Missouri FFA and Agriculture Education | Blog
Latest news and reflections by Missouri FFA officers.
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For Students, By Students

What started as a search for firsthand experiences with livestock for students of the Mount Vernon agricultural education program ended in a 10-month building project, now known as the animal science lab. Built for students by students, the lab is designed to help members of the Mount Vernon FFA Chapter become more familiar with animal agriculture.


Agricultural educators and FFA advisors Jay Shepherd and Steven Prewitt started crafting in December 2017 their idea of a hands-on space where students could learn about livestock.


“We had posts driven by a local fence builder who is an alumnus,” Shepherd said. “My students built the rest of it.”


Using a mobile welding trailer made the year before, students Ryan Raucher, Lane Hale and Corby Allen used their welding skills to build the lab.


Between working during their agricultural education classes and coming in on their own time, these students completed the project in 10 months.


“We worked on the lab pretty much every day,” Rauchersaid. “Sometimes after school, sometimes on weekends. Just whenever we had time. We even came in during the summer.”


The students said they gained just as much as they gave while volunteering their time.


“We learned a lot from it,” Allen said. “We just saw what needed to be done, and we knew how to do it, so we just kind of took action and made it our priority during school.”


Now, their hard work is paying off as they enjoy the finished project and students start using the lab for hands-on learning experiences.


“My favorite part is finally seeing it done and knowing that it was basically three kids that put it together,” Raucher said.


Allen agreed and added that it is rewarding to know he played a part in building the structure.


The animal science lab is made up of sorting pens made for many different species. Rather than being a place to house student Supervised Agricultural Experiences, the space is dedicated to labs for learning more about livestock and animal agriculture. It will be used primarily by Animal Science and Ag Science 1 classes during livestock units.


“The main purpose is to get students’ hands on live animals,” Shepherd said. “To help them learn how to deal with live animals, whether it’s injections, deworming or castration. We’ve even had someone come in to teach artificial insemination in cattle.”


The point is to have a consistent place to bring livestock to the students instead of having to make trips to various farms.


“When our advisors get on a certain unit, they’ll bring in someanimals, like cattle,” Raucher said. “We’ve castrated cattle, vaccinated and ear tagged them. We checked a couple cows to see if they were pregnant. We’ve even brought in show cattle, clipped them and showed them in the lab.”


Raucher said the lab isn’t just for cattle, though. They have brought in other animals, like horses, as well.


“We’ve worked some cattle in the lab,” Shepherd added. “We had a lab for horses where students saddled a horse. We’ve had some dairy cattle in to judge and had judging practice in the lab with goats and other animals.”


This hands-on education is equally important for both students who come from a livestock background and those who do not.


“We have a lot of kids in our program that are close to the farm, but many times if they are doing something, like working cattle, they’re the ones in the back pushing the cattle up,” Shepherd said. “So, we’re trying to get them some more direct experience.”


In addition to those students familiar with the farm, Mount Vernon also has students who have never been around livestock. The lab serves as their opportunity to experience firsthand what they are learning about in class.


“The students really enjoy any sort of hands-on stuff in class,” Shepherd said. “Because of the lab, they’ve gottento see a lot of things they otherwise wouldn’t.”


Shepherd acknowledged the fact that the lab was made possible only by the gracious support of the surrounding community.


“We sent out some letters to some key people we thought might be interested in supporting the project,” Shepherd said. “We sent out about 16 letters, and we got enough responses to start building. We decided we would try to get the money as we went along.”


Seeing the benefit of having a space dedicated to hands-on learning for their students, the surrounding community was supportive throughout the entire process. Between monetary contributions and building materials, nearly $12,000 in donations were made, Shepherd said.


“The support of the community was awesome,” Raucher said. “We had organizations like Missouri Cattlemen’s donate. We also had a lot of individuals that donated. Many individuals came together to make it happen, and I really think it’s going to pay off in the long run.”


Looking toward the future, the Mount Vernon agricultural education program plans to continue its use of the animal science lab while continually growing its potential for student contact with livestock.


“The plan is to get a roof over it and have it powered by solar power,” Raucher said. “I think members of the community plan to help with that, too.”


