Monday, December 31, 2012

FFA Member of the Week: "A HUGE Difference"

Name: Jenna White
Chapter: New York Mills
Year In School: Junior
Favorite Color: Purple
Fun Fact: Contrary to popular opinion (and outward appearances) Jenna is naturally a blonde.

Spend some time with this week's member of the week and it is obvious to see that she wants to make a difference to those around her. She is a leader in her community, her chapter, and the beef industry. Don't let her soft-spoken ways and kind demeanor make you think she is small in her impact; she has great drive and recognizes that working with others leads to better things than working alone.

"You can always accomplish things on your own, but when you work together with your officer team, chapter, region, state, whatever it may be, you can accomplish greater, bigger things that can make a huge difference."

Jenna first joined FFA as a seventh grader because of a friend, however she says she didn't become heavily involved until her freshman year. Showing beef cattle has always been a passion of Jenna's. Her first show was as a second grader and she has exhibited in a plethora of shows since that date, including going to the State Fair. She notes that she syncs up well with her chapter since New York Mills is one of the more active livestock showing chapters in the state. Jenna has competed in the General Livestock CDE, and hopes to do the Job Interview CDE next year. She has also served her chapter in the roles of Reporter and in her current role as Vice-President.

Outside of FFA, Jenna is involved heavily with the beef industry. Although her parents weren't originally from a farm background, they moved to a farm when Jenna was five giving her the opportunity to work with the South Devon cattle on their family farm. Today she serves as the North American South Devon Senior Ambassador, is the Director of the South Devon Junior Board, and is on the Minnesota Beef Ambassador Team. She also plays basketball and hopes to major in Agricultural Communications in college.

Congratulations to this week's member of the week, Jenna White!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

FFA Member of the Week: Hunting, Livestock, and FFA

Name: Ariel Way
Chapter: Alexandria FFA
Year in School: Senior
Favorite Color: Blue
Fun fact: Ariel immensely enjoys hunting.

Ariel joined FFA when he enrolled in the Intro to Agriculture class in 9th grade as a chance to learn more about an industry that he loves, agriculture.  He also saw it as an opportunity to network with other students who share many of the same interests as he does, including farming. 

Ariel wasted no time getting involved in his chapter.  He is a member of his chapter’s General Livestock Career Development Event team.  Ariel is also serving as the chapter President.  He is using the knowledge he is gaining as an FFA member and as an Agricultural Education student to prepare for a future raising livestock and farming.

Ariel’s favorite thing about FFA is meeting new people.  Through meeting new people and taking advantage of different opportunities, Ariel is increasing his knowledge of agriculture.  He credits FFA with providing the platform for this learning.   Ariel has used his skills of encouraging other people to get involved and organization to help his chapter.  He enjoys being able to use his skills to “get things done.”

His love of agriculture has spurred him on to use events held at school to educate the community about agriculture.  In a large urban community such at Alexandria, there really is a need for agricultural education.  Ariel has seen this need and is working to meet it.  He is also working to use FFA events to educate his high school.   He helped to organize a career fair and Ag Olympics during FFA week to help illustrate the opportunities in agriculture.  Ariel also seeks to increase the size of his chapter by being active in recruitment events.

Congratulations to Ariel Way, this week’s FFA member of the Week!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

FFA Member of the Week: Honey, Maple Sugar, and Leadership

FFA Member of the Week

Name: Austin Schmitt
FFA Chapter: Royalton
Year in School: 11th Grade
Favorite Color: Blue
Fun Fact: Along with a ton of other cool stuff, Austin makes his own maple syrup and honey, plus he raises sweet corn in the summer.
Austin comes from an FFA family.  All of his siblings are FFA members, so he followed the family tradition.  Austin also lives on a dairy farm, so he thought that joining FFA would be a good way to learn more about the Agricultural Industry and farming.  The various opportunities that this organization provides to its members are what Austin found appealing.  The chance to do so many different things in one organization was very attractive.

