Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Maggie & I before a jackpot show
-- Summer of 2002
Growing up on a farm raising show quality market lambs and beef cattle of multiple breeds, I was subject to spending tremendous amounts of time with my parents in the barn in the winter months and lots of time on the road in the summer as we traveled across Minnesota and into neighboring states to support our customers or “help” dad judge at a county fair. Needless to say, many of my summer days as a young child were spent ringside. I had the opportunity to watch some of the best showmen and women I know. I was always asking mom and dad, “When can I do that?” My sense of wonder turned into a hunger to do.

At the age of two and a half, I showed my very first sheep; a blue, black-faced ewe named Maggie. I instantly fell in love with the concept of working on an animal, building a relationship, and then having to work together to perform in the showring. For the past 15 summers, I have spent countless hours in the barn doing what I love. During those long hours and late summer nights, I have learned many lessons, built many relationships (with stock and humans alike), and developed a passion for agriculture I would not have otherwise had without my initial wonder. The discovery of showing livestock has led to one of my greatest passions: agriculture.

Spencer & I on TCL while at the State Fair
representing the CHS Miracle of Birth Center -- 2016
Through my hours in the barn, I have found people and organizations which supported me and possessed the same passions; FFA has been the single most influential organization in my life. With all the unique opportunities FFA has, I was able to put my passion to action. I was able to use the knowledge I had gathered through my experiences and share it with others. One of my favorite FFA experiences took place just last summer at the Minnesota State Fair in the CHS Miracle of Birth Center’s Chapter House and Leadership Center. I served as an Ambassador for  Leadership for the middle four days of the fair; these four days were exciting for me as I confidently answered fairgoers’  questions. This experience gave my knowledge purpose -- the knowledge I would not have had if I hadn’t discovered my passion; a passion I did not know existed until I fed my sense of wonder.

I recently came across this quote in a book my mom and dad gave me for graduation:
“To wonder is to feed a hunger,
To discover is to grow a passion.
To use your knowledge is to live with a reason.”
-Vesna M. Bailey

This quote is powerful; it hit me hard when I first read it and has become a new favorite. As I took a step back to think about what this meant, I reminisced on the last 18 years of my life and how my wonder turned into a passion, which grew into knowledge and a reason.

Each of us possess wonder. Now, that wonder might not be the same curiosity we had when we were toddlers...but maybe it comes in the form of awe and amazement. After all, we should never lose our sense of wonder. What does your wonder look like? How will you feed the hunger of wonder you possess?

Image result for south dakota state universityI am a firm believer in pursuing your passion. My passion lies in agriculture and the FFA. I plan to pursue degrees in Agricultural Communications and Human Nutrition & Dietetics in the fall from SDSU to continue to grow my passion and expand my knowledge. I decided to serve Minnesota FFA as a State Officer, because “I believe in the future of agriculture” and those who make FFA the incredible organization it is. What have you recently discovered? How can you grow and develop your passion? How will you pursue that passion?

Purposeful living: what happens when we discover the hunger of our wonder, grow our passion, and utilize the knowledge we possess for the greater good of others. We are blessed to be able to experience unique opportunities at school and in FFA.  How will you use your knowledge to live with a reason? How will you put your passion to action?


You have the power to determine who you are and what you do; your sense of wonder and the passion and knowledge you possess will simply guide your way and give YOU a reason.

