Grow for Gold Wyoming FFA celebrates ag
Cheyenne – Over 1,000 FFA members from across the state of Wyoming descended on Cheyenne April 8-10 for the Wyoming FFA State Convention – an event that is renowned for its ability to attract the highest level of talented youth from across the state.
During the week, FFA members competed in a variety of Career Development Events, ranging from livestock judging and agriculture mechanics to parliamentary procedure and public speaking. They heard the inspiring words of keynote speakers, leaders in the agriculture industry and their very own state FFA officers.
Looking at convention, Wyoming FFA Sentinel Caleb Green of Sheridan commented, “It was really exciting to see all the members again and be able to spend our last hoo-rah with them.”
Kyle Webber, third vice president of the organization and Powell native, added, “It was really exciting to see all of the excitement and energy of Wyoming’s FFA members.”
Wyoming FFA President Quade Palm said, “It was also exciting to see all of the incredible individuals who will be representing us at National Convention in the fall.”
Over the past year, the 2014-15 Wyoming FFA state officer team invested their time and energy traveling the state and influencing FFA members from across the region. Their widespread efforts created new events and left a lasting legacy.
The favorite part of the year for many of the state officers was chapter visits – a time when pairs of state officers visited chapters and conducted workshops with the members. Each of Wyoming’s 52 chapters were visited, and Green said, “It was fun doing chapter visits. No chapter is alike.”
Parliamentarian Jess Oldham of Lander added, “We are a small state, but we are as diverse as any other. We are able to step up – whether we are on the farm or ranch or in FFA – and be leaders.”
“It was really cool to see how diverse we are on a large scale,” he continued.
While on chapter visits, the state officers also explored the variety of Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) programs that Wyoming’s FFA members conduct. Each FFA member is required to have a SAE program as part of their experience with the organization.
“We have a lot of FFA members who are doing really cool and diverse projects across the state,” Green noted.
Advocating for agriculture
The 2014-15 Wyoming FFA state officer team also stepped up and added a new component to their year – a week of advocacy.
“Our week of ag advocacy started with an idea from a planning meeting in the summer when Tyler Clementson, our vice president, threw out the thought,” Palm explained. “It was really cool to see the idea come to fruition.”
Palm continued, “We learned early on that only 20 percent of Americans are ag literate. Too many people don’t know the source of their food beyond the grocery store. We thought that needed to change.”
During the last week of January, the state officers and Wyoming FFA members promoted the agriculture industry in a variety of ways.
One of the primary components of the ag advocacy campaign was a social media effort, where the hashtag #VoiceforAg was promoted. Members and state officers alike attached the hashtag to photos of ag business members, ag industry supporters and ag activities that were posted on social media sites.
Oldham explained that the Wyoming FFA Association promised to donate one dollar for every hashtag used up to $1,000 – a goal they far surpassed.
“One cool part of this effort was that it spread to a national level,” Oldham continued. “We had people around the country using our hashtag and promoting agriculture.”
FFA members from a number of states and producers from around the country, as well as national companies like Culver’s, posted their photos with the #VoiceforAg hashtag.
“We saw this develop beyond just us,” Webber said. “It built into something huge.”
“We aren’t just affecting us,” Oldham continued. “This spread across the nation. We are affecting everyone.”
Along with the social media campaign, state officers also reached out to their local communities by setting up booths and educating consumers about agriculture.
Green explained, “We set up booths with posters and ag facts in our local grocery stores, and we told people who were coming into the grocery stores about the industry and our goals.”
“We wanted to increase the awareness of the public,” Oldham said. “We may not have changed everyone’s ideas, but we talked to enough people to make a difference.”
During the week, the state officer team also visited with Governor Matt Mead, Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director Doug Miyamoto and Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow to learn about how to continue to influence the state’s agriculture industry.
After completing their year of service, the state officers all mentioned that the year has been positive and a great learning experience, allowing them to develop connections and lifelong leadership skills.
“I have made a ton a connections on a personal and professional level that will be hugely beneficial as we move forward,” Palm said.
Green added, “When I’m older I want to be an ag teacher. The skills I have learned and memories that I have made in this experience will help me in the long run. I hope to pass these things on to my students.”
For Webber, the year has been about continuing to advocate for agriculture and serving the industry.
“I’m going to stay involved in agriculture,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to advocate and help where people are struggling. Agriculture is the most important industry in this nation, and it’s something we can’t let die.”
“We are facing the challenge of feeding the world, and I’m looking forward to being a part of the generation that accomplishes that goal,” Oldham continued. “Even though I’m not going to be a youth in FFA anymore, I’m looking forward to continuing to advocate for agriculture.”
Look forward to the results of the Career Development Events held at the Wyoming State FFA Convention, as well as the announcement of the 2015-16 Wyoming FFA state officers in next week’s Roundup.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.