Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Promote What You Love

     Whenever I am surrounded by fun-loving FFA members and their hilarious advisors, I thank God that I am involved with an organization as great as this one. While FFA often doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves, it is consistently one of the largest student-run organization in the United States with almost 630,000 members. The members and teachers involved are proud to represent the industry they love while growing themselves as individuals. Growth is a huge part of what this great organization is all about, and our membership grows by striving to live up to the National FFA Organization’s Code of Ethics. I know that these ethics have definitely impacted my way of life, especially now that I’m graduated and living away from home.

     1) “Develop my potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.”
There are countless success stories of shy FFA members stepping out of their comfort zones and becoming proficient public speakers. I, for one, am proud to be one of those members. Middle school me never would have imagined getting up in front of a crowd of over 200 people to present a speech or facilitate a workshop, let alone leading a group of people. Yet here I am, serving as an Indiana FFA State Officer, where public speaking and leadership are daily occurrences. Because of the personal and leadership growth I’ve experienced as an FFA member, I truly believe my potential for career success has grown as well. The leadership and speaking skills I developed during my time in FFA will come in handy while I serve sick children as a Pediatric Oncologist. As you can see, I don’t plan on having a career in the agriculture industry, even though I whole-heartedly love it and support it. It’s a very common misconception that FFA is only for people who plan on becoming farmers, and that misconception comes from our roots as the Future Farmers of America. However, while we are still deeply rooted in our agricultural heritage, the Future Farmers of America was changed to the National FFA Organization in 1989 to become more inclusive. This inclusiveness stemmed from the realization that the graduating members were not only going back to the farm, but they were also becoming doctors, scientists, lawyers, musicians, CEOs of global companies. This diversity makes us the Future of America, not simply the Future Farmers.

     2) “Make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
One aspect that consistently boosts my pride of this organization is the servant heart that all of our members possess. It seems like at the turn of every corner, there is an FFA chapter conducting an outstanding community service project. Take the Shenandoah FFA chapter, for example. My team and I had the honor of being able to attend their Legacy Christmas party, which is a Christmas party for mentally and physically disabled adults. At this party, they provide a gift for everyone present as well as a turn to see Santa. I will never forget the look of pure joy on every single resident’s face. The Shenandoah FFA members definitely made a positive difference in every resident’s life that day. This is only one example of the amazing service projects FFA members are involved in. Human lives are not the only lives that FFA members touch. As advocates of the agricultural industry, FFA members are champions for humane animal care. In animal science classes, agricultural education students learn the differences between humane and inhumane animal care and processing. While there are still inhumane practices being used throughout the industry, they are few and far between. FFA members recognize this and I have faith that they will be the ones to completely eradicate all inhumane treatment of animals.

     3) “Dress neatly and appropriately for the occasion.”
Professionalism is just as important in FFA as it is in the business world. I have received countless compliments while wearing official dress that often point out how professional it is. Many members are uncomfortable wearing dress clothes before spending time in the blue jacket and black pants/skirts that make up our FFA “uniform.” However, in my own personal experiences, I have seen members step out of their comfort zone of t-shirts and sweats or jeans after spending time wearing official dress. This love for professionalism will be helpful in any future that my fellow members have. This is just another small way that FFA helps its members succeed.

     4) “Respect the rights of others and their property.”
FFA members are some of the most respectful high schoolers that I have ever met. Respecting the property of others is a no brainer. I cannot think of one time that I have ever heard that a group of FFA members couldn’t be trusted not to steal the belongings of anyone: another member, an advisor, or even a complete stranger. But more importantly, I am proud of the ability of members to respect the rights of others. Being a member of the FFA feels like belonging to a big, accepting family. I have never felt judged, nor heard of anyone feeling judged, while being surrounded by FFA members. You can be yourself and that’s okay because it is your right.

     5) “Be courteous, honest, and fair with others.”
It is not a new development that the agricultural industry is under attack from outside sources. There are people around the world who are uninformed about the ag industry and that lack of information causes them to fear and distrust it. In many cases, they only see the dark side of the industry being amplified. As FFA members, our passion for and knowledge of the agricultural industry makes us perfect advocates for it. I am constantly impressed by how courteous, honest, and fair our membership is with those they work to inform. FFA members know that there are sides to the industry that aren’t pleasant, and they share that fact honestly with those they talk to about it. While sharing the honest truth with others, FFA members still remain courteous when they are attacked with emotional outbursts. The ability to keep calm and continue sharing their personal stories with others is one more thing that helps FFA members stand out in a crowd.

