Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Just a little kick

Church has been something I have been around my whole life. Ever since I can remember, I have been attending Sunday school, confirmation classes, and Sunday service on the right side of the church, sixth pew from the front. Whether I wanted to or not, my family and I have attended church almost every Sunday no matter how much complaining or eye rolling I did. Once I got there, however, I always felt better and glad that I went. Don’t tell my mom about that. Being in a church has always calmed me down and made me feel supported. This feeling of support was the reason I chose my confirmation verse; Matthew 19:26 which reads “Jesus looked at them and said… with God all things are possible.”

Being in college I realized that I completely had the choice of whether or not I wanted to go to church on Sunday. I had decided to try out different churches near campus with my friends Abby, Kam, and Chris. Going there gave me that feeling of home that isn’t always with you when you’re in a new place. The familiar hymns reminded me of previous churches I had been a part of and made me decide that this was the church I was going to go to for the rest of my time here at South Dakota State University.
While my personal support group includes my faith, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to have or feel supported by a faith. My own support group also includes my family, friends, teachers and my girlfriend. Whether they know it or not, all of them have helped me get where I am today. Whether it be listening to me rant about things that are bugging me or listening to me talk a million miles an hour about meat science or meat judging when they may not know anything about what I am saying, it all helps. Even if it was my friend who had no idea that I wanted to get a higher score than them on the next science test, they unknowingly pushed me to do better and ultimately accomplish my goal.
Having a strong support group is important if you want to accomplish the goals you have set for yourself. Perseverance will get you far, but sometimes you need that extra kick in the pants to accomplish things that you just can’t give yourself. That is why a support group is essential. Your support group doesn’t have to be gigantic. It can be as big or small as you want it to be. If you have a support group, continue to use it and be very thankful for where it will get you. If you don’t feel like you have a support group you may want to see what it can do for you. Just asking someone you trust to help keep you on track or check up on you will help you out a lot. If you don't believe, try it out for yourself. You might just be surprised where you go.


Clay Newton

Stationed by the emblem of Washington

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Be an Olympian

26-kohei-uchimura-2.w560.h375.jpgI don’t know about you, but I LOVE the Olympics. I love watching all of the athletes from around the world come together and strut their stuff. Whenever I watch with my parents, I often say, “Oh yeah, I can do that,” or “I taught the entire team how to do that move.” In reality though, I sometimes struggle walking in a straight line or catching a ball, let alone doing a triple back handspring or bicycle kicking a soccer ball.

Every Olympian once started as an amateur. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and Usain Bolt were not born great athletes; they had to work hard to reach their full potential. Each of us has the ability to reach our full potential and become our own Olympian. Maybe that’s achieving the grade we’ve always wanted in a difficult class, trying out for the sports team, joining a new CDE team, developing a new SAE, creating an agriscience fair project, or even having the courage to say hello to a new student. Whatever it may be, we all have the ability to become Olympians. Where do we begin?

Olympic cauldron 2012.jpgMake a grand entrance. Every Olympic games begins the same way: a torch relay from Olympia, Greece to the Olympic stadium in the host city, a presentation of all of the participating countries’ flags, and a flourish of lights, color, and excitement. In the same way, we should start every day the same: with confidence. Whether that be always wearing a smile, wearing your favorite outfit, or reading an inspirational quote to get you ready for the day, begin each day ready to take on the world. Wherever we go, whatever we may be doing, we should make a grand entrance and radiate with confidence, knowing each of us has the ability to do something amazing.

kerri-walsh-jennings_0.jpgEat, sleep, work hard, repeat. Greatness is achieved by continuous improvement. We can earn that awesome grade, receive a spot on that new team, be successful with our SAE or agri-science project, or make a new friend by working hard at what we do and making sure we are always giving our best effort.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. Every Olympic athlete had to try their sport for the first time. What if Kerri Walsh had said “No, I’m too nervous to play volleyball. What if I’m not good?” She never would have become a gold medalist in beach volleyball at three different Olympic games. We all hold that same potential. What if we were too scared to try something new and missed an opportunity like Kari had? It’s okay to be nervous. It’s okay to be scared. We just have to try.

Make it count. We are not guaranteed any amount of time. Olympians are not guaranteed a second chance to play their sport. This year, let’s choose to make every moment count, to live our lives to the fullest, and to pursue our dreams without looking back.

Go for the Gold. Why settle for “good enough” when we could strive for greatness? What if instead of saying, “That dream is too big,” we said “How can we dream bigger”? What if we tried to achieve the “gold medal” in our lives? Let’s dare to risk boldly, to go for the gold, to strive for greatness this school year. What does that look like for you?