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Kylee Kohls

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Finding You

         My all-time favorite movie is none other than Finding Nemo. On this thrilling adventure Marlin, a clownfish, travels across the ocean in search of his only son, Nemo, with a high energy and spirited, but forgetful fish named Dory. Dory adds a little glimmer of hope in this otherwise sad tale. Although this movie is filled with a roller-coaster ride of emotions, it has an underlying
theme I've picked out after watching it many times. On first glance, it might only look like a movie about a fish doing anything he can to rescue his son, but I think this movie is actually about each of our characters finding themselves through this adventure. Nemo finds he can do much more than people expect of him despite his size and “lucky fin.” Marlin discovers his abilities of being a father and unique humor as a clown fish. Dory continues to just keep swimming against all the odds despite having short term memory loss.  Just like the characters of this movie, we all find bits of ourselves on the adventures we take.   
One of these adventures I went on was the journey of high school. I went through most of high school with a concept of what the ‘ideal student’ looked like. My definition was “someone who takes notebooks worth of notes in each class, studies endlessly, and gets A`s on every test.” I spent my time squeezing myself into this perfect cookie cutter shape of the ideal student. I would spend most of my time taking endless notes in a notebook for a class with the intention of studying them for the next test only to have the notebook stack up and sit there, unstudied. It wasn’t until recently I knew why I would spend so much time taking notes but never use them. A comment that changed my way of thinking went something like this: “It isn’t about how smart you are, it’s about how you are smart.”  Meaning we all learn in different ways that play to our strengths; that is what makes you smart by taking the focus off of how smart you are. This simple statement opened my eyes. I simply learned in a different style than those around me. I hated taking notes in class, yet I would torture myself day in and day out because I thought that was what a student had to do to be successful. I was never able to find my perfect style of learning, because I was never able to find myself and accept that I was different.
Fast forward to Blast Off training with the new state officer team. If there is one thing that I noticed, almost immediately, is that I was most definitely different from the rest of the team. As we sat at our table, I look around and noticed all my teammates sat straight forward, neatly in their chairs, hunched over writing in their journals. At the same time, I noticed myself, sitting sideways with my legs over the chair arms, playing with a pen, not even considering writing anything down.  Since then we have discovered differences between our team members, and how we work together
despite these differences. Whether learning styles, choice of presentation topic, or solving a problem, it always seems as if I conquered each task from a different angle than my teammates did. With this difference staring me dead in the face, I had a decision to make, was I going to decide to change who I was and follow those around me, or was I going to be myself? The choice was mine. Luckily, I decided to find myself, to be who I was, and continue to embrace the differences on our team.
In the middle of our film Finding Nemo, we are introduced to a character named Crush, a 150-year-old turtle that has embraced his identity: riding the waves, and loving his life being who he is. Crush serves as a guide for Marlin and Dory on the journey to find Nemo. Just like Marlin and Dory needed a guide, we can all look to those around us for guidance in our journeys to find our true selves. Without the support and insight from those around me, I would not have been open to finding myself or have embraced that I am indeed different. Who serves as your guide in finding you? Who do you look up to that has embraced their identity?  We will all come to a crossroad when we have to choose to be who we are, or who we think we should be. Where are you on the journey to of finding you? Next time you find yourself at a crossroads, answer these questions, seek guidance from those around you, and most importantly just be you.        

Stationed by the Emblem of Washington,

Spencer Flood 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Growing Our Communities

“Why do you want to be the FFA Garden manager?” When this question was asked by my FFA advisors during an interview, I stumbled on it. Why did I want to be a garden manager? Other than the fact that the garden is all I have known for the past couple summers, I couldn’t think of a logical answer why hours upon hours of work was worth it. After a minute of thought, I realized the garden wasn’t about me, it was about community outreach. Getting to know others around me is something I have always enjoyed, and this summer job would be no different by combining two of my passions -- horticulture and relationship building.