Austin jumped right into exploring those opportunities.  In ninth grade he competed on the Fish and Wildlife Career Development team.  Last year he decided to try the Crops CDE team instead.  It looks like he found a good fit for him as he placed 37 out of 150 at STATE! In addition to playing an active role on his chapter’s CDE teams, Austin has also accepted the challenge to lead and currently serves as Chapter Vice President and the newly elected Region II Vice President.  As chapter Vice President, Austin has been very active in finding resources and building support for his chapter.  He helped to plan a trip for his officer team to attend a neighboring chapter’s meeting to learn more about effectively running a meeting.  He has also been a driving force in organizing chapter events such as a haunted house food drive.

Austin sees the value in developing a strong Supervised Agricultural Experience and is working towards earning his State Degree.  His SAEs currently includes raising and selling sweet corn and Dairy Entrepreneurship.  He has high expectations for both of his Supervised Agricultural Experiences and is continually working to improve them through detailed record keeping and attention to detail.  Next year Austin plans to continue developing his leadership skills through running for Region II President.  His passion for agriculture shows through in his current dedication to his family dairy farm.  Although he is unsure if returning to the farm is in his future, he does know that his future career will be in agriculture.

His favorite part of FFA ties in nicely to what drew him to the organization in the first place.  Austin loves that FFA “has a something for everyone” and “just because you are in it, doesn't mean that you HAVE to be a farmer.”  Austin values diverse opportunities and sees this as a strength of our organization.  He also likes that FFA gives each individual a chance to shine.

Austin’s chapter went through a difficult time as the Agricultural Education program at his high school was cut.  They now have a new advisor and are working with the School Board to reinstate the program.  Going through this process has taught Austin not to take Agricultural Education in schools for granted, and that if he really wants something, he will have to work hard for it.  FFA has also taught him very valuable communication skills and how to find resources for when advice is needed.

Austin has been hard at work spreading Agriculture and FFA’s message to his community through chapter events.  This fall he helped organize his chapter’s haunted house food drive.  The price of admission for the haunted house was a food item to be donated to the local food shelf.  His chapter is also involved in fruit sales and this year partnered with another organized to help with a haunted trail.  They also weed a corn test plot.  Future plans for the chapter includes redoing the landscaping at the front of the high school and purchasing a greenhouse to grow plants for the school’s lunch program.

Congratulations to Austin Schmitt for his drive as a leader and for being this week’s FFA Member of the Week!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

FFA Member of the Week: Stepping Up

FFA Member of the Week

Name:  Nathan Vonderharr
FFA Chapter:  AFSA
Grade in School:  9th
Favorite Color:  Medium to Dark Green
Fun Fact:  Nathan lives on a hobby farm with 14 Nubian goats, and different breeds of chickens and swine.  He has even been breeding his own chicken and goats for the last 7 years!

 Being a student at AFSA High School means that you are automatically an FFA member once you enter the school, but Nathan Vonderharr's automatic membership isn't what led him to wanting to wear that corduroy jacket that we are all so familiar with.  Nathan, only a freshman and just beginning his FFA career, has a love for agriculture and a desire to learn, which is driving him to success!

In addition to be an active member of the Isanti County 4-H, Nathan is quickly becoming immersed in everything that FFA has to offer him.  So far, he has competed in the Poultry Career Development Event for the past two years as well as participated in the Agri Science Fair.  Not only did he participate, but he placed 1st in the state with his Animal Systems entry as an 8th grader!  Nathan was also proud to represent his chapter at both State and National FFA Convention.

Nathan has a true passion for FFA and agriculture and he is doing whatever he can to develop himself as a leader, but he also recognizes how much of an impact he can have on his chapter and the agriculture industry as a whole.  He shows us that every member is equally as important to influencing the success of our organization and industry, no matter what your age or title is.  Nathan has stepped into the blue jacket and stepped up to a bright future!

