FFA Officers: Travel Blog
In 1928, 33 farm boys from 18 different states gathered at the Hotel Baltimore creating an organization called the Future Farmers of America. Today, the National FFA Organization now over 760,000 members advocating for agriculture across our nation.
In 1965, The New Farmers of America and the Future Farmers of America joined together into one organization, allowing African Americans to become members. Today, the FFA is a place for everyone no matter who you are or what your interests are.
In 1969, girls were allowed to be in FFA and in 1976 Julie Smiley was elected as the first female National FFA Officer. Today females make up nearly half of the total membership and leadership positions within our organization.
In 1971, the National FFA Alumni Association was established. Today, there are more than 459,514 FFA Alumni & Supporters who make it possible for FFA members to develop premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through the time and resources that they offer.
In 2014, the Give the Gift of Blue Project began which allows every FFA member the chance to receive a jacket and be part of the tradition. Today, over 10,000 jackets have been donated through this program.
These individuals and moments created a butterfly effect, changed history, as well as many lives along the way, and made our organization what it is today because of the actions they took. Just like these individuals you never know how your actions will impact the future.
What will your butterfly effect be? How will you impact our organization? What will your legacy be? How will you make a difference in someone's life today?
All I can say is I can't wait to see what your butterfly effect will be for your future. This past year each of you have impacted me in a way I couldn’t imagine! I am forever grateful! If you need anything, don’t be afraid to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-642-1253, I am always and forever here for you!
Keep creating those butterfly effects,
It was a very warm day, but that did not stop the fun or the learning. These FFA members jumped right in and took advantage of every opportunity and lesson that came their way. Whether it was dancing in a circle to mix and mingle, acting like fish for charades, or juggling water balloons, these FFA members sure made a SPLASH into the summer.
Now, you might be thinking, “Okay…what do you mean by SPLASH?” When thinking about this word, splash, I did not realize the true impact it would have on each and every one of my teammates and myself. FFA members were not only just attending a workshop. They were coming up with ways to implement agriculture and FFA throughout the summer and next school year. They wholeheartedly were grinning from ear to ear even with masks on as we went throughout the day. They showed me that making a splash can be as simple as waving hello or having a conversation with someone else. However, it also can be diving in feet first and trying to implement new ideas to better others in our chapters and communities. Each of and every of you has the capability to make a splash and trust me…you already have!
If you ever doubt this, remember that you are extraordinary and are doing amazing things in your chapter!! Let’s keep making a SPLASH wherever we go through our smiles, conversations, and actions.
Give me a call at (608) 343-3154 or send me an email at email@example.com, if you ever want to chat about how you will make a SPLASH or if you ever need anything!!!
The decision to sell the herd was not an easy one, but change is necessary at times, and for Don and Liz, selling their cows was the right choice to make. Their sale was fittingly named “Celebrating Excellents” and had a witty play-on-words showcasing the many “excellent” cows developed. To see a video perfectly capturing the day, copy this URL here: https://www.facebook.com/kristaannphotofilmco/videos/297480475342916 . You may remember a previous blog of mine titled “It’s a Long Story” that describes dairy cattle classification and the meaning behind an “excellent” cow. In that travel blog, I focused on a cow named Icicle that was developing a legacy on my family’s dairy farm.
In preparation for the sale, I spent many hours washing and rewashing the heifers and cows that would parade the sale ring. During these hours, not only did I become quite sunburnt, but I was also able to really appreciate each of the animals selling. All the way from a young calf several weeks old to retired cows that served as donor dams producing embryos, every cow, heifer, and calf in the barns had a unique story and purpose. As I thought more about the name of the sale, Celebrating Excellents, its truth and aptness became more apparent. This was an extremely exciting time for my uncle, aunt, and their family because their years of hard work breeding and developing cow families had culminated to this point.
The morning before the sale, I was working with animals when I answered a call from my dad. For weeks, I had been dreading the news I was about to hear. My dad explained to me that Icicle, our prized show cow and influential producer in the herd, had to be put down the night prior. Icicle had developed cancer, and, despite our greatest efforts, there was nothing more we could do. Even though I was angry, sad, frustrated, and overwhelmed, I continued spraying and scrubbing cows, but now fully appreciating them and their role in the herd after experiencing firsthand how quickly they could be gone. However, the outcomes from this sale prove to me that we can continue to celebrate excellents, that is excellent cows and people, despite Icicle no longer walking the barns of Alfalawn.
