Friday, August 28, 2015


State fair is one crazy experience. From breakfast with Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellsperman, to lunch with Senator Joe Donnelly, my teammates and I got to have conversations with our state’s finest leaders. After each of these conversations, we could be seen smiling from ear to ear as we excitedly ranted about our experience. We were always fascinated that these fine leaders had taken time out of their day to listen to us. They even shook their heads and smiled as we nervously told them about our future plans! It was great! They took time to listen to what we had to say, and that meant the world to us.

On the second day of the fair, I was on playground duty. As I was picking up some Tonka trucks, I noticed a man wearing a Chicago Bears hat. Being a Green Bay Packers fan, I had to inform him that he had a horrible taste in football teams. Luckily, he was a good sport about it and we discussed the heated rivalry between our teams of choice. Our conversation turned from football, to my hometown, and ended on the topic of FFA. We each shared stories while the other one listened intently. As I walked away, he thanked me for taking time to talk to him.

A few days later, I was sitting in the animal wing selling carrots. A man working at the AgrAbility booth walked over to introduce himself to me. One thing led to another and then he began to share with me the reasons why he was advocating for disabled farmers. His story was incredible. He was a burn victim. The only part of his body that was covered by his own skin was his face. I was fascinated at what this man had been through. I did not get to say much during our conversation, but I could tell that the man just needed someone to talk to.

The next day, as I was sitting in the Caddyshack, an old man approached me. I could tell by his worn out, faded overalls that he worked at Pioneer Village. He asked if I was a state officer. I told him I was, and he immediately began telling me stories about FFA back in the day. The old man, Jack, led a delegation of FFA members in a covered wagon from Northern Indiana to Louisville for national convention. This storied wagon still sits at the Leadership Center today. Jack stopped back by the pavilion many times to check in on a project that he had given us. Each time he would tell many of the same stories, but seeing the joy that these stories brought him made it worthwhile.

I learned many lessons during state fair, the importance of listening being the most valuable. Your title does not impact someone’s life, your ability to put their needs before your own, does. Sure, I had to pee during Jack’s long stories, but walking away was not what I wanted to do. I have no way of knowing if my conversations with these people meant anything to them, but I can only assume that they enjoyed me listening to them as much as I enjoyed Sue and Joe listening to me. Small, extraordinary acts change the world. You don’t have to speak to be remembered.

Forever Imagining,
Mason Gordon
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Southern Region Vice President 

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Round of Joy

As materialistic as it may sound, I love opportunities to get something new. Whether it is new shoes the week before school started, trying a new Skittles flavor package, or even a chance to meet eleven thousand Indiana FFA members, these types of opportunities can come and go if you do not take advantage of them.

The most recent opportunity my teammates and I have had the pleasure of getting is right here at the Indiana State Fair. Givingchange for animal feed, passing out putt-putt clubs, and coloring pictures with kids. This opportunity is something that my team and I had been looking forward to for a while.

Now, if you have never been to the FFA pavilion allow me to describe it. First we need to imagine a huge tin building, now let us place a few things in it. A greenhouse, a small square roomwith wooden walls to buy FFA apparel, a good sized children’s playground, eighteen holes for putt-putt, an animal wing with sheep, goats, and cows to feed, two sets of triangle with various FFA displays, a market where all Indiana produced products are sold, and last but not least a wooden structure labeled “Caddyshack.” Words do not do the FFA pavilion much justice, but there is honestly a lot for people to do here at our exhibit.

Just seven days into the fair, I have been able to see young and old alike take the time to enjoy the Indiana FFA Pavilion by seizing those opportunities provided. One example I saw in the midst of a busy $2 Tuesday was a little blonde haired boy putting with his mom and dad. Mom was pushing the stroller and dad was helping this boy “line up his ball” to ensure he made it in the hole. However after about ten putts the lime green ball was still not in the hole, but I could see the determination on this little boy’s face – he was going to sink that ball!