      6) “Communicate in an appropriate, purposeful, and positive member.”
When there are times that the agricultural industry does fall under attack, the outpouring of positive counteraction never ceases to amaze me. In times like that, my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds become flooded with love for agriculture. My friends and followers are sharing the things that they love about the agricultural industry instead of amplifying the hateful things being shared. They do this by not sharing the hateful articles to their timelines, but sharing their own personal stories instead. These personal stories always remain appropriate, purposeful, and positive instead of crude, vague, and attacking. I am proud of every single member who takes that approach.

      7) “Demonstrate good sportsmanship by being modest in winning and generous in losing.”
One important life lesson that FFA members learn is the importance of sportsmanship and humility. Yes, many FFA members are competitive people but FFA activities never get out of hand.  Those who win competitions demonstrate their modesty by returning to school like nothing happened and continuing to work and study just as hard as before. When it comes to losing, FFA members have a really high resiliency rate. Yes, they might be disappointed when they don’t place as well in an activity as they thought they would, but FFA members bounce back really quickly after a defeat. They also will return to the classroom and continue working and studying (maybe a little harder than before). No matter what happens in the contest room, there is never any bad blood between the competitors. This is a trait that everyone would benefit from learning and it seems to come naturally to the awesome FFA members.

     8) “Make myself aware of FFA programs and activities and be an active participant.”
The opportunities available to FFA members are more diverse than you would think. Yes, there are career development events that focus on the practical use for different areas of agriculture, such as the Livestock Evaluation CDE and the Crops Evaluation CDE (where you learn how to identify preferable livestock and crop/ weed plants, respectively). However, there are other activities such as the Prepared Public Speaking and Essay CDEs that focus on the individual passions of our members. These two Leadership CDEs are just two examples on a long list of activities that wouldn’t necessarily be thought of as FFA programs. Many states and even the national organization offer a band and chorus for the FFA members who are musically inclined, as well as a Talent CDE where there are all kinds of talent present including dancing and beatboxing. When you become an active participant in FFA, you open the door to a multitude of opportunities you would never dream existed. Many chapters offer trips to the students who are the most active. One example of these trips comes from the Sheridan FFA chapter. This chapter has traveled all over the country to places such as Utah and Maine, as well as Yellowstone National Park. The members from that chapter who went may not have ever had the opportunity to go to these places if they never actively participated in FFA.

     9) “Conduct and value a supervised agricultural experience program.”
Supervised agricultural experience programs are one of the most important programs FFA has to offer. These SAEs (as they’re called by FFA members and advisor) are often the first jobs FFA members hold. They are provided hands-on experience to learn more about certain parts of the agricultural industry, as well as the opportunity to apply the things they learn in their agriculture education classes to real-world scenarios. Yes, many members who participate in SAEs do raise livestock and small animals to sell as pets, show animals, and food production. These Animal System SAEs provide FFA members the ability to ethically and responsibly raise livestock, therefore learning proper stewardship firsthand. Not all SAE programs are animal-based, however. There are Crop Production SAEs, Vegetable Production SAEs, and Food Service SAEs just to name a few. Your options are limitless when it comes to your interests and SAEs.

     10) “Strive to establish and enhance my skills through agricultural education in order to enter a successful career.”
This belief is a culmination of the nine before it. All of the skills FFA members learn from the code of ethics will undoubtedly lead to a successful career. Whether it’s humility, communication skills, or fairness, the skills learned being an FFA member will remain with you for the rest of your life. No matter what career path an FFA member chooses, whether it’s farming, veterinary medicine, or Pediatric Oncology like me, they will be successful and they will positively impact the lives of others. I have never met an FFA member who I didn’t think would make big changes in the world. Why? Because I believe in the future of agriculture and our FFA members ARE the future.

     11) "Appreciate and promote diversity in our organization.”
Appreciation and promotion of diversity is not a problem within our organization. FFA is an inclusive organization that does not discriminate by race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, or disability. History has proven this and we continue to take steps to prove it. In 1965, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, FFA and the New Farmers of America (the FFA equivalent for men of color) merged to become one organization. Again, the FFA made progress during the Women’s Rights Movement by allowing women to join beginning in 1969. Again, this past October, there were student delegate resolutions passed that were then sent to the board of directors for approval. If these resolutions are approved, it will be officially in the handbook that transgender students would be protected to wear the official dress of the gender that they identify as and religious head coverings will also be recognized as a part of official dress. I am proud to belong to an organization as progressive and inclusive as this one.

These, my friends, are all of the things I love about this amazing organization I belong to. I am proud to be an FFA member now more than ever, because we need to get the news out about what our industry is all about. Are you an FFA member? If so, share what you love and kill what you hate by sharing your personal stories with the hashtag #FFAproud and not sharing articles that you don’t agree with. Are you not an FFA member but like what you hear? We would love for you to join so that you too can have a positive impact in the lives of others.