In my mind, there are three extraordinary outcomes of the sale. First, my aunt and uncle had a successful sale, were able to connect with dairy enthusiasts, and now have much more flexibility in their daily lives. Through the process of selling the herd, they also were able to reflect back on the many young people that worked on their farm over the years. Another outcome of the sale is that my family and I purchased a new heifer that will hopefully have an even bigger impact on our herd than Icicle did. This heifer’s name is Black Cat, and I have enjoyed every day of working with her in the days since the sale. We’re excited to see what her future holds and to continue developing this genetic line from the Mayerlane herd. A third outcome of the sale though is one that has not become apparent to me until now. In a way, my aunt and uncle’s Celebrating Excellents sale is similar to the Wisconsin FFA Convention we will be holding in a few short weeks. However, instead of celebrating cow families and years of dedication in breeding Holsteins, we will be celebrating members, their accomplishments, and all that FFA has been doing to remain unstoppable in recent years. FFA members, advisors, alumni, and other supporters are all excellent in many different ways. Between excelling in a contest area, being a talented musician or artist, having a gift to educate students, or even supporting a youth organization such as FFA, we have so much excellence in Wisconsin FFA to celebrate at the Alliant Energy Center.
I sure hope to see you in Madison as we celebrate many “excellents” July 5-8. Much like my aunt and uncle’s sale, it will be an event to remember.
I had been looking forward to this event for weeks but was a little nervous. I didn’t know much about the area. I was afraid that community members we look to me as an outsider. In my hometown, the dairy breakfast is one of the high points of the summer. All of Washburn County (which is where my hometown is located) comes together to enjoy a pancake breakfast filled with fun activities, petting zoos, and much more. I was truly hoping that Monroe County and Washburn County would have at least a little income.
At 7:00 AM on June 6, several other state officers along with myself arrived at MDS Dairy Farms. Once we arrived we began to set up our educational booth where we would be advocating for the Monroe County Dairy Promotors. We asked community members to spin our spinning wheel and answer some questions in order to win some pretty great prizes...including cheese!
As the day progressed, I realized that my fears about this event weren’t that I wouldn’t fit in or that the community would look to me as an outsider but rather that I would look at Monroe County as an outsider.
Over my year as a state officer, I have traveled to many places. From Ashland, WI to Walworth, WI and everywhere in-between. I’ve experienced many towns! Throughout the course of my adventures, I’ve learned the meaning of community. Everywhere I go is just a little different but we all share one commonality - A love for our hometown. Although Monroe County Dairy breakfast was a lot different than the Washburn County Dairy breakfast, it helped me realize that we’re truly all just different towns with the same story.
Wisconsin agriculture is different everywhere we go. Whether you’re in Warrens, WI and you live and breathe cranberries, or you’re in Hayward, WI where lumber sales and the pulp industry are king - regardless we all share pride for where we call home.
One day, much sooner than I’d like, I’ll graduate college. I’ll have to find a job somewhere on my own. No matter where I go, no matter who I’m with, and no matter the community I join, I’ll know one thing for sure. As long as I surround myself with people who truly care about Wisconsin agriculture, we’re all just different towns with the same story.
Stationed by the door,
Memorial Day for each of us has different meanings: a three-day weekend, an extra day with family, a day to catch up on sleep, and for many, a day to honor those who have fallen while serving our country. As far back as I can remember, my family would always honor Memorial Day by attending the Memorial Day Cemetery Service put on by our local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. At the service, roughly 20 comrades come together to lead us in the remembrance service of a fallen one who most recently passed within our church, and at the conclusion of the service, the firing squad would fall out to present a 21-gun salute. My favorite part when I was younger was when the veterans would hand me all the shell casings to keep as a token of remembrance, and that is what it is all about. Remembering those who served our country for the freedom we share today.
Just like the meaning of Memorial Day, service comes in many forms. The FFA Organizations is not foreign to serving others. And while we continue to serve and help cultivate the future of American agriculture, it is with respect we honor those who have given us the freedom to grow as leaders, build our communities, strengthening agriculture, and believe in the industry we all love. It is with warm intentions to say, Happy Memorial Day!