— Brandelyn Martin

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Stand Up and Speak Up


Whether you are new to FFA or a returning member, now is the time to get involved by participating in one of the many speaking contests held this fall. Here’s a list of organizations that offer opportunities for FFA members to brush up on their public speaking skills. Check with your chapter advisor for information regarding area and district contest times and places.

Contact: Peggy Lemons


Contact: Sydney Thummel


Contact: Eric Volmer


Contact: Kristi Livingston


Contact: Kevin Beauchamp

Contact: Diane Slater


Contact:Joe Eddy


Contact: Ed DeOrnellis


Contact: Pam Rowland


Contact: Lisa Evans

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Back to School

Back-to-school season can be an overwhelming time for parents and students alike. Between picking out classes, trying new sports and deciding on organizations to join, high school freshmen have an especially busy season on their hands. The Cass Career Center FFA Chapter officers noticed the effect this was having on their first-year members’ level of participation and took action by creating a Greenhand Information Night and Ice Cream Social to be held the second or third week of school to boost involvement.


“The main goal is for Greenhands and their parents to see the opportunities in FFA and get excited for those opportunities,” said Jason Dieckhoff, a Cass Career Center FFA Chapter advisor. “We started hosting our Greenhand Information Night and Ice Cream Social in 2016.  Our chapter officers started the event because the year prior, it took about half the year before Greenhand members felt very comfortable coming to chapter activities.  We wanted to increase the participation level of Greenhands earlier in the year.” To build participation, the chapter began by increasing awareness of opportunities and events.


“We invite all new Greenhands, as well as their parents,” Dieckhoff said. “Chapter FFA officers start the evening with opening ceremonies and a president’s welcome. Our treasurer goes over the dues for the year and what dues pay for. The rest of the evening, Greenhands and their parents enjoy ice cream and toppings while going around to different stations to listen to chapter officers talk about opportunities in FFA and the ag program.”


These stations typically cover opportunities like chapter field trips, trapshooting, Supervised Agricultural Experiences, chapter fundraising, Career Development Events, Leadership Development Events and more.


Additionally, the event is meant to connect chapter officers with the Greenhand members. Coming from a larger school, the officers might not already know incoming freshmen. Building this relationship early in the year makes it easier for the officers to interact with Greenhands in the halls of the high school, during lunch or even at other school activities. Dieckhoff said the first-year students also enjoy hearing about events directly from the chapter officers themselves.


“Greenhands react better to their peers than to hearing opportunities from advisors or their parents,” he explained. “By letting Greenhands interact one-on-one with chapter officers, they feed off the enthusiasm of the officers and get excited about what they can do in FFA.”


Kara Vergouven, a second-year member of the Cass Career Center FFA Chapter, agreed and said the most memorable part of the evening was hearing from the officers. She attended the event last year.


“My favorite part about the Greenhand Night was talking to the previous FFA members and learning about all the different things that the organization had to offer. Listening to them had me even more excited about being a part of FFA and cleared up all the questions I had,” Vergouven said.


Dieckhoff said the event has accomplished its main purpose, and there has been an increase in Greenhand participation at events throughout the year. He also cited benefits such as increased parent communication and an established professional tone for their organization.


Vergouven said the Greenhand Information Night and Ice Cream Social increased her involvement because she was excited about pursuing the opportunities discussed.


“Before the event, I didn’t realize all the different activities they had,” she said. “Once I went and found out what they did, I went to most of the activities. Now, I encourage everyone to try FFA because I think they will like it very much.”

— By Brandelyn Martin

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FFA Helps Feed Missouri

The third annual Drive to Feed Kidstook place on Tuesday, Aug. 13 at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. More than 750 Missouri FFA members from 73 chapters across the state gathered to pack meals for food insecure families. They exceeded their goal by packing more than 128,400 meals.


Kids feeding kids is the focus of the 2019 Drive to Feed Kids, and Missouri agriculture is banding together once again to address the alarming reality that one in five Missouri children regularly face hunger. The goal of this collaboration is to raise funds to provide food for hungry Missouri children and stand in the gap for those children who face food insecurity.


According to recent data from Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap,” more than 240,000 children in Missouri do not know where their next meal will come from. Missouri counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are disproportionately rural, where one out of every three children face food insecurity.


