Tuesday, November 25, 2014

FFA Thanksgiving

Minnesota, Spring Valley-Wykoff FFA, 2012-2013 Chapter Historian, Valerie Earley, read my FFA jacket.

As I zipped up my FFA jacket, I was filled with excitement and pride. Although it felt like I had just put on a cardboard box because the arms were so stiff, I was anxious to see what I would experience, who I would meet and how I would grow while wearing the corduroy.  

In large gold letters on the back of my jacket the word “Minnesota” was proudly embroidered. Minnesota is known for many traditions including funny accents, hotdish and great sports. Well, maybe not sports, but Minnesota is known for its strong agricultural industries. Although our advancements in agriculture have played a large part, it has taken strong leaders to continue Minnesota’s tradition in agriculture. One person that has become a role model in agriculture in Minnesota is Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau President. While playing a vital role in the continued success of agriculture, he has taken the time to help me grow and understand that my voice in agriculture is valuable.  

Spring Valley-Wykoff and 2012-2013 Chapter Historian, my chapter and office, were written on my jacket. Spring Valley, the home of the stapler, and Wykoff, the town I grew up closest to on my family’s farm, are two small towns in southeast Minnesota that I am proud to be a part of. Although they are both great towns to live in, the things that make these towns great are the people. Mrs. Derby and Mrs. Cleveland, my two English teachers, are two of these wonderful people. Whether it was practicing the FFA Creed my freshman year, a speech for region office or for the Prepared Public Speaking CDE senior year, they always made time in their busy schedules to intently listen and help me improve each time.

Valerie Earley. While I am thankful for a unique first name, it is my last name that represents my family. Throughout my life, I have had endless support from my family. My family is the reason I first wanted to get involved in agriculture. Whether I was celebrating success or facing a challenge, I am proud to be a part of family who is supportive to one another.

In this jacket, I have met people from all over the United States, grown from a shy freshman to a confident leader and found my voice in my community and in agriculture. However, all of these would not be possible without the people who supported and encouraged me along the way. From leaders in agriculture to my English teachers to my family, my growth through FFA would not have been possible without the people who supported me while I wear the blue jacket.

Our FFA jackets represent the unique parts of our lives. They represent each of us and the impactful experiences we have had. They represent our communities and the support people have given us in the FFA organization.

There are many opportunities in FFA that keep our schedules busy, but they give us the experiences we need grow. However, we often forget an important part. We forget to thank those who have supported and encouraged us. While Thanksgiving brings delicious pumpkin pie, stuffing and mashed potatoes, it also brings a time to reflect on the growth in our lives and the people who have made it possible.

While we enter our Thanksgiving festivities this week, together let’s take time to thank three people. Whether you write them a thank you, thank them in person or send them a message on social media, showing appreciation is the most important part of this season. While the corduroy has a rich history on its own, it is because of the people we will thank that our experiences become impactful.   

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Valerie Earley

Monday, November 17, 2014

The First Snowfall

When my sisters and I were little, we could not wait for the first snowfall of the year. Snow meant that we got to get out our Polaris 120 snowmobile and pull each other around in a sled. Boy did we love that thing! We would spend the first two weeks of winter on our snowmobile without even stopping for lunch. The only way mom could get us to come in was to tell us she had fresh hot chocolate waiting for us. Also, the first snowfall meant that Christmas was coming! My sisters and I would continue riding snowmobiling, playing in the snow, and sipping our warm hot chocolate until about January 1st.  We loved all that winter had to offer... until Christmas that is... then we could not wait for all of the snow to melt and the weather to warm up. We would trudge through the three feet of snow and count down the days until it would all be gone; we could not wait!

About three weeks ago in my Foundations of Leadership class, my group and I were assigned a presentation on authentic leadership. This presentation had to be 30 minutes long and consist of a fun activity that involved the whole class. We had about a month to complete the project knowing it would be a huge part of our grade. At first, I was so excited for this project! I love presenting in front of people and I knew my team and I were going to do a great job. I started to brainstorm different ideas and ways we could demonstrate authentic leadership to the class. After a few days and eventually weeks, I began to put the project to the side and I completely forgot about it. Now I am rushing trying to figure out a plan on how we will get this task accomplished with as much quality as I had intended in the first place. This got me thinking about how it relates to that same feeling my sisters and I had when we were snowmobiling.

Have you ever gotten that feeling? The feeling of sheer excitement at the beginning and then the situation being a nuisance? Well, I definitely have (more than once). It began to bother me how I could be so pumped for something and then I become mad that I have to deal with it. I begin to start counting down the days until it is over rather than enjoying each day we get.