IMG_7841.JPGFor me and more than 100 other Minnesota FFA members, going for the gold means competing in the Olympics of FFA--National FFA Convention. I’m on a team with more than 100 Minnesota FFA Olympians who get to showcase their talents and achievements with the other FFA Olympians from across the United States. My sport is the AgriScience Fair. My goal is to place in the top three with my project on biogas production. I know that in order to achieve that goal, I need to review the contents of my project, practice doing mock interviews, and continue to learn more about biogas so I can be at my full potential for National Convention. I can’t wait to see what the Minnesota FFA members accomplish in October and beyond.

Each of us has unlimited amounts of potential that can take us where we want to go. This school year, let’s use that potential. Let’s become Olympians.

Stationed by the ear of corn,


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Loving the Scary Things

After I got home from an FFA event earlier this summer, my family decided to take our boat out onto the lake. My brother, Ben, had just bought a kneeboard, and he could not wait to try it out. Ben is good at kneeboarding, and he was not just able to stay up, but he could also do 360° spins, jump over wakes, and stay on in even the roughest waters. As I sat in the boat and watched Ben soar on the water, I just kept thinking about how incredibly fun it looked.

“Katie, do you want to try?” Ben asked as he pulled himself out of the water.

This is when my mind suddenly started to worry. Of course I thought it looked fun, but it also looked hard. And scary. I told myself that it wouldn’t even be much fun and decided to maybe try later.

As the day wore on, I yearned to want to take on the adventure of kneeboarding, and I finally built up enough courage and tried it. To my dismay, I failed. I couldn’t even pull myself up onto the board much less stay up on it. I swam back to the boat beyond frustrated and ready to quit. Ben, however, had another agenda. He let me regroup myself, gave me a few pointers, and sent me back out. I laid on the board unconfident, nervous, and scared. Suddenly, the boat flew away, and before you know it, I was up on the board.

Life is full of scary things. When I think of of things that instill fear in me, my mind drifts to horror movies, haunted houses, and those frightening monsters people call wasps. These are things that send chills up my spine and occasionally cause me to cover my eyes. These are not the only things that scare me in life though. Life is full of experiences and adventures, and sometimes, these parts of life can be scary, too.

For these scary moments in life though, we do not want our eyes closed. You see, as soon as we close our eyes, we close doors. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be scared of something, but we have to be able to put that fear away. We need to be able to grab ahold of adventure and enjoy life. If we let fear take over, we will never experience some of the greatest adventures of our life. This is hard for me. I struggle every day with this thought. I fear getting hurt, I fear not being able to make friends, and I fear failure. This can stop me from doing a lot of things, and that’s why I remind myself daily to jump in and grab ahold of the kneeboard.

This Friday, I’m about to jump in again. I will soon make Brookings, SD my home as I head to South Dakota State University to become a jackrabbit. Just like the kneeboard, the prospect of going to college is so exciting, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Moving away from my family and friends and becoming independent is not going to be easy. I’ve learned though that if it scares you, you really should try it. So in two days, I will be taking on my next adventure, and I want you to come with me.

When I say this, I don’t mean truly come to Brookings (although, I’d love it if I was surrounded by thousands of FFA members). I want you to come with me in spirit. As the new school year approaches, our lives will be filled with new opportunities and adventures. Whether it’s trying a new CDE, applying to be an officer, or starting your first job for your SAE, it will scare us. But, that won’t stop us. Just like when I went kneeboarding for the first time, we may fail at first but that is okay. Failure is part of life, and the greatest part of failure is that we can overcome it.

Just this past week, I got to go kneeboarding again. As I soared behind the boat, I practiced mastering 360° spins and jumping over wakes. You see, I felt on top of the world. I’ve learned that usually the things that seem the scariest are the best things in life. They give us a feeling of adventure, accomplishment, and happiness. When we feel this, we learn to love the scary things.