Even though I couldn’t possibly care less about New Balance shoes, I listened to her talk for about fifteen minutes one evening last week. This sweet lady, with her wonderfully red button-down shirt and bright white sneakers, made my day. She works at the Target I happen to stop at quite often. And she always seems happy. At first, I thought she was just putting on a good face, making the best of a tough situation. After all, she couldn’t possibly enjoy working at a convenience store, right? Then I realized I was missing the biggest part of her address: she does enjoy her job, and that’s why she seems so happy - because she is.
Man, that’s awesome. I aspire to be like her! My life does not always look exactly like I want it to. I've spent many days meeting members and supporters through a zoom screen when I would give anything to see the service of blue and gold members in person. Honestly, in the past year, I have shed tears, been a little too upset, and asked "why" too many times over the current situation. What good is that going to do? Eleven months ago I had this 'picture perfect' idea of what my year of service would look like, and it is far from it. But here's the thing, I can't control when the sun shines, let alone what curveballs life will throw at us. At the end of the day, I would not change a thing from the past year.
No matter what the situation, this is only a point in time and things will get better. The way I feel about myself, how much I open myself to new people and experiences, how often I choose to smile; none of these things depend on my current life situation. There really is no such thing as 'picture perfect.' The bright white sneaker lady knows that. And I suspect she knows a few other things, too.
Many of us have a picture-perfect idea of how our future looks. Though we all have different lists of dreams and goals, for most of us this is at the forefront: the possibility of living a meaningful life that affects other people for the better. You see, happiness is a moment-to-moment choice, one that many have a hard time making. Other people will notice if you make that choice. And you will motivate them to do the same. I know this isn’t your usual reasons-to-be-happy blog. It didn’t start or end with “count your blessings” and I didn’t delve into your relationships or good fortune. There’s a very good reason for that.
I don’t think happiness is so much about what you have. What you have changes; your blessings evolve. Happiness is about how you interpret what’s in front of you. How proud you are of the way you live your life. Living a "picture perfect" life is how willing you are to enjoy simple pleasures, even if things aren’t perfect. Be generous with your compassion, and listen when your friends have problems. Create adventure in your day by trying new things and introducing yourself to new people. You never know when your nows will run out, so ask yourself, “How can I be that person I want in my corner?”
You see, we aren't given promises or guarantees. Instead, we are given each other. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who will pick up the phone, even if it's at 1:00am to chat. It's the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who care for you no matter what. That's the difference between family and friends. Family is always there, no matter what, even when it's not right next door. Which means that you'll find a way to keep the connection alive. Especially since you realize how important it is.
Wisconsin FFA, you have given me that, and I hope to return the favor. In the past year, I have heard your stories. Some made me smile brighter than ever, and some made me want to extend my arms for a hug. But you know what you all had in common? Perseverance and happiness. No one's life is picture-perfect and we all face challenges, but you are continuing to serve. You are unstoppable. I challenge you to be like the bright white sneaker lady, radiating joy and happiness, wherever you go. You never know who may need it.
This organization gave me a family, a home. I cannot imagine what this year would have been like without my teammates by my side through thick and thin. If you ever need someone to talk to, I would be honored to join your FFAmily. Give me a call, day or night at (920) 279-8712. I am here for you, always.
Forever & Always,
The tree stands on a slight hill, on a small patch of grass just out the first door of Alliant. Now, it probably is not the ideal background due to the distractions behind it and the road that wraps around, but that does not take away from the tree’s value and beauty. Last year when convention was cancelled my fellow classmates and I were so disappointed that we could not get those special pictures underneath the tree. It was not something that was a must, but it was a small thing that we always looked forward to. Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment or the heat of things, we do not take a second to take in the little things.
This year has taught me over and over to take a second and take in the little things. As State Officers, we have one year of service in this role to make a positive difference in the lives of members across the entire state of Wisconsin, and one year to make thousands of memories. Every time we are together there are moments that I will never forget. Although my parents my be confused why I am so exhausted, the answer is simple, we were busy having fun and taking in the small moments. While traveling around Section 7 and then some to banquets, I have seen first-hand FFA members taking advantage of the small moments. Last night I attended the Rosholt FFA Banquet. During their banquet they have a video that recaps all the memories made throughout the year. I got to watch their year in review video from not only the 2020-2021 school year, but also the 2019-2020 year as well. These pictures included their travels, their members, and of course their goofy moments. Cora, a graduating senior, was talking about a few of these pictures including one where her fellow teammates made her wear a helmet throughout their officer retreat because she is prone to getting concussions. This is a prime example that it does not have to be these monumental milestones that create unforgettable memories, it is the little things.