“We continue to see food insecurity grow in rural areas,” said Gary Marshall, Missouri Farmers Care chairman. “Through Drive to Feed Kids, we have the opportunity to raise awareness, while showcasing the tremendous work of farmers and ranchers who leverage science, technology, their expertise and natural resources to provide food for the world.”

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Tools to Success

Kate Thompson - VP

Kate Thompson – VP

Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia. A rare type of evergreen, it is seldom that you see them shed their leaves. It is a wonder they ever manage to sell rakes in the land down under. Nevertheless, it was a cool day at St. Matthew’s Catholic School when a young Kate Thompson stood with a rake held high above her head. She thrust the rake towards the earth, poking 16 fresh holes in the ground below her. She looked to her mother and said, “Mum, look what I did! I am giving the soil air.” Mum replied with laughter, “Well done, Kate.” Grinning with pride, Kate continued to poke 16 holes at a time into the soil around the grassy play area.


Now in hindsight, I realize that I, Kate Thompson, wasn’t really doing much to help. But it gave me some perspective. How often have we been presented with tools and opportunities that have the potential to do great things, but wasted them poking holes in the ground? How many times have we skated by, exerting minimal effort, instead of taking the reins to propel us as far as possible? As FFA members, there are many tools and opportunities at our disposal: public speaking, CDE and LDE contests, FFA Camp and summer academies, the friendships and connections we make. Let’s take full advantage of the tools that we are given.


“To whom much is given, much is expected.” -John F. Kennedy


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Stand Your Ground and Don’t Back Down

Matthew Morgan - VP

Matthew Morgan – VP

“Stand your ground, that crazy cow is not going to hit you. She is just bluffing.” I know my Dad is probably right, but 1,000 pounds of angry beef running full speed ahead towards you with her calf in between your legs can still be intimidating.  I quickly tag the calf, and to my relief the cow was bluffing.  The goal set fourth was accomplished.


I learned two things from that day.  1. It is always good to have a person you trust that is willing to back you up and encourage you when you need it. 2. When you’re faced with something that is challenging, you stand firm and hold your ground because you can’t reach your dream by giving in.


One of my favorite songs is I won’t back down, sung by Johnny Cash.  In this song Cash sings, “I’ll keep this world from dragging me down, gonna stand my ground.” It doesn’t matter what knocks us down, what matters is how we get back up and learn from those experiences.  When you hang out in the right places and with the right people you will soon do incredible things.  The friends you surround yourself with make a huge difference on you.  Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams even if they intimidate you.


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The Most Important Play, is the Next Play

Isaiah Massey - 1st VP

Isaiah Massey – 1st VP

It’s third and 14. We are down by 7 points.  The corners were playing deep, preparing for the pass.  As I survey the field, I call out my check downs. “45’s the Mike,” as I let my quarterback (QB) know the blitz was coming. I snap the ball, step back in pass protection ready for the linebacker to come through the whole.  I step back, and he breezes past me and tackles the QB in the backfield bringing up fourth down. He’s been beating me all game, and nothing has changed as he tackles my teammate in the backfield once again.  In these moments I could easily just admit that he’s a better player than me. I could easily just give up and accept defeat. Only three minutes remain in the game. But as my QB was sacked, my coach from the sidelines chanted our team motto. “What’s the most important play?” He would ask, and as one whole team we would shout in unison, “The next play.”


The opposing team takes the ball, and our defense sends them with a four and out giving us one last chance. One-minute left, with over 79 yards to go.  We break out of huddle. First play, 43 Dive. Our QB, Ryeil, hands the ball off to Collin, the running back, as he rushes for a gain of 15 yards. Still 64 to go. We set up, hurry up offense as Ryeil gives us the call, “Florida, Florida!” That means Wildcat Double reverse sweep on 2. Ryeil calls my teammate, Luke, in motion. As he hands Luke the ball, then the other receiver is handed the ball, who then secretly hands it to Ryeil.  I lead block for Ryeil, take down a defender as Ryeil rushes for 34 yards and steps out of bounds to stop the clock, 7 seconds left, with no timeouts.  We gather in the huddle and are signaled for our play-action pass. I grow tense because that means I have to block number 45 one more time. Every time I had to block him, he would escape and tackle Ryeil.  I think to myself: this is the next play. We line up at the ball, and I call my check downs once again. I snap the ball, and I watch the defender take his hesitation step to fake the pass coverage. He drills his left heel down and shoots out like a bottle rocket towards me.  I take a deep breath and use my leverage against his.  I lower my hips as I wait for the linebacker. As we initiate contact, I place my hands beneath his shoulder pads, and as my body is centered, I drive with all my force and lift the linebacker up in the air and slam him onto his back. His mouth piece flies into the air. Ryeil fakes the ball to Collin and passes it deep to Luke, and just like that we finish as victorious!


