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,