Now, back to the tree. The State Officer team recently had the opportunity to travel down to the Alliant Energy Center for our board meeting. For most, it was the first time they have been back since State FFA Convention in 2019. As soon as we arrived, we all agreed that we needed to get our traditional State Officer picture by the tree. Due to not having convention in-person, we did not get that first awkward photo together. It is always a tradition of the State Officer team, how could we miss this opportunity? So, we made it happen and it felt like we were officially back home. No matter if we are at convention in June, hosting it virtually, or waiting until July, the tree continues to stand tall and strong. Many times, in our lives we have to stand and take in the moments before they pass by us. We could have not taken the time to get our picture, we do not have to spend hours awake a night, but we do because we cherish these memories. The tree will not always be there, but the memories and pictures by it will be around for times to come. Just like members within the FFA, our jacket will not always be there for us to hop in and make memories in, but while we still can, we need to cherish the milestones and remember the little things.
See You Next To The Tree!
Cortney L. Zimmerman
This last week I ventured to Section 6 to help with their Sectional LDE Discussion Meet. This was not a super drastic change from my own area, but it was different. Coming from a school so close to other sections helps get a glimpse into what they are like. Even being neighbors there are still a lot of differences between the two.
The next day, I crossed into Section 4. It is banquet season and that means we are busy. Sometimes, we need some help from our teammates. I made my way down to the Argyle FFA for their banquet. That saying, “it's a small world” really seemed true. While at the banquet, I chatted with the Argyle advisor, who happens to have graduated from Wisconsin Heights, my home chapter. I also chatted with some of their alumni members. They told me about how they helped with getting the Monticello FFA Alumni chapter started. Then they came to Argyle to help build up their alumni.
It was great to be able to travel around as that has been pretty limited this year. Seeing FFA members in-person and being able to help them grow through LDEs are some of the best parts of serving as a state officer. I can’t believe that with every day passing we get closer to this year coming to an end.
If you were wandering near the River Ridge Softball dugout last Friday, May 9, this is just one of the many sayings you would have heard. I am so grateful that five other Wisconsin State FFA Officers joined at the River Ridge Farm Safety Day. During this event, elementary students in 4k-8th grade were able to learn about the importance of farm safety. The event featured a variety of different safety stations such as PTO, grain bin, lawn mower, and other safety areas that were led by a River Ridge FFA members, Wisconsin FFA State Officers, and River Ridge Community Members. The State Officers did a learning session about Farm Clothing Safety.
In order to learn more about Farm Clothing Safety, students dress up the State Officers in outfits they thought should be worn on the farm. I didn’t know that a clown outfit, Daisy Duke shorts, or a Medieval style dress, were appropriate clothing to wear on the farm. Yes, we were dressed in some pretty interesting outfits by the elementary and middle school students. Yet through this activity we covered tips about the importance of not wearing loose clothing, dress for the job at hand, dress to protect yourself, and more.
How do we celebrate learning about farm clothing safety?
By screaming potatoes of course, which we learned from one 3rd grade student! As amazed as I was to use this for our huddle, I appreciated and admired the elementary students’ wonder of the world and their love for learning.
When we are younger the world seems to be our playground with our eyes are always filled with amazement and curiosity, and our heads are filled with questions. Yet, as we become older learning seems to lose that charm. It is something that we do because we have to. It becomes a chore for us. We don't want to look too smart because then we will be viewed as a nerd, and we don’t want to ask too many questions because then we look silly. I know this is true because I felt it myself as I became older.
I have realized something; we are blessed with a world of unlimited possibilities. There are so many people to meet, things to learn, and places to see. It is up to us to make the most of every moment because that moment is only going to happen once.
I am challenging all of us to learn even more. Learn to explore a little deeper. Learn to listen a little better. Learn to laugh a little louder. Learn to work a little harder. Learn to love a little stronger.
Maybe for us in FFA that is trying out a new CDE or LDE. Maybe that is starting a conversation with an FFA member who is sitting alone, or maybe that is trying something that scares you.
However, if you are willing to learn, explore, and take risks you are going to find more beauty in everything.
Wisconsin FFA, love to learn. It is my challenge for you. You never know where life will take you because of it.