Through football I’ve learned the principal that the most important play is the next play, because life will always throw you hard times and obstacles that will bring you down and in times make you believe that some circumstances are impossible to defeat.  FFA members, it isn’t about how bad you miss the mark because failure is inevitable. It’s about how many times you get back up and rise to the occasion and overcome any challenge that you face because THAT is what will make you victorious.


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2018 Missouri Food Insecurity Day
Jul 26 2019

Missouri Corn and Missouri FFA Helping Build Future Leaders


Missouri’s top 30 FFA high school seniors completed the fifth annual Helping Youth Prepare for Excellence (HYPE) FFA Academy June 25-27, in Columbia, Mo. The three-day intensive program is designed to inform and empower students to effectively engage on pressing agriculture topics. Since 2015, the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council has sponsored and facilitated the academy in conjunction with Missouri FFA. This year’s academy was hosted at the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.


“It is very important we get out and tell our story,” noted Missouri Corn Merchandising Council Chairman Mike Moreland during a HYPE panel. “Whether it’s inviting folks to the farm, visiting legislators in the capitol or sharing online, it is more important than ever that farmers – and the next generation – have a place at the table. This program is very beneficial in preparing students to be that voice.”


Over the three-day conference, students participated in sessions promoting advocacy training, social media, communication, and stakeholder collaboration. In addition, topics included overcoming adversity, developing a personal brand, and engaging those with opposing viewpoints. Students learned from farmers, industry representatives, social media experts, and others on how to effectively advocate about issues facing the industry. The group explored the Missouri Soybean Bay Farm and its innovations in crop production, research, and soybean biotechnology.


In culmination, participants testified on key issues during mock hearings with legislators at the Missouri State Capitol. This year’s topics included tariffs and trade, eminent domain, lab-produced meat labeling, river management, and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. Missouri Sen. Mike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City) and State Reps. Rusty Black (R-Chillicothe), Barbara Washington (D-Kansas City), Don Rone (R-Portageville), Jeff Porter (R-Montgomery City), Kent Haden (R-Mexico), Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal), and Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis) interacted with and challenged the students. Missouri Corn CEO Gary Marshall provided the closing keynote, empowering participants to use their newfound skills as they continue to represent Missouri’s number one industry.


The Missouri Corn Merchandising Council is an organization of corn growers dedicated to developing and expanding corn markets, educating growers and customers, and exploring new research opportunities. The National FFA Organization makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Contact Missouri Corn Associate Director of Communications Hilary Black at (800) 827-4181 or hblack@mocorn.org for more information about HYPE Academy.

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2018 Missouri Food Insecurity Day
Jul 26 2019

MO FFA Needs You!

Our friends at Missouri Farmers Care have been diligent in their efforts to ensure the success of the 2019 Missouri FFA Food Insecurity Day and the Drive to Feed Kids at the Missouri State Fair.


Growing up in a rural community, I would have never imagined food insecurity would be a challenge faced by those around me. Yet, the numbers are staggering. One in five children in Missouri are food insecure and in rural areas that number rises to one in three. Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” As Missouri FFA members we have the opportunity to help diminish an issue that is faced by many within our state.

On Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the Missouri State Fairgrounds over 750 Missouri FFA members will work to pack more than 100,000 meals to combat food insecurity across our state. We will work together to ensure that children across the state spend their time focusing on being a kid rather than worrying about when their next meal will be. From now until then, we are tasked with raising funds in support of Feeding Missouri, the coalition of six regional food banks in our state.


Now we need your help! As a leader in your community, you have the opportunity to help Missouri Farmers Care by magnifying awareness of childhood food insecurity in our state. If we all help feed just one, the possibilities of impact are endless. By working together, we can minimize the number of hungry children in our own communities!