Stationed by the Plow,

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Drive of Competition

I woke up early, washed, scrubbed and fed my pig because it was Showtime… Literally! Every year I, along with thousands of FFA members from around the state, work hard to get the perfect show animal for the county and state fair. The competition to see who has the better steer, hog or sheep is always a nip and tuck occasion as every member tries to show off their animal to the best of their ability and win the show. That show ring competition is what drives me, along with other members, to work long and hard to make their animal as perfect as possible.
This competitive drive has taught me several important skills throughout my showing career. The first is to work hard. Whether you started your beef project in the fall or in the spring with hogs, there is a lot of preparation that will need to be done before your livestock project is show ring ready. Thus the phrase, hard work pays off, rings true. Each and every day I own that animal I have to feed it at least twice a day, wash and walk them to train them to behave properly, and keep up with all the barn chores. All of these tasks really taught me to work hard even when nobody is watching, and that hard work pays off!
The second takeaway I got from showing was to build relationships. Each species has their own unique and special community of members and family that are always there to help each other out. I came from a family that didn’t show, so I had to rely on my FFAmily to help me along and teach me all about showing. They helped me out with borrowing equipment and quick little-showing technique tips to help showcase my animal better. As much as we want to win it all at each show, we must always remember to leave our competitive nature in the ring.
The last life lesson I have learned is to always try to stay humble and graceful about winning and losing. I have never been a shining star showmen, but I recognize I don’t always put in the appropriate time and money into my show animals. Now does that mean I don’t want and try to win?? Of course not, but it really helps me maintain perspective. If I win, I don’t rub it in other people’s face because I know they probably worked just as hard as I did and the judge just decided to pick me on that day. I do the same when losing (which happens more than winning does) because I know the winner put in extra time and effort to be great.
Competition can have a bad rap for causing conflict and controversy, but there are upsides to it as well. I have learned valuable life lessons from having show ring competition that ranges from knowing to work hard to really valuing relationships. As competitive as showing can be, it can make all of the work worth it.  This week Minnesota FFA members and chapters have earned some amazing rewards for their hard work in developing their Supervised Agricultural Experiences and chapters.  We are excited to share the finalists for American Stars, Proficiency awards, AgriScience Fair projects and National Chapter Awards. So check out all of the incredible work these FFA members have done to be able to compete at Nationals on the Minnesota FFA Facebook page (!

 Stationed Beneath the Rising Sun,

                                                                                                                   Spencer Wolter

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Fully Extending Our Selfie Sticks

This spring, I was given a gift, and the moment I opened it, I’m confident that everyone on the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus heard me scream and laugh with excitement… it was a selfie stick (with a huge bag of Peanut Butter M & M’s to seal the deal)! I immediately tore open the package it was in and snapped my first ever selfie using a selfie stick, which is mildly entertaining to look at and is conveniently located to the right. Over the course of the last four months, this valuable stick has been in my truck and has tagged along with me for tons of adventures – including the State Greenhand Leadership Conference (SGLC).

SGLC is one of the coolest conferences that we as FFA members have the opportunity to be a part of! This camp, along with SLCCL, is held at Deep Portage, up north in the secluded town of Hackensack, Minnesota where the memories are limitless and the cell phone signal is limited (and yes, there is definitely a correlation between the two). At Deep Portage, there’s a HUGE observation tower on top of a ginormous hill. For me, hiking to the top of that tower was always a highlight of the week when I was a camper (see below).
Fast-forward three years to SGLC 2016, when I thought it would be fun to relive my experience as a camper and organize a group to make the trek up to the tower! We formed a group and left at exactly 3:21 p.m. on the Thursday of camp because hiking is some serious business! Over 20 members came together for the hike and we had an amazing time! However, unlike SLCCL 2013, something was different about the hike; I brought my selfie stick.

Today, there are only three alternates to using selfie sticks when taking pictures. The first is having someone from the group take the picture manually, the second is using an automated countdown and the third is using just arms to take a selfie. I’ve found that each of these have some costs associated. Want to have someone take the picture manually? That could be a good option, but the person taking the picture won’t be able to be in the picture themselves and be able to remember that moment, similar to the picture above from SLCCL 2013. Manual countdowns are pretty awesome too, but using one of these means that the person who sets it up will have to run back to the group and probably will be either out of breath or not be ready. Many of us most likely use our arms to take our pictures nowadays, but if you’re anything like me, it’s tough because our arms are only so long, which means that some people won’t make it into the picture.

This is where selfie sticks come in. Selfie sticks give us an opportunity to get ready and look sharp for our pictures, and most importantly, they make sure everyone is included in all of our pictures. Unless we have incredibly long arms or have a relatively small group, selfie sticks are our best bet. At SGLC, every single member who took the time to hike to the top of tower with our group can be found in the picture you see to the right. Why? Because we used a selfie stick and extended it to its fullest possible length.

As FFA members, it is our duty and mission to be the fully extended selfie sticks of our chapters and even of society – to reach out and include as many people as possible. Whether it’s inviting that shy freshman to the first FFA meeting of the year or engaging with thousands of fairgoers at the CHS Miracle of Birth Center, we absolutely need to be inclusive of everyone inside and outside of FFA so everyone knows they are valued and an important part of our community. The start of the school year is right around the corner, so let’s take some time to think about how we will be fully-extended selfie sticks this year and into the future.

Stationed by the Door,

Joe Ramstad