Saturday, April 20, 2019

This is the Day.

Each year, one of our family traditions includes attending Mass on Easter Sunday morning. As our family slides into a church pew, we can hear the sounds of the beautiful choir. Everyone is rejoicing and singing praise on such a magnificent day in the church.
At my hometown church, a common song we hear on Easter Sunday goes a little like this:
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.”
This is the day. What if we lived with that mentality? This is the day.

Throughout this year, I have been fortunate to receive countless valuable opportunities. Many of which I won’t ever recreate. Whether it was advocating for farmers on the hill of our nation’s capital, hopping on a plane to South Africa with 82 other leaders in agriculture, facilitating the State Greenhand Leadership Conference, serving as a delegate to our national organization, visiting several classrooms of enthusiastic students, or simply being part of each moment in between, I am unable to take these experiences for granted.

Too often, we take each day we are given for granted. We need to change that - there are far too many things to experience, far too many people to help, far too many lives to touch, and far too many laughs to be had. Let’s start today.

Each day, we are blessed with the opportunity to live out our purpose no matter what that purpose looks like. It’s time we start living each moment like it truly matters. We only get one chance to live each day. How can we simply let that pass us?

This is the day to bring joy to others. This is the day to make those around us feel valued. This is the day to let others know that they are loved. This is the day to rejoice and be glad.
Minnesota FFA, thank you for coming on this journey with me. It has been an honor to serve this organization.
For the Final Time,
Stationed by the Ear of Corn,
Laura Church

Sunday, April 14, 2019

We Are FFA

Recently in an interview, I was asked to name some of my favorite moments and things from my year as a State Officer. At first, I felt inclined to answer with things like, the State Greenhand Leadership Conference, The Minnesota State Fair and the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers. After some further thought, I realized it wasn’t those things in and of themselves that made them memorable. Instead, it was the little moments within the larger events that made this year of service so special.

At the State Greenhand Leadership Conference, it was the late night cabin chats with my bunk buddies that I recall as being one of my favorite moments. At the State Fair, it was going on a lunch break with the ambassadors and witnessing them willingly stop to answer questions about FFA even though they only had a few minutes to find something to eat. While on the International Leadership Seminar, it was the moments we reflected together about global agriculture, human connection and cultural intelligence.

Each of these little moments have come together to create one inspiring year. Similarly, each of the members in these moments, along with the other 10,000 members in our great state, come together to make up the Minnesota FFA Association.

From the beginning of my FFA career, I have believed that one of the reasons FFA is valuable in a student’s life is because it provides an environment where students are valued. Parents, supporters, advisors, industry professionals and members alike have told me that they believe FFA is the premier leadership organization for young people. When I ask someone why they believe in our organization, I generally get large and loud answers - similar to the way I wanted to answer the question about my favorite part of my State Officer year. Parents tell me that they love seeing their students engaged, supporters tell me we are prepared to enter the real world and members tell me that they get to try new things or meet new people.

I would agree with all of those statements, but I would take it one step further by saying those same people that tell me they believe in FFA, are the people who make FFA what it is. Students are engaged because parents allowed them to participate, because an advisor invited them or because a peer welcomed them into the ag room. Members are prepared for the real world because professionals and supporters are taking time to teach us the skills we need to succeed and providing resources to help us discover our passions. Most important of all, FFA members feel valued and they get to try new things because another member wasn’t afraid to reach out and say hello.

I’m sure we have all heard someone say, “It is what you make it,” but I encourage you to hear it differently this time. FFA is in many ways the premier leadership organization for young people, but only so because of you. Let’s take ownership for the role we play. Whether we’re a member or an adult who hung up our jacket years ago or maybe never wore the blue jacket, know that we are responsible for the culture we are cultivating, and we can always do better. You bring the beliefs, values and skills of one person, but together we create and maintain the ideals and culture of the National FFA Organization.

How can you continue to create a culture of acceptance, growth and encouragement within our organization?

Minnesota FFA, It’s been an honor to serve as your President.
Stationed Beneath the Rising Sun,

Grace Taylor

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Dear Past or Present FFA Member, 

A few weeks ago was spring break for the University of Minnesota. While many college students were packing up and heading South for somewhere warmer and with beaches, I decided to be a little different. I hopped on a plane bound for Seattle, Washington. Grace and I had been invited to the Oregon FFA State Convention, and I had decided to spend a few days relaxing in Seattle before making the short trip down to Redmond, Oregon for their convention.
            While I was in Seattle, my plan was to simply relax, read some books, watch TV, and wander around the city. I was there by myself, ready for a break from the busy schedule of a student. My first day in the city, that plan was going beautifully. I had brunch at a diner and wandered next door to find a book shop; of course, I had to take a peek inside. After wandering around for a few minutes, I found the staff recommendations (one of my favorite places to find new books). Long story short, I walked out of this store with a book on the physics of time, a memoir on class in rural America, another about letting ourselves fail, and finally, “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.
            Perfectly situated on almost every block in Seattle is a coffee shop. Being the birthplace of Starbucks, I expected nothing less. I made my way to the nearest one, and cracked open Becoming, with the other books piled in front of me. After about half an hour, and a full cup of coffee, I was a little way into Becoming, and I got up to stretch.
Two women came out of the coffee shop door to the patio I was seated on, sat down at the table next to me in the warm sunlight, and noticed the collection of books I had just gotten. They asked how old I was, why I was in Seattle, and why I was interested in so many different topics. This conversation soon turned into a discussion about the issues present in the world around us, along with all the amazing people trying to address them. Ending the discussion, the two women remarked how on top of my stuff I was, and how they were impressed I had such a clear view the world and had the drive to find solutions to what I see. I, of course, couldn’t let them think I was an anomaly. “I am actually a member of the FFA,” I said, “It is a student organization centered around youth leadership and agriculture.”
            It felt good to represent our organization even when I was on vacation. Something I’ve learned through my time wearing the blue jacket is that our knowledge, skills, and qualities are recognizable whether or not we are wearing the jacket or any FFA apparel. I am a book worm in or outside of FFA, but the topics I am interested in and would devote my free time in Seattle to learning more about, are thanks to the qualities I’ve developed through FFA.
            When we leave this organization, when we take off the jacket for the final time, we carry the qualities we’ve built with us afterwards. The way we speak, the skills we’ve gained, the problems we hope to solve, the work ethic we have, all stay with us for people to recognize through our entire life. As I am about to take off this jacket for the final time, it is comforting for me to know that no matter what, this organization left an impact on me, and I can continue to be an ambassador for the impact it can have no matter where I am in life. How has FFA impacted you? What do you take with you when you take your jacket off?
            We are all able to be a part of FFA for a few years as active members, then, once we have gone to camps, competed in events, made lasting friendships, and met future employers, we must take off the jacket. However, those events and competitions give us skills to use after, those friendships continue to build once we’re out of high school, and those future employers become present employers after our time in the jacket. FFA is really the catalyst which lets us build ourselves up and come prepared into the world with skills, relationships, and knowledge. Whether we are going to a four-year college, into the military, to a two-year school, into an apprenticeship, or straight into the workforce, we can continue to use the skills, relationships, and knowledge we gained in FFA, every day. 

Stationed by the Plow, 
Kegan Zimmermann