How can you help:

  • Ask your neighbors, friends and local businesses to donate to the cause.Donations can be made online at:http://mofarmerscare.com/drive/or by texting “Drive2” to 44321.
  • Spread the word about the Drive to Feed Kids through social media.You can do this by sharing posts from Missouri Farmers Care or utilizing the attached social media assets on your chapter’s page. On July 30, add the Drive to Feed Kids Facebook profile filter to your profile picture.
  • Pre-Event Press Release: Chapters participating at the State FFA Food Insecurity Service Day can complete the attached template press release and share it with their local newspapers prior to Aug. 8.Show your community the great projects your chapter is helping with.

If we all do our part together we can bridge the gap of food insecurity. Thanks for all of your help! We couldn’t do this without you.

— ByJessica Janorschke, Missouri FFA State Vice President


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Jul 26 2019

Everyday Advocates

Telling agriculture’s story is no easy task, but thanks to their time in the blue jacket, a number of Farm Journal’s staff are better equipped to get the job done.


Sara Schafer, editor of Top Producer, was a member of the Jamestown FFA chapter and served as Area 6 state vice president from 2003 to 2004. Her supervised agricultural experience project included raising, butchering, and selling broiler chickens, as well as straw production.

In the end, she says everything she does helps bring information to farmers, which is why she enjoys what she does so much.


“Why my role is really interesting is I have a really defined audience,” Schafer says. “So, the information I put out is to help farmers be successful today and in the future. They need to gain a competitive edge and learn the business side of farm management so they can grow into the future and be sustainable. Helping them to do this is what creates an industry that will continue to be successful.”


Susan Rhode, director of marketing at Farm Journal, echoes this desire. Rhode was a member of the Stet FFA chapter, served as Missouri State FFA Secretary from 1989 to 1990, and was on a state winning soils-judging team.


“I love knowing that what we do benefits the farmer every day,” Rhode says. “I remember growing up in a farm family, you had stacks of magazines everywhere. Farm Journal was always on our coffee table. It was in the stack of magazines next to my dad’s recliner. He made it a point to make it a part of his day to help his career. I think that speaks for itself.”


Farm Journal not only encompasses the 141-year-old flagship magazine Farm Journal, but also includes a multitude of other outlets, including print, broadcast, events, market research, custom content, and mobile and digital platforms.


All three professionals acknowledged that part of what brought them to agricultural journalism were their experiences in FFA.


“Truthfully, I didn’t know ag journalism existed until I went to my first state FFA convention and stumbled onto the ag journalism booth from Mizzou,” Schafer says. “Then, it hit me. It was a perfect combination of my love for farming and my love for writing. FFA gave me exposure to the field that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I became familiar with the publications and met people in the industry.”


Through FFA, one of these connections was Joann Pipkin, editor for Missouri FFA Today.


“I met Joann at Missouri Agribusiness Academy and reached out. Before long, she was assigning me stories,” Schafer says. “I wrote for Missouri FFA Today for several years, and that gave me a great opportunity to write for a state publication in upper high school and throughout college.”


Along with learning how to network and building her confidence in writing, Schafer says FFA prepared her for her career through Career Development Events and Leadership Development Events.


“I learned a lot of agronomic and business skills in my ag classes that I can lean back on,” Schafer says. “Being on the agronomy team helps me now when writing about plant health. Communication skills go so far beyond public speaking. Learning how to communicate your points can help anyone, but really helps if you pick journalism.”


Sonja Begemann, Farm Journal’s seeds and production editor, says looking back, her early involvement in FFA foreshadowed where her career would end up, and offered a bit of irony.


“My least favorite contest team was the agronomy team, and today everything I do is agronomy related,” Begemann says. “On top of that, my first office was reporter, and even throughout school I continued to write for our newspaper. So, there was some foreshadowing. I remember calling my advisor after my first job selling seed out of college. I said, ‘Hey, do you remember how much I hated agronomy? Well that’s what I do now.’”


Begemann was a member of the Fair Play FFA chapter, served as area 10 state vice president from 2010 to 2011 and won first place individual at the national level in the Dairy Foods Career Development Event.


This love of competition is one thing that has carried her through her career, and after coming in second in districts, she said it taught her that she would only be as successful as she set herself up to be.