 FFA has many supporters that help us grow our organization and its members.  Nathan, along with many of his fellow chapter FFA members, have played an integral role in strengthening the partnership with a few of our important supporters.  He has worked as a volunteer at both the Land O'Lakes and CHS Inc. Annual Meetings where he has done whatever he can to help them make their events run smoothly.  In addition to this, Nathan has even presented his Agriscience Fair project to research scientists at General Mills where they worked together to learn together. 

Nathan has done more than just help strengthen the partnership between FFA and its supporters, he has increased the comradery within his own chapter.  Whether it was participating in the spring and fall service days or just being that helping hand when the chapter is preparing for an event or activity--he is there to give of himself and deepen his understanding of the organization.  He has even helped in guiding visitors and prospect students in "shadow events."  He loves teaching them about FFA, Agricultural Education, and everything that the AFSA High School has to offer its students.

Increasing his knowledge of multiple agricultural areas, and improving his public speaking and leadership skills are just a few things that Nathan appreciates having gained from his FFA career so far.  He loves to meet new people, make new connections, and increase his FFA knowledge. 

He hopes to one day place at the National FFA Convention with his Agriscience Fair project and desires to serve as the AFSA Chapter FFA President.  He would also like to attend the University of Minnesota and study to become a large animal veterinarian or work with poultry sciences.  He isn't going to let anything stop him because he knows that age and title don't matter when it comes to making an impact!

Congratulations to Nathan Vonderharr for his hard work and dedication as a young FFA member and for the being the FFA Member of the Week!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Grateful Givers

                Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the chapter meeting and Christmas party of the Hancock FFA chapter. When you think about a Christmas party, what comes to mind? Maybe you think about receiving gifts, or possibly the food, snow, lights, music? All of these are common things that come to mind when we talk about Christmas. But is this really what Christmas is about? Hancock FFA found a different way of celebrating this holiday. With over 75% of their membership in attendance, they made the trip to Morris where they went shopping and bout shoes, shirts, pants, and games for children whose families can’t afford to purchase gifts. As a chapter, they were able to make this holiday special for 5 young boys and girls in their communities.
         Hancock FFA members check out after shopping for 5 boys and girls in their community
            After our shopping extravaganza, we all enjoyed ice cream and pizza and I was astonished to see these members act with kindness towards each other. They would offer to take each other’s garbage, to refill a drink, or to get someone’s ice cream. It was humbling to watch them give of their time and efforts to help others. It reminds me of what this holiday is all about. It isn’t about getting gifts, eating food, or listening to Christmas music. While all of these are fun, Christmas is about celebrating the things that we are blessed with, the members of our chapter we have to support us, or maybe it’s that  behind the scenes man in charge (our FFA advisor).     Hancock FFA after Christmas party.
Being thankful for our friends and our family that we have surrounding us who encourage and support us in our every endeavor. This holiday is about being thankful for what we have and giving back.    
                Today I dare each of you to consider what is important in your life and what you are thankful for. Next take the opportunity to let them know why. Show them the appreciation you feel. Secondly, I dare you to give back. Giving does not require money, or a significant amount of time. Giving can be as simple as helping someone across the street, taking someone’s garbage. Whatever you have the ability to do, take action and do it. Take advantage of this season to be grateful givers.

Respectfully submitted,
Jared Luhman
MN FFA Reporter

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Tribute

Future Farmers of America.

For most of the National FFA Organization's existence we have been known at the Future Farmers of America. We started as a group of dedicated men-  and later young men and women- who "believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds". Though the exact number is unknown, millions of FFA members have worn the blue jacket. From the first thirty-three farm boys to meet in Kansas City, to today's half-a-million strong membership, farming has always been the root of our organization. The scope of agriculture has grown over the years and FFA has recognized those changes, but the values we are founded upon rest with those thirty-three farm boys long ago.

