Sunday, December 23, 2018


Just before I got into my car to come home from college, I got a call from my Grandma Donna. “I made dinner and your cousins Amanda and Mitch are here, so you’ll stop by around 12:30, we’ll eat, and you’ll tell us all about your adventures,” she said! Somehow, she knew the day I was coming home, exactly what time I’d be going through her town, and that the promise of food would definitely get me to stop in. After two hours of driving, I pulled into the driveway of my grandparents’ house in Springfield, Minnesota, where I was greeted by hugs and smiles.

Soon after I got in the house, we sat down for what felt like Christmas dinner, as my grandma had made enough food to feed at least three families! We talked about how college was going, what my cousins had been up to lately, and what trips Grandma and Grandpa were planning next. Finally, we settled on my favorite subject, stories from my Grandpa.

Almost every time I stopped at my grandparents' house, my Grandpa went into storytelling mode, grabbed some photo albums from the basement, and began telling us all about his adventures. It didn’t matter if they were stories from his time in the military, out in Washington or Korea, his time working for Delta flying across the country, or about my grandparents’ marriage; we were always excited to hear about the lessons he learned on his travels. This time, the story was one I had not heard before.

When my uncle was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, my grandparents didn’t have much money or stable jobs. Through a series of events, they ended up living in the home of a veterinarian, who was a complete stranger when they first met him. He agreed to let them stay in one room of their family’s house if my grandparents would help out around the house and community. My grandma babysat the veterinarian’s kids along with my uncle, cleaned the house and helped out at the local church, and my grandpa picked up odd jobs around the community and in Las Vegas and learned a little bit about what it takes to be a veterinarian. Long story short, they ended up staying there for two years, keeping an alligator, and becoming great friends with a veterinarian and his family.

My grandpa says this was where he learned what hospitality looked like. When my grandpa, grandma, and newborn uncle had nowhere to go, this man and his family took them in, helped them get on their feet, and ended up becoming great friends in the process.

As we sat around the dinner table looking at black and white photos of my grandpa, his alligator, and his ’61 Ford, I could see the light in his eyes as he relived those moments. Through telling those stories to us, my grandparents taught us invaluable lessons from the past we can use today. While this story was new just a few days ago, I've already been able to show hospitality to guests for the holidays. As we enjoy the holidays with our loved ones, let’s ask for those stories, look back with the storytellers, and learn.

Stationed by the Plow,
Kegan Zimmermann

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Annual Ride

The holiday season is in full swing. I came home from college to find my family’s Christmas tree up and decorated. Personally, Christmas is not my favorite holiday as I believe it is very commercialized. However, there are things I do love about the holiday season. I enjoy spending time with family. We take time to be grateful for each other's successes for the year. Growing up I assumed everyone celebrated the same way I did. However, I remember learning about my friend's white elephant Christmas gift exchange and how she received a pack of bacon flavored gum and other odd treats. This was a tradition her family had done for quite a while, but it my family does not have a tradition like this.

My family has a few Christmas traditions. We go to church on Christmas Day and my Nana and Papa’s - my grandparents- on Christmas Eve. Over these two days, we always go sledding with my aunts, uncles, grandpa, cousins, immediate family and of course the dogs. Every year there are often new sleds for our Christmas slide, but my Grandpa always grabs his wooden toboggan and makes his way to the hill.  Now, this is a joyous time of running up the hill, laughing and jumping out of the way of the incoming sled. We pile five or more on to my grandpa’s toboggan and whoosh down the hill. At the end of our time on the hill, we all take one last ride on the toboggan before returning home. This is my family’s special holiday tradition. No matter the lack of snow or how full we are; we are there together on the hill. This is one of my favorite things over the years.

However, two years ago my Nana and Papa thought it would be fun to have the holiday in Florida.
I am one who loves knee-deep snow, but I realized I was going to have find my pair of flip-flops and venture down south.
On Christmas Eve, I imagined what it would be like to be sliding down the hill with my family. I looked around me and my family was around, but instead of sledding that year, we went shell collecting on the beach (not a bad trade). I realized that year that it's not because of the snow or the sledding that I love Christmas Eve, but rather the time making memories with others is what matters. It was the time dedicated to people who mean the most to me. The people are what makes experiences notable.

