Wednesday, January 27, 2016


During my sophomore year of high school I had the opportunity to deliver a speech to the Agricultural Policy Committee in the House of Representatives.  As my dad and I walked the steps leading to the capitol, a stranger exiting the building recognized the blue corduroy jacket of my official dress and exclaimed “Thank you, FFA!” to me. His recognition of the blue corduroy, the tradition it holds, the opportunities it provides, and the FFA family it creates are just a few of the things that continue to amaze me about the National FFA Organization.
From the beginnings of 33 members from 18 states in 1928, to the current roster of 629,367 members from every state in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the National FFA Organization continues to grow in its members from all walks of life. While the numbers are continually changing, the tradition and history of FFA is rooted deeply. Agriculture impacts everyone every day. They knew that in 1928, and we know it today. 
Because of this awareness, we are fortunate to participate in Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE) and Career Development Events, further expanding our knowledge and abilities to understand the world around us and the impact we are able to make on it. Because I was raised on a dairy farm, I was able to use my work on the farm as my SAE where I completed records and also opened opportunities with award applications within FFA. Through my SAE, I learned more about my farm, discovered why things are run the way they are, gained new experiences by completing new tasks, and evaluated the skills I had gained without realizing it. This process helped me realize the love and desire I have to continue working with my dairy cattle.
Farmers farm because they have a love for the land and animals. I have met FFA members working in similar fields as myself and gained an entirely new perspective just by learning about their farm and how their background has led them to the place they are today.  Production agriculture is so important to fulfill the needs of our growing world. This is where FFA began. Where does your FFA story begin?
One of my favorite things about FFA is it not only involves farm kids, like the charter members back in 1928, but students from any background have a place to belong. “Premier Leadership, Personal Growth and Career Success” are three things that have completely created the person I am today. 
In the summer of 2013, I attended the Washington Leadership Conference with over 300 individuals from many states. A few of these included my roommates, Claire (Arkansas), Chloe (Georgia), and Ellen (California). The spark for life, change and motivation occurring at this conference can only be explained by experiencing it. We ended one particular evening of reflections by writing a letter to ourselves. At that time, I was struggling. I couldn’t seem to get over the idea that I would never be as good as my siblings. I believed in a notion that I had to do the same things as them, but better, in order to be successful. I was just going through the motions, I wasn’t believing what I was doing because I was convinced I was a failure when I compared myself to them. In that letter to myself, I had finally come to a realization and wrote it down; “In order to create footprints of your own, you must first stop trying to fill the footprints of others.”
Since that evening, I have not compared myself to my siblings one time. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I have joy. I know who I am. I know what purpose I was created for. Opportunities provided by FFA are like no other and I am extremely thankful and blessed for those around me who continue to support me and my endeavors. How has FFA helped you realize your purpose?
FFA family is real. In challenging times and successful times, my FFA family is always there. Whether they are current or former teammates, friends around the state and nation, or my actual family, there is always a shoulder to lean on, mind to bounce ideas off of, and heart to hold you accountable and help you grow in the most loving way. There is a one-of-a-kind community within FFA. At the National FFA Convention, the 65,000 FFA members in attendance are like one big, loving family. There is a certain feeling of belonging and excitement in a place you may have never been before with thousands of strangers that I have only experienced at convention. These connections and relationships go far beyond convention. They are friends for life, future coworkers, and role models to those all around them. I have never met students who are as driven, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about life than those involved in FFA. Who have you met through FFA that has made a difference in your life?
Thank you dad, mom, Luke, Erin and Nathan, for being my first role models in life and FFA. FFA has truly shaped me into the person I am. I am #FFAProud of turning tradition into passion.

How are you #FFAProud?

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ILSSO: South Africa

ILSSO.  18 days, 44 hours of total flying and one amazing country: South Africa.  Just recently, PJ, Travis, Madi, Sam and I, along with 71 other state FFA officers were able to attend the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers (otherwise known as ILSSO).  We spent just over two weeks in the beautiful country of South Africa learning about South African agriculture and international trade between our country and theirs.

When people ask me what my favorite part of the trip was, it is so hard to pinpoint just one moment.  The scenery, the people, the farms, other ILSSO travelers, the food… There are so many great memories from this experience and I would like to highlight a few.

Protea flowers
1    The farms.  We traveled across the sea as agricultural students and really took the opportunity to learn more about agriculture while we were there.  Overall, we visited 15 different farms.  They ranged from dairy, maize, and potato farms to Protea (their national flower), wine, and mango farms.  I loved seeing how farming had many similarities along with many differences compared to what we have here in America. It was also great to see how much pride and passion each farmer had in what they had created. 
Ready for the game drive with our Nebraska friends!
     The safari game drive.  This was an experience all in itself.  We were able to go on 4x4 jeeps and see some of the coolest animals South Africa has to offer. It was pretty surreal to be so close to wild zebras, giraffes, springbok (their national animal), rhinos, water buffalo and so much more.  We even got out of our jeep and chased down a cheetah! (I know this sounds crazy but trust me, we actually did it!)

Blyde River Canyon
      The views.  You know when you look in a magazine or see a photo online of a spectacular and beautiful place? That’s what you see in South Africa.  The diverse landscape kept me in awe of its’ beauty for the entire two weeks.  From the Blyde River Canyon to Cape Point, I often found myself speechless because of how great this earth is.

The people.  We had the chance to visit the village of Kayamandi.  Kayamandi faces many struggles such as improper housing and access to basic necessities.  However, the biggest thing I noticed while I was there was the smile on everyone’s faces.  Children danced in the streets and their laughs could be heard from blocks away. The hospitality and the warm welcome from everyone in this community was so humbling.  It really showed how in a country filled with poverty, if you have a family that loves you and a few good friends, you are much richer than you think.