A week ago, several of the state officers had the opportunity to attend Minnesota Farm Bureau's Annual Meeting. We met with legislators, heard words of wisdom from speakers, and had the opportunity to learn about current agricultural issues and legislation. There may have only been four blue jackets in the hotel, but there were hundreds of farmers there. They were the backbone of the conference and many of them had been in FFA before. Those farmers are the ones who raise the Angus cattle, pick up round bales until four in the morning, and watch the waves of grain roll across the plain. They are the ones who sit in a tractor at two in the morning on an Autumn night, listening to nothing but the steady pulse of the engine as the moonlight reflects off of the tractor's hood. They grow America, their communities, and their families.

Some of us in FFA are from farms, and some of us are not, but our blue jackets are a legacy of those who feed America. They have built for us a framework of tradition and excellence so that: "American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task".

So if you you have a few minutes check out Paul Harvey's tribute to farmers:

And remember to thank a farmer today.

Dare to Do,
From the Emblem of Washington
Nathan Daninger

Appreciating the Imperfections

           One of the toughest things, in my opinion, about the year of service as a Minnesota FFA State Officer is chapter visits. We are asked to go into strange schools that we’ve never been to before to talk with members and students that we’ve never met under the supervision of advisors that we may or may not know.  Although it’s a challenge for me, I enjoy making connections with members, learning about the different Agricultural Education programs in our state, seeing the great activities that chapters are doing!

A few weeks ago I had three chapter visits scheduled over the course of two days.  I was scheduled to facilitate a session with the Alexandria 9th Grade Intro to Agriculture class Monday morning and speak with the chapter president, attend the Paynesville Chapter meeting that night to facilitate some games, and the next afternoon facilitate a session for a class at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.  Ok, bring it on!

But, in the weeks and days leading up to the chapter visits, I started to feel the stress of creating just the right lesson plan for each visit.  I wanted so badly to show the students that FFA has something for everyone.  I worried that if I didn’t have the perfect workshop that I would be a failure, that I would be letting those students and advisors down. 

I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to put together the perfect workshop that couldn’t plan any workshop.  I sat there, staring at my computer, willing the blank Word document to magically be filled with the perfect workshop.  Luckily, I had a great resource at my disposal.  My mother.  She is an Agricultural Educator and FFA Advisor.  After a few hours of discussion with her, I finally had a workshop planned for my Alexandria and had decided that I would use the same one at Sauk Rapids-Rice.  But, as I turned on my little blue Saturn Monday morning, I was still nervous that my sessions weren’t going to be perfect.

Tuesday afternoon, on my drive back home from my visit with Sauk Rapids-Rice, I replayed the last two days through my head.   I replayed the session at Alexandria and saw that overall my session was well-liked, but also that there were parts that needed improvement.  Then, I saw my conversation with the Alexandria Chapter President and couldn’t help but smile at all the great things their chapter is doing, everything from an Ag career day, to Ag Olympics, to setting up a program to donate boxes of fruit to the food shelf during their fruit sale.  Then my mind wandered to the Paynesville chapter meeting.  I smiled when I thought about how the officers had recited Opening Ceremonies completely from memory with passion and used Parliamentary Procedure to run the meeting. I thought about the fun time after the meeting and how members enjoyed the games of trench ball and nachos.  I grimaced when I thought of how the two games that I had prepared had flopped.  But because the games had not turned out so well, I was able to have some very meaningful conversations with members.  Finally I thought about Sauk Rapids-Rice and how I was proud of how I had tweaked the session I had done at Alexandria to make it better. 

Then it hit me.  The imperfections in my sessions and plans for the chapter visits had actually opened doors for even better things to happen.  Sometimes they opened up a new discussion, or gave me the chance to connect with a member, or to make the session more relevant to the students.  I’ve always known that perfection is impossible to attain, but until that day, I never realized that the imperfections make room for other opportunities.
           The tag on my Chai Teabag sums it up nicely:

“Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.”
            Think of a task that you are being a perfectionist about.  What are the hidden opportunities in the imperfections?
Marjorie Schleper
Stationed by the Plow

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

FFA Member of the Week: Kindling the Fire of Leadership

FFA Member of the Week

Name:  Kyle Polzin
FFA Chapter:  Glencoe-Silver Lake
Grade in School:  12th
Favorite Color:  Orange
Fun Fact:  Is allergic to rye, wheat, oats, and barley (known as Celiac Disease)

It was while sitting in his first agricultural class at Glencoe-Silver Lake High School when Kyle Polzin's interest in FFA was sparked.  After that, it didn't take much persuasion from his Agricultural Education teacher and friends and Kyle was well on his way to being a dedicated and self motivated FFA member.  He remembered hearing about the amazing opportunities that FFA had from his mom and couldn't wait to be involved.  It only took attending one chapter FFA meeting, and he was hooked!