One, two, three, potatoes!
If you ever need anything, and I mean anything, don’t be afraid to reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 608-642-1253. I am always here for you.
Our advisors are the epitome of knowledge and wisdom. I am not sure about you, but my advisors Mrs. Bailey and Mrs. Huber seem to always know what to say for any situation. For example, if I’m feeling down, they make me laugh. If I’m nervous, they make me dance. If I’m happy, they laugh along with me. If I’m struggling or have an out-of-this-world idea, they bring me back to reality. I’m sure that you can probably relate to all of this and have a few stories of your own to share about your ag teachers. Some might even be ones that have turned into great memories like racing the vans in Madison or working in the ag room for hours after school. Whatever your stories are, share them with your ag teacher and tell them, thank you!!
This week at Section 3 Sectional Leadership Development Events, I had the privilege of chatting with and learning from not two advisors, but 12 advisors!!! The amount of wisdom and knowledge in the room was incredible. Whether it was chats about state convention, preparing students for LDEs, or chatting about creating a forestry test, these advisors only had one thing in mind...their students. How blessed are we!!! Seriously, our ag teachers and FFA advisors are always thinking about how they can better our education and experiences!!! If you are an ag student, thank your ag teacher. If you are an ag teacher, on behalf of Wisconsin FFA, THANK YOU for all you do!! We know it is not easy, but we are so grateful for all the knowledge, wisdom, and care you have and give to each and every one of us!!!
Also, FFA members, agricultural education is a pretty ag-tastic career, if I do say so myself! I cannot wait to continue to learn from all of our wise owls here in Wisconsin as I continue to pursue a degree in Agricultural Education in order to become an ag teacher. I encourage anyone who has an interest in agriculture, a love for helping others become the best they can be, and enthusiasm for FFA to consider learning from and joining these wise owls as an ag teacher in the future. I could go on and on about how excited I am to #teachag and to continue to watch all of you blossom into well-rounded leaders and people (just ask my teammates:))...so, if you ever want to chat about agricultural education or becoming an ag teacher, reach out!!! You never know if you are #tagged to teach ag!!
With that, please know, I am always here with you as we continue navigating our agricultural education classes and careers in FFA!! If you ever want to share some of those ag teacher stories, chat about teaching ag, or need anything, give me a call or send me an email at (608) 343-3154 or email@example.com.
And REMEMBER...THANK your ag teacher today and every day!!!!
Thank you owls!!!
On Monday, my advisor and I hosted the Sectional Leadership Development Event for Section 2 in-person! It was so rewarding to see members and advisors at Menomonie High School while also finally giving members an opportunity to compete in-person. As if having an in-person LDE wasn’t enough, we were able to have our Wisconsin State FFA President, Big Kahuna Joe Schlies, attend our Sectional LDE in-person as well! The event did take hard work to plan and execute, but the feeling of joy shared by so many throughout the evening is something that will stay with me for a long, long time.
Another highlight of the week happened tonight. Stanley-Boyd FFA held their banquet in-person, and I was able to attend and share the evening with them. Between talking with the officer team, enjoying a delicious meal, delivering an address to the attendees, listening to all the accomplishments and successes of members, and being drawn into the moving stories of the graduating officers, this was an unforgettable experience for me! Everyone in attendance felt so appreciative of what we had in the moments we shared with each other.
Thinking about both of these two in-person experiences, I am filled with joy and optimism as I envision what the future holds. Let me explain myself further. During this year, a friend shared a message with me titled, “I Pray We Don’t Go Back to Normal.” Upon reading that, I was slightly confused because I did indeed want “normal” to return, but the message made everything much more clear as I read on. Throughout this piece, the author stresses that this pandemic we’re emerging from has taught us extremely valuable lessons. We must not take for granted the things we have. These new lessons could include appreciating the feeling of embracing in a hug, being thankful for face to face interaction, taking advantage of opportunities to see friends, and simply enjoying conversations. After reading the piece, I wholeheartedly agree; I pray we don’t return to normal, but rather, a more appreciative version of our pre-COVID lives.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought tragedy to many, I stand by the fact that everything happens for a reason. After a year of virtual experiences, I am confident that in-person events were worth the wait. Both the in-person LDE and the Stanley-Boyd FFA banquet helped to prove that to me this past week. The joy, excitement, and appreciation shared by all leaves me hopeful for the future generation of leaders currently wearing the blue corduroy jacket.
