same way.
Anyway, I spent much of this afternoon writing about two Sibley, Iowa, teens who, earlier this week, were chosen to represent their peers as members of the Iowa FFA Association’s officer team for the coming year. Steven Brockshus was named Iowa FFA President, and Josh Earll was chosen a state FFA vice president and northwest region president.
To hear the excitement in their voice, their unwavering belief in the future of agriculture and their dedication to serve their peers makes me believe the future of agriculture will continue to shine bright.
I spent quite a bit of time talking to both Steven and Josh, and as typically happens, I had much more information than I could include in the newspaper article.
What I kept out of that story, is what I want to share with you now – it’s just another peek into the fine young men who will now proudly represent northwest Iowa.
Josh Earll has grown accustomed to speaking in front of an audience, and while he hasn’t had a lot of experience being interviewed by the media, he passed the test with flying colors.
Josh shared with me just a glimpse of what it means to be an FFA officer, and he did so by telling a story.
“It doesn’t take one person to take over the world, it takes multiple people to make the world stronger,” he told me. “With my speech to become a state officer, I talked about a boy who was helping his father out in the yard.”
As the story continued, Josh talked about the father growing annoyed by his son’s constant following. The father took the boy into the house, found a picture of the world in a magazine and cut it into small pieces.
“He told his son, if you put this together, you can come out and help me again,” shared Josh.
A short while later, the son returned to his Dad’s side in the yard and said he was finished. The dad was in disbelief, and said, “You don’t know how to put the world together, you’re not even in school yet.”
They went into the house, and sure enough, the world was pieced together. When the dad asked his son how he was able to piece it together, the son replied, “On the back side of the world there’s a picture of a boy. I knew how to put the boy together, and once I got that done, the world was a snap.”
Josh used the story to illustrate that when you take one FFA member and start putting more members together, it makes the world a lot easier – it makes the world a snap.
It was clear to me that Josh truly appreciates the FFA for what it is, and what it can do for young people.
The same can be said for Steven. He shared with me his time in high school, where agriculture classes and the FFA organization embraced diversity.
“Every student can have a role for you to step up and be your best,” he said. They don’t have to be athletic, they don’t need musical talent – “whatever their skill, there’s a place for them in the FFA.”
Steven grew up on a dairy farm and used his work there for his Supervised Agricultural Experience in dairy production and dairy placement. Those experiences, coupled with the textbook and classroom portion of the FFA and the leadership opportunities available make for a three-part model of success, he said.
“With the FFA, it’s something really real to me,” he shared. “I never thought as a freshman I’d be able to travel to Indianapolis, Washington, D.C. and even around the state of Iowa.”
As he embarks on his one-year term as State FFA President, Steven said he wants this year “to be the best that has ever been done” to spark next year’s officer team to be even better.
“With that mindset, we don’t want to be the best, we want the teams down the road to be better than we are,” he said.
Steven has a couple of goals he’d like to accomplish in the coming year, including making better use of technology to share the message of the FFA, and to improve communication between the state, district and chapter officers.
“Leadership has a trickle down effect,” he said. “If chapter officers experience that great leadership, it will have a ripple effect.”
Steven also has a message for those who haven’t yet discovered the FFA … and that message is to get involved.
“If you’re thinking about doing something, get out there and do it,” he said.
That’s exactly what Steven and Josh did, and look at where it has taken them.
Congratulations state officers, and best of luck in the year ahead!