Kyle didn't wait to further his involvement and practically hit the ground running when it came to taking advantage every opportunity to reach his full potential.  He has competed in numerous Career Development Events including Dairy Foods, Crops, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Creed Speaking.  Serving as the Chapter Sentinel and currently the Chapter President as well as attending both State and National FFA Convention has shown him how he, and everyone else, can truly have an impact on this world.  He has committed his time to his FFA Chapter and community, and is definitely making his mark.

This enthusiastic FFA member understands the definition of HARD work and TEAM work and believes in leading by example.  This is why Kyle does what ever he can to instill the fire of leadership in the minds of younger students and assist them in bringing out their passion for FFA.  Kyle has played a key role in helping his chapter improve, grow, and expand in a few different ways.

With a lot of help from his FFA Advisor and officer team, Kyle was able to get a 7th and 8th grade FFA program started!  He is overjoyed to see this being put into place because young members will be entering high school with an open mind and excitement for FFA!  The early exposure to Agricultural Education and FFA can only make the chapter stronger as a whole.

Another project Kyle has been heavily involved in helping his community form the Glencoe-Silver Lake Agri-Boosters, which is similar to an Alumni FFA Chapter.  The Glencoe-Silver Lake Boosters is a vital asset the FFA Chapter and will be able to provide support in the coming years.  Whether it is pulling the FFA float in their homecoming parade or providing transportation to State FFA Leadership Conferences--Kyle can't wait to see how the partnership grows.

Kyle is also very goal oriented and loves to help his FFA Chapter set goals that push them to exceed expectations.  He his hoping to lead everyone to new heights by completing the National Chapter Award and participating in MN FFA's Agricultural Literacy Challenge.  Increasing the number of Career Development Event teams that compete at the state level, plus continuing to increase fundraising efforts are also on his to-do list this year.

Kyle is unafraid of a challenge and has a heart of service.  He recognizes his talents and is using them for the betterment of his FFA Chapter and its members.  He serves as an inspiration for the incoming members and lives out the definition of leadership each and every day.

Congratulations to Kyle Polzin for serving with a purpose in mind, leading his chapter to greatness, and being the FFA Member of the Week!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

FFA Member of the Week: Zombies, Speeches, and FFA!

There are over 9500 ambitious and enthusiastic FFA members in the state of Minnesota.  We are thankful for everything that these talented and driven FFA members do to improve their chapter, serve their community, increase agricultural literacy, and promote leadership.  This is why our team has decided to start something NEW and EXCITING to recognize some of your amazing accomplishments!  We are all looking forward to starting this new tradition!  So here it is....

......DRUM ROLL PLEASE......

FFA Member of the Week

Name:  Katie Anderson
FFA Chapter:  Minnewaska
Grade in School:  11th grade
Favorite Color:  Lime Green
Fun Fact:  Loves being outdoors with friends!

Katie Anderson got her first taste of FFA when she got to try on her mother's blue corduroy FFA jacket at the age of 6 and grew up hearing stories from her mother's experiences in FFA.  She was inspired to one day have her very own FFA jacket with her name stitched into the fabric and the emblem proudly displayed on the back.  So in the 8th grade, the first thing she did was become a member so she could become a leader and discover new opportunities.

Since joining FFA, Katie has loved being involved in several Career Development Events as well as serving as a Chapter FFA Officer.  She is even currently serving as a Region III FFA Officer!  She has attended both State and National FFA Convention.  Her favorite FFA experiences so far include attending FFA camps.  She has been to both SGLC and SLCCL!