Love always,

Courtney Adams
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Reporter

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Owls

After two days at the Fort Wayne Farm Show, I climbed into the backseat of a car to prepare for the three-hour trek home. The seven of us had spent the past week in the frigid air of northern Indiana, meeting with vendors and collecting items for our auctions. Both auctions went very well and we raised a lot of money for the Indiana FFA Foundation, but it’s safe to say that nothing sounded more enticing than going home to sleep in our own beds!

I woke up as happy as a kid in a candy store on Thursday morning, thinking maybe I could stay in bed for a little longer on our first day home.


Apparently about 100 yards away in the cafeteria gathered 200+ ag advisors for an in-service, and we were to eat lunch with them.

One part of me was super pumped because what’s better than delicious food that I didn’t have to cook myself? Say the word “food”, and you can bet that I’ll be there. And then another part of me just dreaded the mere thought of it, for no reason at all.

As noon came around, I ventured into the other building and I don’t think I have ever seen the cafeteria so jam-packed with people in my life. Sitting near the back was my ag teacher, and so I quickly made my way over to her. As soon as I sat down and saw the look of excitement on her face, I knew I was in the right place. My ag teacher was excited to see me, and I was extremely excited to see her.

It was then that I realized this wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, the hour I spent at lunch with a full table of advisors was enough to make my entire week. I had my advisor from the last three years of my FFA career, and let me tell you, she’s a rockstar. Momma Mullins is my second mom and biggest confidant- whether it’s a “just because” card in the mail with a Southdown lamb on the front (my absolute favorite) or her bringing me things I need from home, she is always there and supports every decision I make. She saw the things in me that I couldn’t see in myself, and it’s because of her that I chose to follow my dreams of running for state office, judging livestock in Kansas, and continue being an ambassador for the agriculture industry.

And then there’s Mrs. O’Farrell (who will always be Miss Korb to me), who was my student teacher when I was just a shy and insecure seventh grader. She helped me to write my very first speech and showed me the importance behind speaking about what I love. Even though she was only around for a short while, she has always kept in touch with me and remains one of my biggest role models to this day. Thanks for letting me teach Henry how to take selfies and for being my cheerleader!

The other teachers treated me as if I were one of their own, all of them being teachers I had grown to know throughout high school and as a state officer. Whether I had known them for one year or six years, they all have made an impact on me.

I’ve had four different ag advisors in my FFA career, and each taught me something different and unique. It goes much farther than learning how to fill out a proficiency application or learning the anatomy of a plant- it’s the time management, humility, and the will to go to the next level. It’s the competitive nature and knowing how to stand up for your own beliefs. It’s learning that no matter the circumstances, there is ALWAYS someone looking up to you.

I think I can speak for every FFA member out there when I say we have the best mentors in the world. Our advisors are the best, all in their own way. They put in long hours and spend numerous weekends at FFA events because they love their students and have a passion for their profession.

To all of the advisors out there: THANK YOU. You are simply the greatest.

God Bless,

Kenzie Kretzmeier
2015 - 2016 Indiana FFA State President 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Puppy Videos

This year, I have the privilege to serve as the Social Media Coordinator for Indiana FFA. So, whenever you are annoyed with Indiana FFA’s tweets or posts, you’re welcome. However, it’s a responsibility that I’ve come to take quite seriously. Sometimes, too seriously as I will find myself spending hours reading articles about how to improve Indiana FFA’s social media outreach. Often, I will come across great pieces of advice. I discovered one awhile back that I found to be incredibly relevant in our modern world.
             “Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.”
This simple credo is something that I found but quickly passed over. It didn’t mean much at the time. But as I began scrolling through my personal Facebook feed, I was bombarded with everything from sports to puppy videos to politics. My mind returned to that quote about love vs. hate. Instead of seeing a kaleidoscope of random information, I began to see what people really cared about. Hate soon encompassed my screen—a passion driven slur at a politician, a passive aggressive dig at an unpopular law, and a vulgar statement about a group of people.
I began to really think about the words. “Promote what you love.” Okay. I can do that. I love agriculture, FFA, my teammates, my family, and of course, my beloved Whitley County. Then I began to think about what I hate. Well, I can’t say I outright hate anything. There are things that annoy me or things I would love to share my opinion on, but I had to ask myself, am I promoting what I love? Or bashing what I hate?
In today’s fast paced world of social media, we get so caught up on having an opinion on every issue and sharing that opinion for everyone to see. We begin to bash what we hate and thus, are consumed with that hate. Think for a second, what would the world look like if we began to only promote what we loved? How would our timelines look if people shared only the great and wonderful parts of life?
I think we would see a lot more puppy videos, some more appreciation posts, and a whole lot less of the things that divide us from each other. Instead of fighting over small things, we would come together over the big things. Instead of unfriending people, we would begin to connect as a community! This age of technology could connect us more than ever, but it seems to be separating us like never before.
Sometimes promoting what we love even means setting our phones down for a while. I have a particularly hard time with this. However, I realize the things I love are usually not on my phone, but sitting around me. I get one year to live with 6 crazy kids I get to call my teammates. Unfortunately, I get consumed by a glass screen. The best way to promote what you love is to simply set the phone down and realize those things you love aren’t necessarily on Twitter or Facebook.
From an individual who constantly has to squeeze important messages onto Twitter in 140 characters or less, here’s my challenge: “Promote what you love, don’t bash what you hate. Set the phone down sometimes. Share a puppy video and make someone smile today.”