I will always treasure the memories made on the hill. Traditions may change sleds to beach chairs, but the true meaning still stands. You are surrounded by the ones who matter the most whether that’s family, friends, church groups or your FFA chapter. Dedicating our time to be with those who matter dearest is what is important about traditions. I challenge us to spend the holiday break with those who matter most. If they are states away, call or send a message letting them know how grateful you are for them. Make the most of your time with those whom you love. Start new traditions like running 5k’s, ringing bells for the Salvation Army or baking with your Nana. I want to know what traditions you have and why they are important to you.

Stationed by the Flag,
Lauralee Eaton

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Asking for help

Finals week is approaching. Although I don’t have any final tests, I had several final projects due. Whether it be a final paper, lab report or a 12-page word document stacked with questions, asking for help would have made these all easier.
This semester I am taking an agronomy class called “Crops, Environment, and Society.” This class has both a lecture and a lab. In the lab portion of the class, I walk to the greenhouses across campus, grab a worksheet and get to work. This isn’t like any lab I did in high school. This was basically the students finding the plants around the classroom, taking a picture, and memorizing the plant and name. It also included memorizing the seeds and the scientific families among other things. I really struggled through the first two lab tests. I didn’t know how to study and didn’t know how to remember all of this new information. For the last lab test, I took a different approach. I talked to a friend of mine, and we sat down and go the information down. I asked a friend for help and I was able to get a nearly perfect score on the last lab test.
Sometimes we don’t ask for help in situations where help is exactly what we need. It can be because we are too proud, overconfident, uncomfortable, or don’t know how to ask for help. Sometimes that one person to keep us accountable and focused can lead to more success than we could have thought possible. As humans, we all need help. We all need someone to support and help us. Asking can be the most difficult part, but it is crucial. The next time we are struggling, let’s ask for help, and if you see someone else struggling, ask them to let you help. The world needs a little more help and kindness.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Gifts We Share

Tis the season to be jolly … and visit FFA Chapters! This last week, many of my teammates and I made our way around southern Minnesota to learn about different chapters, meet members, and leave with them some tools they can use to improve their ability to network, grow, and achieve their goals. During my time in our agricultural education classrooms, I enjoyed sharing what I had and learning what I could.
After making my first stop at Cannon Falls for a game of dodgeball and time to meet some of the members, I made my way to Duane and Marni Albert’s home – relatives of a friend I had made through my time in National FFA Chorus. Their home served as my home base for the week and also a place for me to learn more about the dairy industry as I listened to conversations at the supper table and took a tour of their dairy operation.
On Tuesday, I headed to Randolph FFA, the home chapter of Grace and Laura. It’s no wonder why there are two state officers from this chapter – with an advisor like Mr. Ed Terry, students are on a springboard to success in whatever they do. I met with many of the students, administrators, and Mr. Terry himself. We spent nearly an hour and a half talking about what their chapter does, strengths and weaknesses he sees with agricultural education, and why he’s stuck around for 42 years! The passion he shares with the students every day was exciting to experience.
That evening, I met another legend. Dick Sauder, a former National Chorus Member, National Officer
Candidate, and Nebraska State President. We played music, ate supper together, and he even recited the FFA creed from memory after a little coaxing from his grandkids. He shared with me his stories, memories, and the reasons that he loved FFA and still keeps his jacket in a special place.
Adam with a few of the Pine Island Agricultural Education Students