“I’m not competitive with coworkers, but with others in the industry,” Begemann says. “I want to cover things better, more in depth and be someone farmers can trust. It’s up to you what you want to do with anything in your life, whether it’s a silly contest or your career.”


Just as Begemann strives to be someone farmers can trust, Rhode has had opportunities within and outside of Farm Journal to be a trustworthy source for consumers.


When her first son Isaac was born, Rhode took a 14-year-hiatus from her career in the agricultural industry. During this time, she took on a new position at an engineering firm in Kansas City, Missouri.


“The biggest thing I learned was working with people who didn’t grow up on a farm and weren’t just like me,” Rhode says. “I became the advocate in the building. So, when anything happened in ag, people came to me. It totally changed my perspective. When we work in ag, we talk about being an advocate, but when I jumped out of ag for my career, I had never been in that position before. I was a trusted source of information in people’s eyes about agriculture.”


According to Rhode, you can tell agriculture’s story no matter where you are if you gain the skills and knowledge to do so, and FFA is a great place to start.

—By Alexa Nordwald Hunziker

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Jul 26 2019

133 Meals Per Minute

Two years ago, the Missouri FFA Association began co-hosting an annual statewide food insecurity day at the Missouri State Fair to package meals for six food banks across the state. Mexico FFA members have participated in this event, as well as a similar one during the Washington Leadership Conference (WLC), which sparked an interest in making a difference within their home county.

Mexico FFA members and other students in the Mexico School District spent President’s Day this year packaging 20,000 meals for the Laura Miller George Help Center to distribute to families in need within Audrain County.


The food insecurity rate in Audrain County is a staggering 23%, and the Mexico School District has numerous students receiving free breakfast and lunch. Kendra Allen, Mexico FFA advisor, explained the need to the FFA members, which inspired them to help make sure other students and their families have food in the evenings and on weekends.


“The school is on a grant so all the elementary [students] up to eighth grade get a free breakfast and lunch,” Allen said. “For a lot of our kids, that’s what they eat in the day. Our chapter didn’t think that was right, so we wanted to help provide the Help Center with additional food so they could give it out a little more freely.”


The Mexico FFA officer team began seeking sponsors for the events in the summer of 2018. Funds donated by numerous local sponsors purchased the materials for the meals through the Meals of Hope program.


“The officer team got all the sponsors, and then we incorporated the middle school ag program and other organizations in the Mexico High School to help us,” Allen said. “The officer team raised enough money to package 20,000 meals!”


Twenty-five Mexico FFA members and nearly 50 other students and volunteers packaged the macaroni and cheese meals. Each included a soy protein packet, fortified noodles, and a cheese packet. The meals contained six servings, making it a large enough portion to feed a family.


All of the local sponsors were printed on t-shirts to recognize their contribution, but the sponsors contributing larger amounts were invited to the event to package meals with the students.


“The ones who came in thought it was a surreal deal,” Allen said. “They didn’t really understand what we were doing when we went and asked for the money at first. But, once they got their hands in there and were packaging meals, they thought it was really cool that we did it, and the kids really wanted to give back to the community.”


Allen described the event as an opportunity for the students to see a different side of each other as they worked in teams throughout the day. To package such a large number of meals in one day, the students had to reach outside their comfort zone. That allowed them to see the impact their hard work was making on their community in need.


“When we loaded all those meals onto the trailer and the trucks to be taken to the Help Center, I think it was a moment of ‘wow, I just helped these people for a couple of days,’” Allen said.


Allen believes the experience opened the eyes of her students, encouraging them to be more supportive of their community members and peers.


While it might have taken only a few hours out of the students’ day off of school, their hard work and inspired hearts made a huge difference within Audrain County. With the support of the Mexico community and the driven mindset of FFA members, the chapter has intentions of making this an annual event.

—by Julie Choate

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Alexandra Gast
Jul 26 2019

Conquer With A Positive Attitude

Alexandra Gast - Secretary

Alexandra Gast – Secretary

As the beginning of the school year is around the corner, a new season of change is upon us. We may think this is just another year, we may not see the potential of a fresh start, or we may be hopeful that this year will bring growth. No matter the situation, or the outlook you have, this can be your year.