Finally after using the putter forwards, backwards, and sideways I heard a zealous squeal, saw two raised fists of excitement, and witnessed the world’s biggest hug from dad. This little boy achieved success in his mission to sink that ball in the hole, and the joy on his face was payment that I did not deserve. By we as Indiana FFA taking some time out of our busy schedules to help set up, work, or organize the pavilion we all had a hand in bringing that little boy some joy. 

As hectic as the Indiana State Fair is sometimes, seeing this little boy take advantage of the opportunity of putt-putt is rewarding. Opportunity and reward sometimes goes hand in hand. In this case I saw the reward first hand. However, many things we do in this organization and also our communities will go unrecognized. That should not be the determinant of how much and why we grasp out at opportunities. You are the difference, you can make a difference, seize the opportunity.

Be the Change,
Joshua Calhoun
Indiana FFA State Sentinel

Friday, August 7, 2015

State Fair Set Up

How do you feel when you have accomplished a huge task? Relieved, satisfied, calmed, or pleased? After tackling State Fair Set Up, all those emotions could be used to very accurately describe the state officers. The feeling of finishing the FFA Pavilion is indescribable. The pavilion starts out completely empty. It is used as a storage space for the State Fairgrounds during the year. Every landscaping block, flower, and freshly painted wall is crafted in a matter of 10 days.

This herculean effort could not be accomplished without the help of FFA members from across the state. The team is so appreciative of every chapter and district that came out to help. We couldn’t have done it without you! Especially because this year many changes were made. Every State Officer Team has the power to better the pavilion in new, creative ways. 

Specifically this year, Josh renovated the entire child’s kitchen. It is now the Blue and Gold Market. The Blue and Gold Market offers a wide variety of FFA apparel and other items. My personal favorite is definitely the jewelry. The bling necklaces are amazing! Come check it out and go shopping FFA style!

In addition to the Blue and Gold Market, Mason and Courtney also redesigned the Putt Putt Course. With the help of numerous, dedicated FFA members, we were able to move the greenhouse and put an entire Putt Putt hole inside it! Also with the support of Tractor Supply Company, we added new decorations to the course. The best way I can sum it up is the FFA Pavilion is looking better than ever. 

Today is the first day of the State Fair. It feels so surreal looking around at all the improvements being enjoyed by all the fairgoers. All the work we put into setting up is paying off tenfold. It’s incredible how quickly time is flying by us. We are all so excited to enjoy every moment of the Great Indiana State Fair. We hope you come out and visit us and the pavilion!

From the State Fair with Love, 
Annalee Witte 
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Secretary 

Saturday, August 1, 2015


The word strength is defined as “a good or beneficial quality or attribute of a person or thing.” When someone talks about strength, it can be used to describe physical strength, one’s mental/emotional state, or the ability to do a task better than average. Regardless of what you relate the word “strength” to, every person possesses numerous strengths that deserve to be recognized.

Back when my teammates and I went through Blast-Off training, we had the opportunity to learn about each other’s top five personality strengths. However, we never really had a chance to see these strengths in action before this week. As we started planning for the state fair, each of my teammates’ individual strengths began shining through. There are those who can visualize color relationships better than the rest. There are others that can visualize how areas should be spatially set up. There are still others who are experts at organizing. Knowing this going forward will make planning other activities as a team much simpler.

While the opportunity to learn more about the strengths of my team was an awesome experience, seeing the strengths of the members who came to set-up days yesterday and today was much more eye-opening. I was amazed by the number of students who were experts on power tools and by the ones who were knowledgeable about pressure washers and building things with table saws. Not only were the skills and personality strengths of each individual useful, but the physical strengths were as well. There were tall and muscular students who were able to carry heavy putt-putt holes with no problem, as well as short and slender students who were much better fits for small spaces.

The real lesson to be learned about strength is how to appreciate and utilize it. Many people don’t realize the importance of their strengths, or may even be ashamed of them. If this is the case, those strengths get locked in a box and become useless. What the owner of the strength in the box doesn’t realize is that they are actually hindering the progression of the group because they possess the skill set needed to work quickly and successfully towards the goal, but still refuse to utilize their strengths. Therefore, I challenge everyone to embrace the qualities that are your strengths so that they never become locked away and unused. It’s when we are the most unguarded and willing to share our strengths that the most effective teamwork takes place. Whatever you do, just let your strengths shine!

