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The Farmer’s Field: FFA Builds Tomorrow’s Leaders

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

“This is freaking me out, Ron,” exclaimed Cristy Dicklich, a fellow state FFA officer of mine.  

In retrospect, driving blindly in the night as we inched along some random road in a classic Western Wyoming blizzard was probably not the wisest choice we had ever made, especially at the age of 18 with no way to contact anyone if we had trouble.  

But then again, it was part of the adventure, and we just needed to persevere a little bit longer.  

Cristy and I were traveling around the state presenting motivational assemblies to FFA chapters and their schools. In this case, we were headed from Afton down to Lyman, where their FFA chapter would be waiting for us the next day.  

We were determined to see the storm through, and we did. In retrospect, I never thought we wouldn’t. When you have a job to do, you just do it.  

My careers with both the Wyoming and National FFA organizations have provided me with an edge in business, in personal relationships and in life.  

Last week, the Wyoming FFA Association held its annual state convention at the Archer Complex in Cheyenne. Over 1,500 Wyoming junior high and high school students, dressed neatly in their classic blue corduroy jackets, gathered to compete, learn and celebrate leadership and entrepreneurship in agriculture.  

Many of these students have worked from a very young age to develop skills, projects and businesses which will help carry them into adulthood.  

Last week’s competitions, otherwise known as “career and leadership development events” included subjects such as agriculture issues, sales, mechanics and technology, employment skills, environmental and natural resources, public speaking, marketing, parliamentary procedure and veterinary science.  

These events are extremely competitive and require months – sometimes years – of dedication and preparation to develop the knowledge and skill sets it takes to win.  

One of the strongest attributes of FFA is as a requirement of membership, each student must have a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project. In other words, every member of FFA must either work at a job in their area of interest or have their own project or business. 

As students work their way up through the program’s various degrees, they must prove a minimum hourly workload, growth in leadership skills and significant growth in their financial progress.

At last week’s convention, many students were recognized as the top contenders in the state with their SAE’s. Some of these included agricultural communications, education, sales, agriscience research, crop or livestock production, equine science, forest management and service learning, just to name a few.  

Four students in the state received the State Star Award in four separate categories as the most accomplished in their independent SAE. In addition, a state champion was chosen in the public speaking categories of the FFA Creed, prepared speaking and extemporaneous speaking. 

One of the highlights of the convention is the selection of the new State Officer Team, made up of nine graduating high school seniors, who will travel and represent the Wyoming FFA throughout the coming year.  

These students sit in a “hot box” the entire convention and are interviewed thoroughly, often multiple times a day, in hopes of garnering the coveted spot of a Wyoming State FFA Office.

The Wyoming FFA Association is embodied by 3,800 members across the state, and the National FFA Organization boasts a whopping 946,000 members in over 9,100 chapters.  Imagine that! Nearly one million students each year – and growing – who are focused on making themselves, this world and their passion better each day.  

If this doesn’t make a positive impression in this world, I’m not actually sure what will.  

And here’s what’s more – each of those members has parents, sibl  ings, family members, teachers and advisers who are encouraging and equipping them with the tools and support necessary to help them accomplish their goals. This is massively significant. 

The skills these students are developing and embracing are critical to a successful adult life, and it is people like this who we need to build and enhance our communities, our state and our country. They are the difference makers.  

My attendance at this year’s FFA convention was largely due to the involvement of my son Spencer and what he was seeking to accomplish in his last year as a high school FFA member.  

Since he was little, Spencer’s passion for agriculture and his work ethic have been remarkable. As he worked to find his place in the world as a young boy, we have always encouraged him not to conform but to remain true to himself and to spend his time and energy focusing on what feeds his passion. FFA has allowed him this opportunity.  

Spencer’s years of dedication, perseverance, positive disposition and thousands of hours of work culminated at last week’s convention. As we watched him receive Wyoming’s State Star in agricultural placement and be selected to serve on this year’s state officer team, our hearts were full.  

In retrospect, I guess I never thought he wouldn’t.

He’s always said, “When you have a job to do, you just do it.” 

Thanks FFA, for building tomorrow’s leaders – no one does it better.

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