As always, don’t hesitate to get a hold of me at (715)505-8900 or firstname.lastname@example.org. May we all appreciate the abundance of blessings that were so overlooked before the pandemic started. Every day, there seems to be more light at the end of the tunnel. As we begin to experience in-person events once again, I hope we find that they were worth the wait.
As you know, this year has thrown just about every curveball at us that it possibly could have. From virtual workshops, to constant emails, and lots and lots of hand sanitizer. Truthfully we’ve all seen our fair share of failure. But, what is failure? Many times we like to think of failure as the opposite of success. I’d like to challenge that notion. What if we think of failure as crucial to success?
Let me explain. We work hard to prepare ourselves mentally and physically to succeed in our goals. We study, we work, and we focus to find success. However, sometimes that success doesn’t look like what we would hope it would. Sometimes we have to find success in the little moments because we find failure in our goals. But again, what is failure? Is it not coming to the favorable outcome that we had hoped would be created by our actions? Is it the lack of preparation or the inability to reach one’s success. Or is it giving up, making excuses, and neglecting to try again?
Wisconsin FFA, I hate to say it but, we all find failure on a daily basis. Whether it’s failing to wake up at our first alarm, failing a test, failing to eat healthy, or failing to create a positive outcome. As humans we will never be perfect and that’s just something that we’ll have to live with. Will our lack of perfection define us?
Sometimes we must find failure to become successful. Sometimes things happen for a reason and we don’t know that reason. You see, if life was perfect no one would find failure. Everything around us would be success after success after success. Would that constant “success” truly be impactful?
At the Unity FFA banquet, I was able to address my thoughts about failure. Many times we celebrate the massive successes and forget what we’ve had to overcome in order to find that success. It’s not until we truly take a step back and reflect upon what we’ve been through that we understand what our achievements really mean. After diligent preparation and tireless focus we may still find failure. For our entire lives we may work endlessly to prepare ourselves for one particular goal. Still, there’s no guarantee we will achieve it. When we are at our worst we have the opportunity to create the most powerful drive, fire, determination, and unstoppable attitude. It is only after preparation and failure again and again that we truly understand the weight that our achievements and successes hold.
So I’ll ask again, what is failure?
As far as I’m concerned, failure is making excuses, giving up, and neglecting to try again. For it is only when we neglect to try again that we truly fail ourselves.
Failure sucks...plain and simple. But, without failure successes hold no purpose.
As this year comes to it’s end, let us reflect on all the failure that we’ve found and how it’s made the successes that much sweeter.
Stationed by the door,
Some communities may not have a Lions Club, instead a Kiwanis Club. If you would have asked me what a Kiwanis Club was earlier this year, I wouldn’t have had a single clue. However, late last November, I was contacted to speak at the Dodgeville Kiwanis Club meeting for this upcoming spring. Knowing that it has been a tradition since 2003 for the State FFA President to speak at their February meeting each year, there was not a chance I was saying no to this opportunity. A few months later after figuring out timing, today I had the chance to meet with the Dodgeville Kiwanis members.
As I began to think about what I could talk during their meeting, I knew I had to do some research about what the Kiwanis Club was all about. That meant my first stop was figuring out what the organization’s purpose was. After doing some searching on their website, I came across their mission page where it stated that the Kiwanis Club is one of which takes on large-scale challenges through service. That immediately grabbed my attention- takes on large-scale challenges.
For me, and maybe for you too, there hasn’t been a greater large-scale challenge in quite some time than the global pandemic. Through this large-scale challenge, we have learned quite a bit and maybe have gotten a little tired of a few things. Personally, the vocabulary shift has been a big learning curve. It has felt like the past 13 months have been full of words like unprecedented, virtual, new normal, and essential. It was only advised to do essential travel, essential work, essential services. What is really all essential? I don’t know about you, but I never considered toilet paper, milk, and meat being essential, Zoom being essential, and community service being essential before this year. Sometimes, we undervalue these things and don’t realize how essential they are in our lives and those around us.
And while toilet paper and clearly Zoom which brought us together here today are essential, what I would really like to focus on are the three aspects of community service that we tend to undervalue.
