2023-2024

Colin McIntyre
Feb 01 2024

Stand Out From the Crowd

Throughout my time in FFA, I participated in several Career Development Events (CDE). During my junior year, I found myself doing a contest that I had never imagined doing. Although I didn’t know what it was and the level of difficulty the Forestry CDE encompassed, I discovered one tree was quite unique during my involvement.  The Chinkapin oak might sound like the average oak tree with its typical tree bark, average height and normal stems, however when looking at its leaf structure one can see how unique it really is. Typical oak leaves are round or pointy lobed, whereas the Chinkapin sets itself apart with sharply pointed leaves. 

 

From time to time we might seem to be like everyone else. However, remember that the Chinkapin oak looks identical to others until you look at its leaves. We might not know exactly what makes us different. I found that I enjoy talking in a British accent, and I love the color pink. As we reflect on ourselves we will discover all that makes us unique. Look at the small things that make you different. It could be the structure of your leaves or your favorite color. It’s okay for you to be different.  

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Lynn Dyer
Jan 02 2024

Go On A Quest

The recent release of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians show on Disney Plus makes me want to listen to Riptide on repeat, start eating exclusively blue foods, and maybe go on an epic quest to save the world. While we definitely won’t be running into minotaurs or furies at any FFA events, our journey in FFA is not so different from Percy’s adventures. FFA is our Camp Half-Blood, and we as members are the demigods of agriculture and leadership. 

Whether it be a spring contest, an office you want to run for, or an SAE you want to start, think of your next project or event in FFA as a quest. There will undoubtedly be roadblocks— metaphorical monsters to face, riddles to solve, and mazes to navigate. Percy wouldn’t have been half the hero he is without the challenges he faced. Likewise, our FFA quests shape us into stronger problem-solvers and leaders.

Being a demigod is far from easy, and for Percy, it comes with high expectations from the Olympian gods, his fellow demigods, his closest friends, and even the monsters he faces. Those expectations cause him to struggle with self-doubt, fear of failure, and the constant pressure to live up to the heroic image others have of him. While this experience looks different for us, our lives are not free from expectations either. 

One of my favorite quotes from the Percy Jackson books is, “If my life is going to mean anything, I have to live it myself.” It will never be possible to please everyone. At the end of the day, it is up to us as individuals to push ourselves, know our limits, and make the choices that are right for us. We are the authors of our own story. There is no prophecy telling us what to do or who to be. Our story is waiting to be written, and it is up to us to make it a tale worthy of Camp Half-Blood.

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Caleb Simpson
Dec 22 2023

Me As An SAE

Why does every FFA member already know the secrets to personal growth?


How could it be that every FFA member already has, somewhere inside of them, all the knowledge needed for personal growth? While there are certainly a nearly infinite number of self-help books, podcasts, or TikToks fighting desperately for what last scraps of cash and/or attention we have left, creating a better world for ourselves—both inside and out—lies within the hands and minds of every FFA member.

Why is that?

As FFA members, we subscribe to the trifecta philosophy of the “Three Circle Model” that makes up agricultural education. For most, the idea of having classroom instruction, FFA involvement, and an ever-improving SAE is familiar territory that has been experienced firsthand. In my mind, the core tenets of any self-improvement that students wish to make can be seen in how they improve their SAE. 

As we create an SAE and watch it grow a life of its own, many of us ask ourselves: how can I make this thing better? Oftentimes this seemingly innocent question quickly becomes difficult to answer. A lack of funding, time, or space can all be major roadblocks to improving our project—just as they can be to improving ourselves. 

While both are incredibly frustrating, many FFA members over the years have discovered three questions that have led them to overcoming these obstacles—in projects and in life:

  1. What do I need to keep doing?
  2. What can I do better at?
  3. What do I need to stop doing?

For the first of these, it is essential that no matter what growth we want to see as people—such as learning to become a better speaker, building better relationships, or reducing day-to-day anxieties—we should first pat ourselves on the back for what we are doing well. Using our example of speaking, don’t let yourself get down over a speech that runs too long while overlooking the positive tone of your voice during that time. 

You have to start somewhere. Start by acknowledging the things that are working so far.

Second, we can build off of what we do well by identifying the things that we could do better at. This is the time when we can start to be gently critical of ourselves. Someone looking to create a more meaningful relationship with a person or group might find him or herself noticing that they aren’t the quickest to reply to texts or emails, which could be leading to their weakened relationship. By identifying the essential things that they are already doing that could be done better, this person can commit to a solution—easily bettering themselves in the process.

Our final question for ourselves is often the hardest: what do I need to stop doing?

Whenever we go to better ourselves, most of our actions are done with the best intentions; however, at a certain point, it is only rational to acknowledge that some of these aren’t working. As much as we wish and pray otherwise, we are limited to only 24 hours in a day. Our time, our mental and physical resources are all finite, and we need to be able to allocate them in the best way possible. Just as someone who invests money into an unprofitable part of an entrepreneurship SAE is most likely wasting their efforts, so too can our self-improvement efforts be better targeted. If you are someone who is trying to gain muscle in the gym and doing the same exercise day after day without results, the rational thing to do is to stop doing that exercise. By finding what efforts may be less effective, we free up our valuable time to work on ourselves in another way.

Altogether, these three questions can serve as guides to us, not only to produce premier projects, but to catapult ourselves forward into the best teammates, friends, and bright-minded individuals that we were born to be.

