Thursday, September 26, 2019

Deep Roots and Strong Wings

When the winds of change blow, some build walls; others build windmills. Just as it is inevitable that a breeze will blow upon a row of corn, change blows through our lives. Though it may be easier to build a wall between you and change, be a windmill and embrace opportunity. 
There are two key components of a windmill. A windmill has blades and a foundation. In a sense, the foundation of the windmill is its roots. Currently, I am continuing my education at the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in Agricultural Education. It is because of the difference teachers inside and outside of my chapter have made in me and my peers that I am able to pursue the lifestyle of an agriculture teacher. As I embrace the challenge of pursuing my dream of teaching, I have discovered there are two things we need: roots to remind you from where you’re from and wings to show you what you can become.
Just as the windmill needs a strong foundation to stay standing through the strongest of winds, my roots have kept me stable through the struggles of college. Last week, I visited my home town for our high school homecoming game. As I was leaving the Twin Cities with a couple of my high school classmates, we began to see more and more cornfields and cows, which reminded me of how much I missed home. Once I got to the football field, a flood of reunions occurred, which is why it took me until halftime to find a seat. 
During halftime, the entire crowd recognized a group of highly-honored FFA members, who happen to be some of my closest friends. From September 14-18, Morgan Wingert, Kelsey Biel, Klaudia Biel, and Krista Jorgenson traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with our advisor, Megan Brown, to compete in the All-American Dairy Show Judging Contest. In the end, these girls were awarded High Team in Reasons and High Team Overall, in addition to a handful of individual awards! As our community was cheering, I realized this was one of many moments that has deepened my belief in agriculture. For many people, agriculture is the foundation of friendships, FFA chapters, and communities. In my life, these are the people who have taught me the value of education, agriculture, and community.  Without their impact, I never would have found my reason for becoming a teacher. These are the people who helped me build my foundation; they are my roots.
The blades, or the wings of the windmill, are energized by winds of any direction, no matter how soft or intense. The winds of adapting to college roll in from all directions. Within the first week of school, I have flown outside the walls of my comfort zone and discovered new classes. I’ve had the opportunity to explore agricultural policy and take a small engines and welding course. I’ve met students from across the world, and, for the first time in years, lived without a duck or cow in sight! Every time I feel afraid of the unknown experiences and overwhelming opportunities ahead of me, I think of what my greatest idols are capable of. From my advisor teaching a class of agriculture students to my closest friends winning national contests, it’s clear to see what someone with a strong set of wings is capable of. They are my foundation, and my wings will lead me to my dream of teaching.
As you face change in any portion of your life, be a windmill. Be fearless and demolish any wall that may stand in your way. As the sun rises in the background and the breeze blows through the sky, build your windmill from the ground up. With deep roots and strong wings, the toughest winds of life’s changes will become a breeze.

Love Dearly, 
Maddie Smith

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

What Can I Do?

Just a few weeks ago I moved into a college dorm and went to my first college class. Although all my classes are in St. Paul, I chose to live in Minneapolis to branch out and learn more about the different colleges at the University of Minnesota. What I wasn’t expecting was the disconnection I see of agriculture and those around me up here at college. If I was counting on fingers how many times I have had the opportunity to share what agriculture is and why it is prevalent in everyone’s lives, well I would need a couple more people to help me out.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with the Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Peterson, Deputy Commissioner Vaubel and Assistant Commissioner Bailey. Early in the conversation, it became quite evident that one thing everyone in the room viewed as something we need to focus on is getting more people involved with agriculture. One thing I talked about was the disconnect we see today of farmers and consumers. Especially in urban areas, where there is a shortage of agriculture education, we see that consumers aren’t sure what is happening on the farm and that is where we see misconceptions being formed. On the farmer’s and agribusiness side of things, we see jobs being unfilled year after year. While speaking with the Commissioners, I asked what we as FFA members could do to continue to reconnect society with agriculture and help push agriculture education to grow and flourish. As we discussed, two things stuck out to me. The first, as FFA members, we need to continue to be out in public showing the good works agriculture programs are doing. The more the public sees our blue jackets doing good works, the better chance we have at getting more support. This also means that we need to be working with other groups who can help us achieve our goals. Having connections with other groups allows us to branch out, get new ideas, and support each other when needed. The second thing that stuck out to me was to continue to push not only our students to go into agriculture-related fields, but also share what agriculture is with our communities and the communities around us. One reason so many jobs are being left unfilled is that potential candidates don’t think they are involved with agriculture, so they never fill out an application. If we can share how we all are affected by agriculture, I believe more people will start taking active roles in agriculture including applying for those jobs.
As FFA members, a lot of times we see ourselves as “just students”. But that’s what we are and that's not what this blog is about. This blog is to tell you the issues we are facing today and allow you to be a part of the solution. As FFA members, let’s be advocates for agriculture. Let’s be advocates for FFA. If we can speak proudly for the organization and field we are so highly involved in, we will see so much growth and see these problems disappear. Alone we can advocate for our causes. Together, we can create the future. Let’s go tackle these issues together.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Leave it a Little Better

“You ain’t gotta change the whole thing, just leave it a little better.”

     Since the start of school, many of my afternoons after class have been spent in my dorm room, working on homework, and listening to whatever new Spotify playlist appears on my app. Usually, it provides an excellent way to find new tunes for my personal playlists and offers good background songs for long study sessions. During one of said sessions, a phrase from Maggie Rose’s song, “Change the Whole Thing,” caught my ear. Her song laments that no matter how hard you try, change never seems to happen. No matter how hard you work, you seem to end up a little further from where you want to be. Personally, I’ve definitely felt like that before. Despite the fact that I may be trying to work hard, do my best, and enact change, I don’t seem to be going anywhere at all. The idea that one person can change this world for the better seems like a far-away fantasy, better left for someone like Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, or Winston Churchill.