It wasn’t too out of the ordinary growing up to go to the local grocery store and know just about everyone in the store. Living in a small community there were people who it seemed were everywhere in the community. Grocery store, gas station, church picnic, parade, polka fest, you name it, they were there. And oftentimes they were the same people who also volunteered at every community event. For my hometown, it was the retired agriculture teacher, Mr. Ken Seering. Not only did he continue to help volunteer in our FFA Alumni after 36 years of being the FFA advisor, but he was very active in our Lions Club and just about every community event that was hosted. If someone was looking for volunteers, Mr. Seering was the first one to sign up and the biggest recruiter for volunteers. You know who Mr. Seering is if you are from Denmark to say the least.
Our communities run off of people like Mr. Seering Those who will spend countless hours helping others in any way possible for the benefit of their community. To our community, we would be at a huge loss without him, but to Mr. Seering, he was just doing what he loves- serving others. Something Mr. Seering believed was essential. From being able to witness Mr. Seering’s value to the Denmark community while he thought he was just doing what was right, I can firmly say, don’t undervalue your role in your community.
And for Kiwanis members, they also play an important part in the communities they have clubs in. It was clear to me that members of the Kiwanis Club in Dodgeville are like the Mr. Seering’s of their community. Take for example the $30,000 pledge they have made to help support the Dodgeville gymnasium and auditorium. They may not think anyone in the community is noticing the role you played in this project, but there are so many families impacted by their generosity to Dodgeville High School.
When we don’t undervalue our role in our communities, we are able to accomplish so much more as FFA and Kiwanis members, which brings me to my next point.
Community service comes in all sizes for FFA chapters across the state. I got to learn about one chapter’s community service efforts over a year ago when I attended the Mishicot FFA Alumni Banquet last January. During the banquet, the FFA Alumni presented scholarships to senior FFA members for post-secondary education with many of the scholarships being memorials of past ag teachers or lifetime members of the organization, except for one of them. The scholarship was called the “Five Dollar Challenge.” In all seriousness, every dollar for college counts, but my first thought was, wow $5 dollars. That will really help someone pay off the college debt. But, this scholarship turned out to be not even close to what I thought it was. As they presented the scholarship, I came to find out that each year senior’s apply for a grant of which is $5. With that $5, they have to create a community service project which raises money for a greater cause. The scholarship selection committee then reviews the projects created from each of the grants to select a senior to receive a scholarship. Last year, Rachel was the scholarship recipient who used her $5 to raise funds for a two year boy, Hudson, who was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a type of cancer that typically grows in the bones of young children. Rachel noticed the strain the medical bills started putting on Hudson’s family, so she wanted to help in any way possible. Rachel’s $5 was used to create donation jars around the community and raise funds for Hudson’s family. What really hit home for me was when they said how much was fundraised because of that $5. Just within two weeks, Rachel raised over $9,000 to donate to Hudson and his family.
$5. It’s what we may consider chump change. It just blows my mind that a $5 bill could be multiplied so much, so fast from the initiative of an FFA member. And when I thought of the Dodgeville Kiwanis Club’s same ability to serve using so little, I automatically thought of the hours they have spent ringing bells for the Salvation Army. Perhaps your chapter has helped the Salvation Army during the holidays as well. With the holiday spirit, the chump change going into those red kettles add up. Think about how much one of those red kettles and a bell costs. Maybe $5? For Rachel and clubs like the Kiwanis, $5 does more than just raise funds for a cause, it brings communities closer. Don’t undervalue your role in what you can accomplish through service.
And that brings us to the last aspect- don’t undervalue the collective impact you can make. Looking on this year back, if someone would have told me all of what our organization has accomplished this year, I may not have believed it. When the pandemic hit last year, local chapters immediately recognized how essential community service was. We have seen over 250 chapters across our state intentionally work together to continue building our communities given the struggles the agricultural industry has faced recently especially in the food supply chain.
Just like the FFA, being a part of the Kiwanis club opens the door to the opportunity of taking on those large-scale challenges collectively- creating the impact we wish to see. One thing is for certain, don’t undervalue the collective impact you can make.
So this takes us back to where we started- The understanding of how essential community service is.
While life for the past 13 months has been lived with only the essentials, serving others was on the list of which I never thought of until we experienced a complete halt in community activities. No matter if you come to every event or can only commit to a few occasional ones, don’t undervalue three things: your role in your community, what you can accomplish through service, and the collective impact you can make. Organization’s like the FFA and Kiwanis Club are essential to supporting rural communities like Dodgeville.