In FFA, we are given many opportunities to participate. At first, we cannot wait to get started! Maybe it is that CDE team you are starting to study for or the announcement of your new officer team. Everyone has the moments where we cannot wait to get started on the task at hand. I like to call this phase the
'honeymoon stage.' We are all happy, there is no fighting, new ideas are being tossed around, and we begin to set goals for ourselves. The honeymoon phase is great until the dreaded slump stage takes its toll. After dealing with this situation numerous times, here is a list of tips that I have came up with to stay focused:
1. Remember what you signed up for - keep in your mind the real reason you signed up for the situation and who it will impact.
2. Set goals! - Keep those goals on a piece of paper and keep them where you can see them every day.
3. Find an accountability partner - It is great to know you have a friend, teacher, or mentor who can keep you motivated to perform to the best of your ability.
4. Always remember to have fun with what you are doing!

I hope these few tips will help you keep pushing forward in whatever situation you encounter. Remember: "Don't count the days, but make the days count."

Stationed by the plow,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Motivation and Goals Go Hand in Hand

There are so many great things that happen during these frigid months of winter. Snowboarding with my brothers, having snowball fights, and playing hockey.  However, there is one thing I hate about winter, and that is being cooped up inside. Sometimes I end up being inside for days on end. While I do keep myself busy with my long list of things to do, there is still down time. How is that time spent? Sitting around the house. Sometimes I drive myself mad, because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything worthwhile. I end up watching way too much Netflix and playing video games. Yet I keep doing it, because I don’t really know what else to do.

I sit down and look at my life and really think. What am I accomplishing? I’m the kind of person that needs to feel like I’m actually doing something with my life or I feel worthless. I like to have goals so that way I can work towards something. Sometimes these are small goals like beating my high score in a video game. The reason I set a goal is so I feel some sort of accomplishment once I complete it. However, one of the biggest goals, and perhaps a more serious goal I have right now, is to become a teacher. Becoming a teacher is something I realized I wanted to do in high school and have been working towards for years.

This goal is how I find motivation to do my homework (and trust me my motivation is really lacking at some points). It’s the reason why I’m at the University of Minnesota. Becoming a teacher is how I know I’m going to impact other's lives with my career. Working to become a teacher has become a focal point in my life. But what is your big goal in life? What is that one thing you want so badly that you are willing to put hours on end into? Is it making it to the state tournament in your favorite sport? Is it getting accepted to your college of choice? Maybe it’s saving up so you can get your first car.

Whatever your goal is, it should be your motivation for the day. Having this goal is the spark that sets you into action. If you don’t already have one of these goals, then take the time to figure what you really want. Think about what you want to be proud of when looking back a week, month, or even a year from now. Setting one of these goals is what helps me find motivation and it should do the same for you. Now before you go out and accomplish great things with your life I’ll leave you with the words of Lou Holtz.

“If you’re bored with life, if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things, then you don’t have enough goals.”

Stationed by the rising sun,

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Starting Over

            I was sitting in a tractor watching our five shank ripper pull through the freshly harvested corn field.  I know the reasons as to why we turn the soil at the end of the year, but I couldn’t help but think about how I was witnessing the entire year’s work being turned over and forgotten about as everyone works to get ready to start again next year.  Although the end of the year is very close, most still realize the importance of what they are trying to push under the soil.  They realize that they are starting over, and they are preparing themselves to begin again fresh.
            Many people don’t think about farming and field work when they have to start over.  They think about what their situation is and why they are starting over.  However, when starting over, tillage is a great metaphor for a person’s life.  When having to start over, tillage is trying to push all the leftovers from harvest into the ground and create a fresh spot to start again in the spring.  Like tillage, people who start over want to erase everything they knew.  They want to rid all the memories from good or bad times just like what is done during tillage.  Regardless if the year was great with plentiful rains or bad with strong winds, tillage erased what happened on the lands.  Both tillage and starting over are accomplishing the same purpose, but in a way, they do the same for the future as well.  Tillage, although it is erasing the past, it is preparing for a better future.  Every year farmers clear the land in order to prepare themselves to plant again for another year hoping to accomplish the same or better than before.  This aspect is not something most people think about when starting over.  They jump to how they have to start over, potentially with nothing, but also they have to try to forget what good or bad things had happened to them.  Most of the time, they don’t realize what good can come.  A farmer tills his land because he knows it will be better to start over again the next year.  A person starting over will have to face starting over in order to get the same experience as the farmer does.  The person that takes a leap of faith to start over will get to those better times just as the farmer does.

            Even though one is putting their good or bad times behind them, the thought of starting over is very hard for many people.  However, like tillage, when starting over, it is important to remember that better times and bluer skies are on the horizon.  Everyday we get the opportunity to start over and new with the rising sun.

Stationed by the door,

Dalton Kampsen, Minnesota FFA Sentinel