ILSSO was an experience of a lifetime.  We were able to learn so much and make so many lifelong connections.  I learned that the passion and pride for what you do doesn’t fade when you leave the United States.  It was so incredible to go on the other side of the world and meet people who are just as passionate about agriculture as I am.  It really shows how agriculture across the world is tied together and Together We can feed the world. 

Thank you to Shane Jacques, Cindy Hefner, to all of our sponsors and everyone that made this experience possible!

Stationed by the plow (literally, I found a plow while I was there!!),

Monday, January 11, 2016

Be the One

Anyone who has experienced college finals will tell you that it can be a stressful experience for some.  So much of your overall class grade depends on one final test, so everyone wants to do really well on the final test.  For me, the final I wanted to excel at the most this year was my calculus final.  
I knew a good score on the test would give me a big boost and help get me the grade I wanted.

The day came to take the final so after doing some last minute studying, I headed off to room where the test would be held.  I decided to arrive 15 minutes before the final started, just to be safe.  I figured arriving early would let me find a good spot and get settled in before the madness began.  But what I found was a room which was already filled with hundreds of students all here to take this calculus test like myself.

One thing to note about students taking a calculus test, they like their space.  If at all possible, students will try to sit every other seat so they can utilize the desk portion of their own seat, as well as the seat next to them.  This allows them to have easy access to an extra pencil or the formula sheet that our professor provides without being confined to one small desk.  It actually works out pretty well most of the time.

Except when the room is too full to give everyone two desks like today.  When I walked in to take my calculus final, the room was already way too full to let students use both their desk and the one next to them, and there were still dozens of people coming in trying to find a seat.  As I roamed the room looking for a spot, I continually found students who had placed coats and other belongings in the seat next to them, to ensure that no one took their second spot from them.  So as I, and many other students, frantically searched around the room, we were met with people who avoided eye contact or ignored us so they did not have to feel guilty about not helping us out.

As the time ticked, we got closer and closer to the start of the test.  Only 7 minutes left now.  Oh boy, what if I do not find a seat in time?  Will they give me a test if I am not sitting down?  Can I sit on the floor?  All these questions raced around my mind when finally a girl sitting a couple seats in said, “you can sit here,” pointing to the seat next to her.  A rush of relief poured over me, as she moved some stuff to clear up the spot.  I sat down, finally ready to take my final.

I started thinking and realized anyone in that room could have done what that girl just did.  Anyone could have decided to take a little less space to help someone out, but most did not.  They all had the mentality that “someone will help them.”  They did not feel the need to help because they felt someone in the room would give up a seat.  Instead they just let someone else take care of it so they could have their spots.

I also realized I have been guilty of this too.  In fact, most of us are.  For those of us who drive, we have probably had a time when we were in a hurry and instead of letting a car merge in front of us; we decided to let someone behind us let that person merge.  Or when we are going to class and we see someone drop their books, how often do we keep walking because we absolutely have to get to class.  There are many times when we do not want to inconvenience ourselves, so we figure someone else will help them.

The chances are that yes, someone will help that person eventually.  Someone will pick up the little task that needs to get done.  But what if that “someone” was us?  What if we decided to be the one to help someone out or get something done?  It is so easy to let someone else take care of it, but when we take care of it ourselves, we can brighten someone’s day.  We can relieve their stress. We can prevent dozens of calculus students from panicking as they look around the room for a seat to take their final.
This New Year, let’s find a way to be “the one.”  Whether we are “the one” who takes out the trash at home, or “the one” who puts together a practice test for our Career Development Team, or “the one” who invites the new kid at our school to sit by our friends at lunch.  These are all ways we can be “the one” to make a difference.

Stationed by the Rising Sun

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Spread Happiness: It's Simple!

I was so excited to compete at the National FFA Agriscience fair my junior year of high school. I was the first person from my chapter to compete at National Convention and was so excited to experience something new! When the time came to give my presentation, nothing seemed to go right. The internet was slow, items were falling off my display, the speakers were not working, and I just so happened to be losing my voice. I was so flustered in this moment that I had to make a decision. I could go through my presentation and be down about life and how my day was going, or I could change my mood and take this wonderful experience in, no matter the outcome. I could change my attitude and be happy for this opportunity and enjoy my time at National Convention. In that moment, I realized that my choice for happiness can have a total transformation on my attitude not only for that day, but for every day to come.

Since we are past New Years by a few days, the joyous holiday season is coming to a close. Now that the holiday season is past, everyone goes back to work and school and sometimes that joy and happiness are hard to find. I thrive off of the joy and happiness of others, but what if there is something we could do to have joy and happiness? We can!

Happiness and joy are two things we can make happen every single day. There are so many easy and convenient ways to make today a better day. Instead of being upset with a grade we got on a test, we could use it to work harder for the next test. Instead of being tired and crabby when we wake up early in the morning, we can remind ourselves that today is a new day and to make the most of it! Each of us have the willpower to make a difference in the lives of others and to make the world a better place.

One of my favorite videos to watch when I need a little reminder to choose happiness is Kid President’s A Pep Talk video. With over 37 million views, Kid President has spread happiness with one video. We are so connected to technology. If we share this video with someone or share this video on our page, we too can spread happiness just like Kid President does.

(If the video is not working on your device, here's a link!

But what if we took it one step further and posted a positive comment on a friend’s page or called that friend and took them out for lunch? Spreading happiness is a simple thing each of us can do each day, and I know that each of you can do that! You can spread happiness in any way you deem appropriate. Here are a few suggestions that I am going to do:
  1. Send someone a text message about how much they mean to me.
  2. Call a friend and give them a compliment.
  3. Write a letter to someone.
  4. Smile.

You too can help make the world a better place, one happy action at a time.

Stationed by the Door,