Love always,

Friday, July 24, 2015

State Presidents' Conference

Standing on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. is an empowering sight. The white marble buildings embody the very essence of power and tradition. Kenzie and I had the chance to experience this sight this past week at the State President’s Conference. We have experienced D.C. in a new way with our new friends. We have collaborated on delegate work with other State Officers from across the nation and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It has been an amazing adventure; one that we will never forget.

Standing on Capitol Hill I realized what had made this trip so amazing. I was surrounded by old buildings that had stood for over 100 years. What made them so strong—their foundations. Each building has a strong foundation, holding it up through the years. Each State Officer at the State President’s Conference also has a foundation. As people, our foundations are our values. The reason Kenzie and I’s trip has been so amazing is because we got to spend the week with people who shared the same values as us.

Obviously each of us have slightly different values in our everyday lives, but as agriculturalists we all share similarities. We all value agriculture. We value problem solving. We value service. Our values are an important part of our story—personally and agriculturally. When we advocate for agriculture, we can spout off information and facts all we want, but the most powerful thing we can share is our values.

How do we effectively share those values we all obtain? It is as simple as this: ask, listen, and share. When talking to others, ask what they see as their core values and discover what is of utmost importance to them. As people portray their passions and show what their heart beats for, listen in order to learn. Active listening is key to actually understanding others. After identifying their values, respond by sharing what you stand for. Relate your values back to them. Allow them to look at your personal beliefs and understand where you are coming from.  By doing this, we are able to display the true meaning of the agricultural industry.

Instead of using cold, impersonal facts and information, take a different viewpoint. This is where we as agriculturalists sometimes fall short. We rely too heavily on science and data.  We need to rely on sharing our unique ag stories and the values that go with them. When we clearly convey our values people listen. They can relate to us and our industry. Ask, share, and listen—this is how we effectively advocate.

From State President’s Conference with love,
Annalee Witte and Kenzie Kretzmeier

Friday, July 10, 2015

Make the Adrenaline Count

Picture yourself on a boat. It has a motor, a covered top, and is drifting across the ocean. You can see an island on the horizon just barely a shade of green. The water is clear enough so you have no idea how deep it is. You walk to the edge of the boat to get a closer look, and you slip. That adrenaline, the shear second you lost your breath, is just a rush of emotions that your brain cannot comprehend all at once. For my teammates and I the last month has been full of moments like that slip on the boat.

With state convention right around the corner, I finished up my freshman year at Purdue University with a study abroad in Jamaica while my teammates concluded their high school careers with graduation. Shortly after being elected, we loaded up with Mr. Martin and headed south to Lexington, Kentucky, for National Leadership Conference for State Officers. We dove right into training about how to work as a team and what is it like to actually do something worthwhile with our time of service.

Little did I know that learning names would be so hard right off the bat, because we were at NLCSO with five other state associations. There were state officers there from Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Arkansas. A total of fifty three state officers were in attendance, but I only barely knew six of them.

As we started training that week I tried to keep myself in that “slip on the boat” moment. I felt like my breath was taken and my body was full of adrenaline every time I met someone new, because that was the way I had decided to remember names. I would associate some crazy moment with each person I met. For example I met this kid Daniel from Michigan, so I immediately thought of the Daniel and the lions’ den story from the Bible. I had no problem remembering Daniel’s name because I just kept that thought of excitement in my mind.

I think that this name learning technique is something small on a larger scale. What if I kept this thought of having adrenaline-filled and breath taking experiences throughout my year of service? Well, I did a small scale test and tried to face each day of BLAST OFF training with this mindset, and guess what happened. I took that week of knowledge and broke it down by relating it to something much more than just training. As a team we learned about our own personal strengths and I kept thinking about my top five talents as pieces of an Iron Man suit.

At that moment I know that I had struck gold! I was able to take something so simple, as names or even personal strengths, and turn them into moments that made my heart skip a beat. I think that could mean something to Indiana FFA. If my teammates and I can complete our year of service always having this mindset, I know we will truly leave an impact. I also know that the initial thought of slipping on the side of a boat will be nothing compared to what could be done with the same mindset.