Attending FFA camp as a sophomore, I had a few preconceived notions of what to expect. The hot days in the rec hall, the bad food, and the treacherous hike up and down the trail to the waterfront was not something I was looking forward to. I let others decide my attitude going into the week and didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that I had been given.


I tried to fill my time with activities at the waterfront and learning to like the food that was served in the dining hall. My time at Camp Rising Sun was not the greatest and I was ready to go home.


Applications came out for camp the next year and I was not going back. NO WAY and NO HOW. But you see, I forgot one vital detail my first time at camp- I did not earn my leadership medal. I had to go back, open-minded and ready to conquer a challenge.


That year at Camp Rising Sun, I stayed positive. I focused on my goal. I had some fun along the way. FFA Members, this school year will be what you make it. Go in with a positive attitude, ready to conquer a new challenge.


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Learn From Your Life Jacket

Jacob Knaebel - VP

Jacob Knaebel – VP

Watch Out! Those were the last words I heard right as the canoe I was in tipped over sending myself and another FFA member straight into the Lake of the Ozarks. When I woke up on Day 4 of FFA Camp, I never would have guessed that later I would be walking around completely soaked with my brand-new tennis shoes almost ruined. To say the least, things were not going according to my plans that day. As I clung to my life-jacket, bobbing in the water, I could not help but laugh as I realized the campers were never going to let me forget this embarrassing moment.


Throughout our time in FFA, we are always going to try and plan events out perfectly. Whether we plan on winning a contest or receiving an office, all members will undoubtedly experience those days when our plans get turned upside down. Instead of looking at these unexpected times as failures, they should be seen as opportunities to better ourselves.


The next day, despite the embarrassment from my previous attempt, I went back out on the lake. However, this time I was more experienced and knew what not to do in a canoe. Whenever we experience those moments where our plans seem to be ruined, we just have to remember to use our newfound knowledge to better ourselves for the future. To learn from our failures, we must always carry with us an open mind, an optimistic attitude, and in my case a life-jacket.

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Share Your Ag Story

Kaylee Lewis - VP

Kaylee Lewis – VP

Can I take your picture?

This question came from a complete stranger in a car on the side of the road and completely threw me off guard. Why was this stranger so concerned with taking a photo of me? All I was doing was walking my show barrow on his regular path just like any other night. The stranger could see the confusion on my face and proceeded to inform me that she had never seen anyone walk a pig before, and she wanted to show her family this strange sight.

Now I understood; she had never been enlightened about the livestock show industry. Flashing lights started to go off in my mind. Maybe she was not informed about other aspects of the agriculture industry.

As Margaret Fuller once said, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” This random, unplanned road side encounter allowed me to advocate for the agriculture industry in an unconventional way by sharing my story with another individual.

FFA members, this is a prime example that there is no need to wait for the perfect opportunity to advocate for the agriculture industry. Sometimes unplanned moments touch the lives of people more than the “perfect” sales pitch. I encourage you all to not be afraid to talk to the stranger that wonders about your SAE or anything that has to do with the ag industry. We need FFA members like you to share your story and your knowledge—that is how we can make a difference!

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Your Biggest Fear

Tyler Schuster - VP

Tyler Schuster – VP

What’s your biggest fear?

That question was posed way more often than I expected to hear it while I was at FFA Camp this summer. Y’know, it might have been because we kept talking about Paxton’s fear of snakes, which rivals that of Indiana Jones’ snake phobia, but that’s beside the point. The question really hit me, and I was drawn back to the times in my life when my answer was shaped.

As I became involved in high school with sports and clubs and leadership opportunities within FFA, my answer began to form. It really presented itself to me Monday morning before FFA Camp, when I could feel my stomach tighten and the creeping dread over what was to come. Today, my biggest fear is meeting new people and starting conversations.

That might come as a surprise to some people, because 95% of the work I do as a state officer is meeting new members and building connections, but it’s true. Every time I look to a person I haven’t met before, I can feel my chest tighten because I know that the first interaction is going to be uncomfortable and difficult for me. Then, I go up and say hello. And, that makes all the difference.

Everyone has his or her own biggest fear in life, but that fear is not nearly as important as the work you are doing to get past it. I see my fear in the face of every new person I meet. Where do you see yours? And, more importantly, what are you doing to become fearless?

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