Garden.JPGThe Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Garden at the Howard Lake - Waverly - Winsted High School was my home for four summers. Every day, 5 or more other individuals and I would toil in this garden for hours, but each Wednesday, delivery day, all that work would be recognized. On this special weekday, we would harvest the ripe fruit, vegetables, and herbs, putting immense thought into their design so customers could see the best aspects of our garden. Produce was always the highlight of our shareholders’ weeks, especially when there were a number of different colors represented in the basket.
Each week we packed 15 baskets into the truck and set off on the three hour trip to deliver  produce to our shareholders, unsure of what to expect. House by house, one of the other garden workers, Keith, and I drove the usual route, delivering vegetables. Along this delivery trip we found joy in the diversity of the individuals in our area, and discovered the significance of our CSA enterprise was not quantity based, but rather its purpose was to engage with those in Howard Lake, Waverly, and Winsted - all places that members of our FFA chapter call home. Our community members easily represented the baskets we would end up delivering throughout the summer months -- beautiful, diverse, and joyful.
This summer, although I didn’t work in the garden, I have kept that value of community with me everywhere I travelled. At the end of June we held the State Leadership Conference for Chapter Leaders (SLCCL) where members came from chapters all around Minnesota to Deep Portage to exchange ideas and learn how they can grow their chapters. One large component of this conference was to share activities on “Building Communities.” To get started, we asked “What is a need your community has?” This question was similar to the one I was asked during my interview; many members had to pause and really think about it. However, what came from these leaders following the pause was truly amazing.
Members shared ideas of how to resolve their communities’ needs in ways ranging from “Feed-A-Farmer” to highway cleanup to various safety programs and so many more. These members have realized they can have an impact in their area during any time of year, just like my chapter does with CSAs in the summer months. FFA is an organization that can truly make a difference in its communities. How will you ensure that your FFA chapter is involved in the community?  What can you do this month to meet a need in your community?
Stationed by the Door,

Maddie Weninger

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Just One Spark...

In July of 1776, the Continental Congress declared the 13 American colonies as one free nation, the United States of America, no longer a part of the British Empire. Ever since then, July 4th has been recognized as one huge party to celebrate our declaration of independence - full of barbecues, family gatherings, parades, and of course, fireworks. For me, fireworks are probably the most exciting part of my family’s celebration that day. After a long day of lounging around the boat on Pokegama Lake, or exploring the town of Grand Marais, like I did today, fireworks are hands down the best sort of entertainment to close out a rather important holiday.
I remember watching my first fireworks show as a child in Fraser, Colorado. My family of three would drive our Subaru into a huge, open field and park, waiting patiently (or however patiently a 4-year-old could wait) for the show to start. Then suddenly, color would light up the sky, flashing in bright hues of blue, green, yellow, red, and then my personal favorite, purple. These colors lit up the sky accompanied by a big boom, and sometimes a short fizzle as it faded into the night. I was amazed by the beauty just one firework could have and the impact the light had to the darkness around it.
When I was a freshman, I was always waiting for something extraordinary to happen. At this point, I had lived a rather adventurous life, full of hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, walking across the glaciers of northwest Montana, and exploring the switch-backed trails of Colorado. As I entered high school, I only wanted to continue these adventures and satisfy my hunger for more. When I walked into the agricultural education room for the first time, I never would have guessed a new adventure would just be beginning. I was approached by a rather intimidating man, who introduced himself as Mr. Linder, who asked if I liked horses. Hesitantly (and rather terrified), I answered with a short ‘yes,’ to which he sat me down and started pulling up various judging classes, rattling along as he went. A few hours passed and I became more and more comfortable, realizing this teacher was getting more and more excited with every answer I gave. 

A few weeks later, Mr. Linder registered me to participate in my first ever region Career Development Event – horse judging. I was terrified walking in. I remember my freshman year of regions as a jumble of horses, anxious advisors, multicolored cards, and long sets of oral reasons. However, once we finished, I came out qualified for State, and a little surprised of myself.
Now, many years later, I can compare my freshman self, and all of us as FFA members, to those fireworks.
Fireworks need just one spark to set them off into a frenzy of color, light, and awestruck beauty. FFA members are the exact same way. Every member needs just one spark, maybe from an advisor, chapter officer, fellow member, or even you, to set themselves into an incredible leadership frenzy, lighting up the world around them with their unique styles and colorful qualities. When we spark other leaders, the world around us can change as we know it, and even spark others to do the same.
What was your spark?
Who needs that spark ignited in your life? How can you spark others?
Today, I watch fireworks light up the sky, and I smile because I know FFA members can do the same.
Stationed by the flag,