Keep Smiling,

Brett Roberts
2015 – 2016 Indiana FFA State Northern Region Vice President 

Friday, January 8, 2016

To Really Understand Music Properly

It was the eve of Christmas Eve when I noticed that mom would have no presents to open from Santa. Not wanting to disappoint her, I set out with my friend Matthew to find Mom the perfect gag gift. We were in the middle of a very pointless, hilarious conversation when I had to interrupt him to turn my radio almost to a deafening level. I have an exceptional bass in my car and could not pass on the opportunity to make the mirrors bounce with the song that had just came on the radio.
            As I was singing every word, except the bad words, of course, Matthew looked at me and yelled over the music, “I have never heard this song. What is it even about?” Fully engulfed in this brilliant song, I was taken aback by the simple statement that he had never heard it before today. With a look of judgement on my face, I yelled back, “You have never heard ‘Downtown’?” Yes, that’s right, a college student had never heard “Downtown” before this trip to Kohl’s. I explained to Matthew that “Downtown” was about, well, mopeds! Matthew returned my look of judgement.
            Matthew was not impressed, and the more I think about this popular song, the more disappointed I get. Music is supposed to be beautiful. “Downtown” is certainly beautiful. I mean, it makes Kenzie’s curly hair bounce with the bass which is a sight that everyone must see! But for centuries, music has been about more than beauty. Music has been used to motivate and inspire the world. Bob Dylan was not writing music with the hope that some kids would use it to make their hair bounce. Instead, Bob was writing songs with the hope that they would change the world. I do not know about you, but a message about mopeds will not be changing my world anytime soon. Today, we confuse noise for music.
            As I throw away my 2015 calendar, and put up the cool new calendar that my grandma gave me for Christmas, I began to think about the noise in my life. For me, the noise from my peers always inhibited me from hearing the music from my mentors. Many times in life, mentors would give me advice that I knew was beautiful music. Unfortunately, I would let the noise of my peers hinder my decisions. I was always so afraid to listen to the music because the noise was much louder. Do not let the loud noise of your peers drown out the music.
            Music is truly unique. Music has the ability to change the world. Noise can be disguised as music and can win over our hearts. But do not be fooled into thinking that noise is music. Music is a beautiful thing. By blocking out the noise and listening to the music, we can obtain freedom.

Forever Imagining,

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Pillsbury Calamity

I do a majority of the shopping for the state officer house. It’s a good chance for me to be alone with my thoughts. I was enjoying the peace of shopping alone at the classiest of all establishments, Walmart. I found myself in the refrigerated section, reaching for a can of crescent rolls. Apparently, when I pulled one of the shelf, I knocked a few cans loose. Which really means, I created a crescent roll avalanche.

Fun Fact: Crescent roll cans are heavier than they look.

I learned the above fact while several dozen of them came flying off the shelf in my general direction. I managed to stop the disaster quickly, and nobody noticed. My next course of action was to pick up the mess I had created.

I guess crescent roll displays are just precarious no matter what you do, because restacking them created a second avalanche. This time, there were witnesses.

It was, quite possibly, the most embarrassing experience of my life. Several mothers out shopping, many with small children in tow, stood watching as I struggled to stop the cascading cans. I eventually got control of the situation, for a second time, and cleaned them all up without incident.

Perseverance is a word usually used to describe an athlete or someone going through a personal struggle. Well, on an average day in December my personal struggle was a Pillsbury calamity. I had to persevere through the embarrassment, as well as the actual physical pain of being hit by dozens of crescent roll cans, to make it out of that Walmart without losing my mind.

We all have those times when perseverance is a necessity. Embrace the awkwardness, embarrassment, whatever the thing is that makes you want to give up on something and persevere. Once you do that, I promise you’ll feel unstoppable.

Remember to persevere.
I did that day in Walmart, and it’s a good thing I did too. Not 5 minutes after I had avoided death by pastry dough, I found myself reaching for a box of pudding cups a few aisles over. It just so happened that I grabbed one that had already been opened.

I dumped butterscotch pudding all over the floor.

In front of one of those same mothers that had witnessed the crescent roll avalanche.

I slowly placed the empty box back on the shelf, grabbed a new one, and walked away. I persevered.

All the Best,

Sean Harrington
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Treasurer