On Wednesday afternoon, after finishing up at Pine Island, Duane’s brother in law and my friend’s dad, Stan, invited me to tour the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and play piano music in one of the many lobbies there. I was excited to see the hospital and where Stan worked, because I had heard great things about it, but I wasn’t so sure about playing a piano there. I’ve played at churches since I was a 5th grader, but this was a little out of my comfort zone. I went on my private tour and Stan showed me a lobby that wasn’t super busy and told me to stay as long as I wanted and that I could feel free to move around.
I started to play – for myself mostly, but for anyone who cared to listen as they were walking down the hall. After about 20 minutes of playing there, I decided I’d go check out the other pianos there (pianos are like snowflakes, they’re all a little different). As I got up, an older lady walked up to me and said “Thanks for playing. I was on the phone and the people on the other end asked me if I was at a concert.” I didn’t even know anyone was listening, but it put a smile on my face to see her happiness.
As I got to the main lobby, I noticed the piano I had been eyeing up earlier was no longer occupied. So I sat down and again started to play. People flowed through that hallway by the dozens, but many took time to send a smile my way, wave, say thanks, or just slow down to be there a little longer. Others asked to take a video so they could show a patient who they were visiting. I was having so much fun, I ended up staying there for about 2.5 hours!
This season, maybe you are thinking about gifts you need to buy for those on your list; however, some of the most meaningful and precious gifts do not cost us any money. The greatest gift I gave or received this week, was time. Duane, Marni, Stan, Dick, Mr. Terry and all the other agriculture teachers, agricultural education students, FFA members, and many others gave me their time as I visited chapters, and they shared many stories or pieces of advice with me.
I only spent 2.5 hours at the Mayo, but my time there left many people with smiles and good feelings of Christmas joy. What do you have to share? You might not have much money; you might not have much time, but everyone has something – even if it is just a little bit of love or a smile.
May you have a Blessed Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!
Adam Kroll
MN FFA State Treasurer

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Gratitude in Each Day

We have all experienced a time when we receive a gift, whether it’s a holiday, our birthday, or another occasion. Our family gathered around and watching as you unwrap the final gift. From the other side of the room we hear, “What do you say?”
With an automatic response, we say, “Thank You.”
Whether it’s a gift, an act of kindness, or a compliment, we always respond with “Thank you.” Well, of course, it’s the right thing to do. The problem, though, is that we are so used to saying it. The response is so automatic that often times we do not realize how grateful we really are.
As the holiday season is in full swing, it is easy to catch ourselves doing this. Even so, let’s remember to show our gratitude for each and every moment and focus on what really matters this season.  

This semester, I have been reminded several times how precious life is. Yes, I am thankful for faith, family, and agriculture. But taking a closer look, I am thankful for all the in-between moments. Often times these are overlooked. We take the little moments for granted as it is so easy to pass over them and move onto the next thing in this fast-paced world.
As my niece sits on my lap each Sunday at church, I am thankful for the faith we share and the time we can spend together. As I look out the window to our barn, I am thankful for the passion of agriculture that was instilled in me through my family. I am thankful for the people of the livestock community who are always there to lend a helping hand by holding a tent over a show-ready animal as it heads to the ring in the pouring rain. I am thankful for my cousins and our annual game of big base kickball. I am thankful for the moments spent with friends at school when we can just share stories and laugh. I am thankful for all the little moments that add up to form the greater things.

Living a life of gratitude is much different than simply exchanging words of gratitude. Moving forward, I challenge each and every one of us to really think about what we are blessed with as we exchange the words “Thank You.” Instead of just saying the words to be polite, focus in on what really matters. We are blessed countless times each day, but without taking the time to show our appreciation, it all passes by. Let’s take time for gratitude as it will bring us greater joy and help us shine light into the lives of those around us.
How will we take time to give thanks each day? How can we ensure that the words “Thank You” have a deeper meaning?
Stationed by the Ear of Corn,
Laura Church

Monday, November 19, 2018

Thanksgiving…the Understudy

Thanksgiving…these days it seems like Thanksgiving is the very underpaid, under-noticed understudy to Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas; it’s the most amazing holiday where every light seems brighter, food tastes better, and everyone is so jolly and generous.  I repeat…I love Christmas!

However, I really LOVE taking time to be thankful, and I feel like the best time 
to do that is Thanksgiving (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a turkey
farmer)!  My family has loved Thanksgiving from before we even began raising 
the proverbial “bird of honor.”