Katie always loved visiting her grandparent's farm and lending a helping hand when she could, but she has brought her passion for agriculture, agricultural education, and FFA to a new level!

In order to gain support more support for Minnewaska's FFA chapter and Agricultural Education program from her community and school district, Katie has done a quite a few really amazing things!

For Halloween, Katie and a couple friends decided to dress up as FFA zombies!  Instead of going around asking for candy, she and her friends handed out information about FFA and Agricultural Education in Minnewaska and told community members how important both are to her and the students in Minnewaska.  Talk about being true advocates!

Katie has coordinated meetings with her school board and Mr. Joel Larsen, the MN State FFA Advisor, to help them understand and recognize the benefits of agricultural education and FFA.  She has also written speeches about FFA and how it has impacted her life, and prepares to present them to her school board.  Always telling her FFA story to anyone that will listen!

Katie carries the spirit of FFA with her where ever she goes and does what she can to keep communication strong between students, community members, and FFA members to keep her FFA chapter alive.  In the future, she aspires to one day become a MN State FFA Officer as well as becoming an Agricultural Education teacher so she can continue the FFA tradition and do what she loves!

Congratulations to Katie Anderson for all of her accomplishments and innovative ideas, and to being the FFA Member of the Week!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Watch Out World, Here Comes FFA!

On Friday, the team had the chance to meet with one of MN FFA's Distinguished Star Partners and supporter of the Teach Ag Campaign.  CHS Inc. is a cooperative that works with transporting grains and energy.  We were able to tour the facilities in Savage, MN and the headquarters in Inver Grove Heights.  While at the Savage location, we were guided by Greg.  Greg told us about everything that CHS Inc. is involved in and he always had a couple words of wisdom to go along with it.  And this wisdom is just too good not to share....

"I wish I were in your positions.  At your age and being in FFA, you all have more opportunities than you could imagine and you have the whole world in front of you."

 How can you disagree with that?  Greg is as right as it gets.  We have the whole world in front of us--but this doesn't mean that we will find success just sitting around doing nothing, we have to go out there and do something.  Being in FFA gives you the opportunity to prepare for your future, develop your leadership skills, find your lifelong passion, and be the person you want to be, so don't let it pass you by!

"All we do here at CHS Inc is move grain, but the key is that we do it better than anyone else."
Take a moment to think of all the opportunities you have in your life--right here, right now.

Now decide which of these you are going to pursue.  What are you going to do with your life to make it purposeful?

 So how committed are you going to be to that opportunity, that way of life?  CHS Inc. is completely committed to what they do, which is why they are so good at it.  So are you going to push yourself to do your best?  Is your best better than anyone else's best?  Whatever you choose to do, do it whole-heartedly and truly invest yourself, because giving it anything less than what you are really capable of is a waste.  This is our world and it's up to us to make it better than how we found it, but we need YOU to do that.

Can't wait to see what you do :)

Stationed by the Ear of Corn,
Sabrina Kieser

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Just this morning I was sitting in caribou and noticed some young girls around the ages of 3 and 4 playing on the floor near a steep edge, guarded by a railing. As I watched, the younger of the two girls leaned over to the other and whispered something into her ear. The older child then picked up her coloring book in one hand and extended her arm through the railing, suspending the coloring book into the air. As a bystander, you could guess a few things are happening at this point. Like many others, I immediately assumed that the older child was taunting her younger sister by threatening to drop her coloring book from the ledge but, what happened next came as a surprise to me. Their mom noticed what was happening and in a frustrated tone said, "Girls, get the coloring book out of there! What do you think you're doing?!"
The younger of the girls then replied to her mom by saying, "But mommy, I told her to be brave! She wasn't going to drop it".