As service projects wrap up for the year and banquet, LDE, and CDE season in full swing, please reach if you ever need anything or would like to shoot the breeze- always here to chat. (920) 609-1533 or email@example.com.
It would talk about the first time it was worn by an excited young member, unaware of the places they would go and the things they would do, because of the hope it possessed. It would speak of the days it spent in the classroom closet as a donated item, waiting for a member to open the door and wear it again. Whether it was for measurement purposes, because a teammate forgot theirs, or for a walk down memory lane when the previous owner comes to visit.
It would tell you that it knows Robert – and his Rules of Order- very well. This jacket would vouch for the long hours spent practicing for speeches, presentations, demonstrations, and interviews. Along with the nervousness that was barely contained in it. But, it would not fail to mention the wrinkles put in it when serving as a pillow on the van ride home from FFA events.
It would speak of the irreplaceable relationships created because of the places it took you. From competitions to conferences to conventions, it was there where you gained a new best friend for life. It would talk about the value that lied within it’s pockets: pictures, knick-knacks, quotes, Bible verses, and possibly snacks, that always kept us going.
If this jacket could talk, it would tell you of its strength to endure pins and embroidery needles that come along with leadership changes, and even constructive criticism from judges. It would tell you that corduroy has a special durability to withstand the harshest October wind streaming through Indianapolis and the warmest rays of sunshine in Madison. Although, it would most likely apologize for keeping members extremely hot in the summer, and far from warm in the winter.
It would speak of the pride felt when giving opening ceremonies for the first time. Along with the bittersweet feeling that came with giving them for the final time. If this jacket could chat, it would be proud of the FFA member zipping up their jacket for the last time, and welcome the tears that fell on it as they did so. It would tell you to prepare yourself for the day that you hang up your jacket, placing it back into your closet, knowing it’s work is done. If this jacket could talk, it would tell you that you might outgrow the jacket itself, but you won’t outgrow the memories or experiences made within it.
Over the course of my FFA career, I have worn 4 different jackets. In each and every one of those jackets I have created a family and experienced many opportunities that I will treasure for the rest of my life. To some people, it may look like just a jacket, but I can’t imagine who or where I’d be if I had never zipped up my blue corduroy. Now, as we are inching closer and closer to the end of the school year, reflect back on what you have accomplished this year and in years past. I am sure that your jacket has spoken to you many times throughout your journey. Each FFA jacket has a different story to tell, just like each member does. So, if your jacket could talk, what would it say?
All the Best,
Fast forward a bit through our year and I think back on the major decisions that we have had to make together. We all agreed as we started this year, despite our situation was going to be for the members. Every single one of us has continued to live this statement through day in and day out. I have never met a group of people that would willingly spend a Friday night zooming with students they have never met, send hundreds of thank you cards just to remind members, advisors, alumni, and supporters that they are doing an amazing job every day, offer opportunities so members feel that there is some normal left in this crazy world, and of course try to make in-person events a reality. But this team…they will do it. They will wear a mask for 10 hours of the day if they get to interact with students, they’ll drive 5 plus hours to deliver a workshop, they’ll do it and they’ll do anything for every single FFA member. Each of us have had our own struggles and successes throughout this year, but we continue to move forward together as a team. We are not afraid to send cringey selfies, heartfelt messages, talk on the phone for hours, and of course Snapchat life updates daily to be together even on the days we are not physically together. We have been placed together on this team for a reason. Each of us needed each other and we didn’t quite know that until that day that we walked into the hotel.
This year has not been easy. There have been days filled with endless to-do lists, nights filled with tears and worries, afternoons with emergency team talks, and mornings where we feel like getting out of bed is not on the agenda for the day to come, but we have gotten through these days. We have gotten through these days together. We have had these rough days, but they are nothing compared to the memories we have made, the car rides we have jammed through, and the impact that we have been making together. I know if you are reading this blog you have heard this before, but I’ll say it again and I won’t stop saying it, this team, we’re unstoppable. With that, thank you to my nine teammates that have forever impacted my life.
So, if you are reading this and want to become a State Officer, do it. You are going to receive one of the best gifts you could ever get, a second family and a group of individuals that will forever have your back. Oh, and you get to serve some of the best members in the nation! If you have any questions, please let me know! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of my fellow teammates.
Once A Team, Always A Team,