Nigel Hamilton said, “Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness and gratitude.” 
Thanksgiving has been a rich tradition in my mom’s family her entire life.  
Her mom hosted a traditional Thanksgiving feast most of her adult married 
life, then the torch was passed to my aunt who hosted an amazing feast for 
my mom’s side of the family for many, many years.  It was at some point 
after my mom’s parents (my grandparents) had both passed away that my 
parents took on the tradition of hosting the Thanksgiving holiday gathering.  
I don’t have many memories of the Thanksgivings before the ones hosted 
by my parents, but when I hear my relatives talk with the fondness of the 
tradition and the memories of the holidays past, it’s almost like I was there.  
I can see through a slightly foggy lens the smiles and almost hear the muffled 
laugher; I can almost smell the aroma of the turkey cooking. I can actually 
feel their time of togetherness and gratitude in my heart. I’m thankful for the 
traditions that were laid before me.

“Be present in all thing and thankful for all things” – Maya Angelou.  In my 
memories, it’s the happiness I see in my mom’s heart as she begins 
preparations for the big feast.Yes, for sure it’s a lot of work to host 35 
people for dinner. I’m going to be honest and tell you, our house gets dusted 
so well on the week before Thanksgiving; every square inch of the floor gets 
vacuumed and windows and light fixtures get washed, twice.  There are not 
always my favorite tasks, and it’s fair to say my mom is a little drill sergeant-ish. 
The shopping gets done, the groceries are carried in and the meal is prepped.  
Although the tasks are many, I am so grateful to have this opportunity and 
that I can be present and in the moment to help prepare for all the things that 
continue to make our tradition (and I don’t mind drill sergeant mom that much).

Melody Beattie Said, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.”  So after all the 
cleaning and shopping is done, then comes the preparing, cooking and setup. 
At my house, it’s a tradition to help prep the food on Wednesday night. My 
siblings and I chop vegetables for stuffing, slice apples for pie and take out the 
buns to rise.  We wipe down the good silverware ,and we get the fancy water 
glasses out of the high cupboards. We set out tables and chairs, and we 
watch my mom iron tablecloths (she doesn’t trust us to iron).  We are lucky 
to have a life full of learning how to host a family tradition. My siblings and 
I don’t take these life lessons for granted, even if we argue over who has to 
carry up all the folding chairs.

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage”- Erma Bombeck.   
Me too, Erma, me too.  I can’t even tell you how delicious our meal is.  
I know I am really, really blessed to have all of these traditions.  
I know everyone may celebrate differently, and some families may enjoy 
a vegetarian meal, a pizza supper or a grilled steak on Thanksgiving.  
But that’s the key; it’s not what you eat, it’s who you are with and what you 
remember to be thankful for.  At my house, I am blessed because my mom 
knows the secret to making AMAZING gravy.  I hope someday I will be able 
to duplicate her recipe, and I’m thankful I get to be by her side each year 
and taste test her “best gravy yet.” Oh, and our turkey is pretty amazing too!

“Thanksgiving day is a jewel, to set in hearts of honest men; but be careful that 
you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.” – E.P. Powell.  Don’t get 
caught up in the hype of big three:  Food, Football and Family. Don’t let the 
gravy, pigskin or baby cousins deter you or hold you back from taking time to 
be thankful or showing your gratitude.  And don’t just do it in one day. Make it 
season of your life - show gratitude daily!

And so, Thanksgiving…What a tremendous holiday, so many things, how do 
we know what to be thankful for?  I’ll close with the words of Charlie Brown: 
“What if today, we were grateful for everything?” Friends, as I wish you a very 
Happy Thanksgiving, I challenge you to take a minute.  A minute to show 
others your gratitude. A minute to tell someone you’re thankful for their 
friendship. A minute to pay your blessings forward.  A minute to be grateful 
for everything.

Minnesota FFA, I am grateful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Stationed beneath the Rising Sun,
Grace Taylor