Be the Change, Joshua Calhoun2015-2016 Indiana FFAState Sentinel

Thursday, May 7, 2015

To All Moms

As some of you know, a pretty important date in history is quickly approaching. You may ask what I'm referring to- Mother's Day of course! News flash, in case you were not aware, Mother's Day is on May 10th which is THIS Sunday! But if you're like me, you may not know a whole lot of the history behind this day!

According to A+E Networks, Mother's Day was created by a woman by the name of Anna Jarvis in 1908 but it was not until 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson officially signed a measure to designate the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. That was when it became an official U.S. holiday! This was a day designed to honor mothers for all that they do simply by giving them flowers, cards, and other presents to express gratitude and love. 

This day is expressed in different ways around the world but most commonly in the United States it is a day to give your mom gifts and let her pick where to eat on Sunday after church, at least, that's how it works with my family!
Mother's Day is a day to show your appreciation, gratitude, love, admiration, honor, praise and love to your mom! And if we're being honest- moms across the country deserve a day to be acknowledged for all that they do! For me personally, I know that my mom does! She does a lot for me and she does whatever she can to support me in my endeavors! 

Growing up my mom did whatever she could to support me and encourage me. I wanted to play T-Ball and without hesitation she signed me up! I wanted to become a basketball All-Star, she let me try out for the team in 5th grade and she came to ALL of my games. Home and away. I decided that I needed something new, so I switched from 5 years of playing basketball to trying out for the cheerleading squad my sophomore year of high school. Once I became a cheerleader, she continued to come to every game that she possibly could to watch me cheer. After I tried out for tennis as a freshman and did not make the team, instead of telling me to take a break or not to bother, she supported me when I quickly decided to try out the whole running thing with Track and Cross Country. Even then, rain or shine, my mom would come to my XC and Track meets. 
But it is not just with sports that my mom has supported me. In 4-H when I decided that I was going to show a heifer as a 4th grader weighing in at about 50 pounds, although I worried her sick and she was terrified that I was going to get hurt, she allowed me to show cattle for the first time. At church when I wanted to be a part of the musical, she even allowed me to try out as one of the main characters! When I joined FFA and told her that I would have more practices to go to, she told me not to wear myself out but if it was what I wanted to do- go for it! When I decided to compete in our county fair queen pageant as a junior going into my senior year, she encouraged me to just be me and have fun with it, no matter what the outcome may be! When the opportunity arose for me to go on a mission trip my senior year to the Dominican Republic, she wanted me to go! She helped me raise funds, she encouraged me and she continuously prayed for me and my youth group!  

When senior year came around and it was time for me to fill out the application to run for a state office, she supported me wholeheartedly. Even if it did mean moving out of the house, living at the center for an entire year, and driving across the state, sometimes by myself and sometimes really late at night or really early in the morning. When the week after my high school gradation came around and it was time for me to make my way up to Purdue University to attend the Indiana FFA State Convention, even on the drive up to the campus when I was doubting myself and what I was capable of accomplishing- she hugged me when she dropped me off and she told me that I could do it, that she believed in me, and she was praying for me. 
My mom has ALWAYS been there for me and I am so blessed that I get to call her my momma! For the times I made her cry, ate the last Swiss Roll in the cabinet when she probably wanted it, and worried her to death, she carried me in her arms, put me first, completely created her schedule around mine, and watched me grow into who I am today. 

To all moms out there; THANK YOU for all that you do! For your time, commitment, love, and support that you give to your families and your children! Behind every beautiful and humble young lady or every handsome and mature young man, is an even stronger mother who has given her kids all of the love that she possibly can. 
So before its too late, sometimes its good to just say what needs to be said! Go tell your mom how much you love her and thank her for all that she does for you! Not just on Mother's Day, but on every day of the year! 

Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my mother."

Happy Mother's Day! Love you mom!
Serving with a grateful heart,

Brittany Young
Indiana FFA
State President