      My favorite part of the song, however, is the chorus: “The world wasn't broken in a day, and it ain't gotta stay this way forever. But you ain't gotta change the whole thing, you just gotta leave it a little better.” It is so easy to feel as though, in order to change this world, we have to enact crazy, day-and-night change that everyone can see when in fact, it’s not necessarily that at all. Changing the world is the sum of small, everyday actions that seek to make it a little better.
     Personally, as a freshman at the University of Minnesota, this new college life is still one I’m getting used to and trying to figure out. My first week of school as a very stereotypical, scared little freshman, some older girls I knew from FFA invited me to another friend’s birthday party. After a long day of classes, a slightly-tired-and-overwhelmed-Elaine hustled her way over to the party, arriving a solid hour late due to a very off-schedule bus. The minute I entered the door, I was immediately welcomed into this group of crazy-awesome people that I have always considered to be some of my greatest role models. After the birthday celebration, they invited me to come to their morning workouts, along with some other events, and I left that night feeling at home and like I had a place to belong.

     While this sweet group of people probably didn’t change the entire world that evening (they might have but who knows), they certainly changed my world. By simply being kind and welcoming me into their circle, they changed my first week of school from one of a little home-sickness and loneliness to one of enjoying laughter, friendship, and doing life alongside them. Friends, we may not have the ability to change the entire world in a day, but we most definitely have the power to change the world of another. Whether it be taking the time to really get to know those people on the outskirts of the room, offering to help the person beside you, going the extra mile, or just offering a smile to the stranger behind you in the grocery store; small, everyday actions are what, in the end, make the biggest difference. Our job isn’t to change this world in a day; we just gotta leave it a little better. 

Stationed by the Ear of Corn,
Elaine Dorn

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Gift of Giving, Why Don't We?

The Gift of Giving
Friday, August 23rd, 2019 - This was one of the greatest days I’ve had in awhile. Of course, every day of the Minnesota State Fair is the greatest, but this day was particularly the best. It was 72 degrees with a slight breeze and partly cloudy, perfect weather for a record-setting 157,224 fairgoers that day. I woke up bright and early at noon for my shift at the Farm Bureau building. I particularly enjoyed working at the Farm Bureau building because it gave me the chance to share my story of agriculture and hear the stories of other agriculturalists’ experiences. Of course, my job wasn’t always the easiest. Near the end of the day, I had a young couple enter the building and ask me about the difference between natural and traditional foods. I tried to explain to her the differences, but I experienced major backfire as she shared her opinion on food options. Long story short, we both left frustrated with our days ruined. To be honest, I did cry in the back room, which is hard to admit for me, but I pulled it together and kept on going. I typically had 5 to 6 tense conversations  about agriculture per day, so it just added to my typical fair experience. 
A picture containing person, man, indoor

Description automatically generatedI closed the building at nine and headed down to the grandstand to listen to the greatest band that ever walked the earth, Why Don’t We. I didn’t have tickets, so I sat at the top of the grandstand stairs to the side. I tried to peek my head around, but there was no way I could see the concert. I tried to listen to the music, but every time I hear the crowd cheer, my sadness got even worse. A couple of songs went by and I thought it was time to leave. Before I made it down the stairs though, a lady named Nona from Detroit Lakes stopped me. She said, “Hey, how come you’re out here all by yourself?” I responded with, “Well, I was going to buy tickets with my friends, but they backed out and I can’t really afford the tickets anyway.” She said, “Well here, have mine.” I was taken aback; I asked her, “are you serious?” She said, “yeah, go right ahead, you’ll have to sit next to my daughters though.” 
    Just like that moment in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I literally had a golden ticket moment. I took her ticket, shook her hand, gave her a big hug, and ran up to the gate. The ticket man scanned my ticket and I went in. I walked up to my seat in the first couple rows, and I was on a cloud. The crowd was chanting, “Why Don’t We! Why Don’t We!” It was like a sweet serenade to accompany the luck I just had. I got the chance to meet Nona’s daughters, and I’m glad to say that they are some close friends now. We enjoyed the concert together and jammed to some of our favorite songs like Big Plans, I Don’t Belong in This Club, and 8 Letters.
A picture containing person, cup, outdoor, coffee

Description automatically generatedMy day had already been made better, but the better got even better. On the way out of the fair, I met some 4-H friends outside of the Sweet Martha’s stand where we shared some fresh cookies (for free I might add).
This is not a normal day in the life of Nic. Most days consist of waking up, eating tacos, going to class, and going back to bed. But occasionally, a really excellent day comes around. Not every day can be is great as this one. Some days we’re just riddled with troubles or dealt a loaded hand of luck. But if there’s one thing that I learned from this experience, it’s that the bad days always get better. For those of you that just started college, high school, or are entering the workforce, know that you will have bad days, but they will be followed by a good day. My day started off quite poorly, but I was persistent, and I had people invest in me to make my day better. Each day we have the opportunity to not only show up for ourselves and make it a great day but to also help others have a great day.  Take a moment and invite someone to join you for lunch, join you on a CDE team, go to the fall leadership conference, or share some cookies and good music. The great thing about helping others have a great day is that it usually results in having a great day ourselves,  so find someone in your life that you’re going to give to or invest in as we start a new chapter in our life.