Their mom didn't exactly see the bravery in hoisting a coloring book over a ledge, but many wouldn't. I began to think about what I had witnessed. As we get older, we seem to loose that sense of bravery. Maybe it's because we are worried what people would say about us, or we are afraid of failing. As a three year old we never worried about jumping off a ledge into our parents arms. We never worried about what our friends would think about what we wore. We never worried about being ourselves.

Later this morning in church we celebrated Veterans Day. We had a guest speaker that serves in the U.S. Marines as a chaplain. As he explained to us what our soldiers do everyday I realized what that little girl meant by being brave. Being brave is exactly what these men and women do every single day for our freedom. It can be a little different for each one of us and sometimes it takes being child like to notice what being brave really means. For that little girl, it was the chance of sacrificing her coloring book and for a soldier, it's the chance at sacrificing their life.

Opportunities come every single day to be brave. Choose to be more like that little girl, and DARE to do something new!

Stationed By the Rising Sun,
Shawna Conrad

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ah Yes, Convention Stories!

One week at convention can have an incredible impact, and sometimes teach lessons that we miss every day.

It was Tuesday morning and an FFA member decided to buy granola bars for breakfast during the week of convention, so he sauntered through the pulsing streets towards CVS Pharmacy. The steam from the man hole covers blew sideways before dissipating in the brisk morning wind. The floodgate of blue jackets was about to burst into the streets of Indianapolis, but the 7 am commute of the city hurried on into the Tuesday work-world. Five lanes of cars flashed by in the dim and waxing light. Pedestrians in overcoats with heads down rushed to and fro.  Sometimes, just for kicks, the member tried to make eye contact with a stranger and see if he could coax a smile. Most people, on most mornings, take a keen interest in their shoes and would shuffle on faster. However he was wearing Official Dress this time, and something about the jacket made strangers respond to his nonverbal greetings. Today his smile and recognition of others spoke to their worth.

Tens of thousands of people stood and cheered after Jason Troendle spoke the last word of his retiring address. As quotes about what love was filled the background screen of the stage, something I didn't understand started to happen. The National FFA Secretary extended his pointer finger, pinkie, and thumb in an expression that looked like this.
I just let it go and kept cheering as dozens, then hundreds of students on the delegate floor, then in the stands responded likewise. I still didn't understand it, but figured in the grand scheme of convention it wouldn't matter. Oh well, whatever. Later that week, as I was walking across the plush hotel lobby towards a glistening elevator (and sleep) I happened to see Jason. A tie bracelet with blue and white woven into the worn ornament added a personable air to the business-like suit he sported. In the ensuing conversation, I thought back to to the session and asked what the symbol meant. As he shaped his hands he said "This means I love you in sign language".

Erin Daninger, my sister, was the National Officer Candidate for Minnesota. As the names of the new National Officers were announced one by one on Saturday, hers was not among them. As tears and hugs were exchanged after the lights flickered on, a group of girls formed around her. They put their arms around each other's shoulders and started to sing to my sister. These were my sister's Beta of Clovia sorority sisters, and though I didn't know what exactly they were singing, I knew that, at that moment, those lyrics meant more to my disappointed sister than I could ever express in this blog. 

Walking through the streets of Indy. A sign language word. A song. None of these would seem that important, but really they are all that is important. They all say "you are important to me", "I value you", "I love you". And love is all that matters. In the words of Maya Angelou “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Leadership, sometimes, is less about being able to give an inspirational speech, delivering a fantastic workshop, or running a meeting effectively. The most important influence has to do with loving others. As the writer of Corinthians once  said "If I... have not love, I am nothing". Anyone can do the three things in the stories above; loving others can really be as simple as a smile, a symbol, or a song. These things we can do each day speak to one point:

To make a difference in the world, Love out Loud.

Dare to Love.
Dare to Do.

Stationed by the Emblem of Washington,
Nathan Daninger

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What Have You Dared to Do?

Can someone remind me of this year's MN FFA state theme again?  Oh yeah!  That's right!  How could I have forgotten...


That is exactly what agricultural education students and community members from Fairmont, MN promised to do as they left the Agriculture Department's first FFA meeting and fun, informational night.  Students enjoyed workshops from past and present state officers while the parents and community members got to learn how they can help Fairmont FFA and its agriculture program succeed. 

It was great to see all of these people being supportive of and excited about FFA, but there was one student in particular that stood out to me and her name was Lydia.  Why did she stand out?  Because she is home-schooled.  Along with the fact that she maybe stepped out of her comfort zone to see what else this world has to offer her.  The fact that she was willing try something new.  The fact that she took my challenge.  Soon after she checked in at the event I got talking to her about FFA.  I told her about all of the opportunities to develop leadership and career skills, make life-long friends from across the state, as well as prepare yourself for your future and have fun at the same time!  And her response was, 

"It all sounds so good, I just wish there was a way to make it work." 

I quickly let her know that there was a way to make it work, you just have to push yourself a little bit, DARE TO DO something a little more.  I let her know that she needs to try it now because you don't want to look back later and wish you had done it.  

A few days later I got a message from Lydia on Facebook...  SHE GAVE IT A TRY!  She checked more into how to be involved and truly DARED TO DO.

Now I think we all need to be a little more like Lydia.  Not just within FFA when it comes to developing our SAE, being on a CDE team, or going to camps and conventions, but in life in general.  Whenever we are thinking about what to do next in life, we need to push ourselves past the limits we set on ourselves and exceed expectations.

Be more.
Do more.
Try something new.
Be INVOLVED, not just a member.
And push yourself to...

Stationed by the Ear of Corn,

Monday, October 15, 2012

CAUTION: Floor Slippery When Wet

Lunch ladies and custodians are some of the happiest people I know. If you ever want a great conversation, find a smiling keeper of the keys and start chatting. One custodian in particular I see at the residence hall where I live has a truly exceptional attitude. Let's call him Jim. When Jim sees me shuffling down the hall he gives out a "Howdy partner!" We might chat for a while or it might be a passing conversation, but the end of our conversations almost always goes the same. I will tell him to "Have a (great/good/phenomenal/insert adjective) day", and he will say "Oh I'm making it!" and gives a deep-throated chuckle.

"Oh I'm making it".

How often do we (I'm convicted of this one too) let our day make us instead of us making our day? There are only a few things in life we can always choose. We cannot always decide our living situation, income, talents, or health, but we can control our faith, attitudes, and beliefs. I would argue what we can control is much more important that what is outside of our reach. Jim has a great day almost everyday, not because he makes millions of dollars or has the best job (although he does get to post those nifty floor-slippery-when-wet signs), but because he chooses to live in joy. As Dale Carnegie puts it: "Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude." Attitude is a choice.

What will you choose today? Every morning when you wake up there is an option. Are you going to decide to reflect joy, or are you going to let what happens to you  change what happens in you? Remember, as Zig Ziglar  said" Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude".

Choose to soar today.

From the Emblem of Washington,
Nathan Daninger

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

National Officer Candidate Training

Nation Officer Candidate Training
                When I arrived at Dassel-Cokato High School early in the morning on October 6, I was shocked to see that apart from Mr. Sawatzke, the FFA Advisor, I was the only one there! He gave me a run-down of what was going on that day and gave me a short tour of the surrounding rooms that we would be using. By the time we had completed that members began to flow in and I was able to see some members that I hadn’t seen in quite a while such as Linsey Strolberg, and Steven Johnson that I haven’t seen since summer leadership camps. We got to work preparing for the day as the National Officer Candidates from seven different states arrived ready for a day of training. It was educational for me to sit through the different rounds of interviews that these members took part in, but more than anything it gave me confidence in the future of the National FFA Organizations. These seven individuals took of their own time to train for this position of service. Service, has become a way of life for these men and women. And come October, I know that no matter who ends up standing on that stage, the National FFA Organization will be in good hands! To bring an end to what was certainly a fun and educational day, we had some good old fashioned dancing! Everything from the Jasper leading us in the Dougie, to country swing and line dancing!
Stationed by the Flag,

Jared Luhman