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Lilly Weber
Dec 22 2023

Keep Air In Your Tires

Lily Weber

As Joyce Meyer once said, “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.” Flat tires are not the way to start any day. It delays you and ruins your plans for the day. It also affects other people, too, because it could make you late for a meeting or even just the start to your day. 

 

It takes only seconds for a tire to go flat, but to change out the tire and repair it takes several minutes. The same can be said about a bad attitude. It only takes one little thing going wrong to put you in a bad mood. Which might take just seconds like the tire going flat.Also like a tire, a bad attitude delays you and even in some cases ruins your day. Just like a tire makes you late, a bad attitude affects the people around you. By having a bad attitude you are bringing down the people around you. When you are part of a team such as in sports, it helps to get the win when you have confidence and a positive attitude. When you are working on a project, if it is not going the way you want, sit back and try looking at it from another angle. Do not let it get you down, frustrated, or give up. These are all ways to bring your group’s attitude down. With these things in the way, the project does not get finished. We all know that one time we might be excited to do something or go somewhere, but someone else was not, and it changed our mood. Bad attitudes are contagious. How do we fix this bad attitude? We fix it the same way we fix a flat tire. We change it out for a new one. While it might take a few minutes to change our attitude, once we do we are back up and ready to go! So remember, if you have a flat tire or a bad attitude, change it for you and those around you. It will only take a few seconds to put a smile on your face, and share it with others.  

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Caleb Simpson
Nov 28 2023

What Does Presence Mean to You?

Do you ever finish a conversation, maybe with a friend, a parent, or a teacher—and then immediately realize that you can’t remember what was actually just said? Physically, you were right there and you wanted to be there… but inside, you weren’t. For me, this might be because my mind is on an upcoming chemistry test, maybe an SAE-related epiphany, or maybe I’m laser-focused on what I might have for breakfast tomorrow. These little distractions can come in all sorts of funky shapes and sizes but they all have one thing in common: they keep us from truly enjoying the present.

It’s very frustrating but it’s also curable.

In my experience, the best way to combat this is simple awareness. Be aware of whenever your mind wanders. Notice the things that distract you and release them just for a moment, bringing your focus back to what is around you. If you really want to see change, give yourself a little reward, a piece of candy or a mental pat on the back, each time you succeed.

We can all say this, but to experience it is another thing altogether. As 20th century novelist and poet Hermann Hess once stated, “Wisdom cannot be imparted. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate it and teach it.”

So go outside! Run through the woods, the fields, down the sidewalks, and notice the world around you. Let the heavy things in life go, if for just a short while, and practice the art of being present. Learn to extract the joy from all of life’s moments, little or big. 

My friend, find what presence means to you.

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Noah Graham
Nov 10 2023

Chase. Your. Dreams.

Noah Graham

As I write today, I am reminded of a long held dream of mine. To put it into context, I am writing this post from the cab of a brand-new 2023 John Deere 8r 410. Now to most people, this might not seem like much, but for me, it’s an amazing experience. Ever since I was a little kid, tractors have always amazed me. There’s something about them that evokes a feeling of sheer joy.

I remember going into our local convenience store and always snagging the newest version of the Tractor House magazine. As I rode around in the farm truck with my father and grandfather, I would recreate the all-too familiar “wish list” that everybody makes, even the older people that claim they don’t. What I didn’t understand was that every item on my wish list had about five too many numbers beside the word price. Nonetheless, I kept on circling and telling dad, “Look I found a good deal!” over and over again, to which he would say, “Good job, son,” and go about his business. 

When we are young, we constantly see things that attract our attention. If it attracts us enough, a dream is then implanted within our minds. It doesn’t matter if that dream has a half a million dollar price tag, we still pursue it. As we grow up, a little thing called reality begins to set in and we are almost immediately filled with doubt, fear, and uncertainty. I for one, know this happens, as it has happened to me time and time again. But then I have moments such as these, where that childish spark is lit inside me, and I am reminded to continue chasing my dreams, no matter how impossible they might seem. 

Reading about my tractor experience might not connect directly with you, but nonetheless you have had a dream. Whether it was when you were little or even now, every person in this world has had a dream—something that we dearly yearn for, but seems so very far away. As I write this today, I am presenting a challenge to you. No matter what the price tag is, never give up on your dreams. As I leave you, I would like to include one of my favorite quotes. It states, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Oscar Wilde 

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Kiley Mattson
Nov 04 2023

Don’t Be Afraid to Grow

Kiley Mattson

One of my favorite TV shows is the 90’s classic, Boy Meets World. I love watching the main character Cory and his best friend Shawn get into all kinds of trouble only to be steered straight by one of their teachers/principle, Mr. George Finney. George always has the most wise advice to give these boys when they find themselves with problems they don’t know how to solve. One of my favorite Finney quotes is this: 

“If you let others dictate your behavior, you will never grow as a person.”
– George Finney

We all want to be liked, accepted, part of a group, and oftentimes we let the fear of isolation or rejection influence the ways we act. It’s not always easy to be ourselves when we’re afraid of rejection or ridicule. But life isn’t easy, making the right choices isn’t easy, and growing as a person is NEVER easy. Ease is a luxury that no leader has. Instead, it’s hard work, uncomfortable situations, and vulnerability that help us grow as individuals and leaders. And if we let others dictate our behavior, we won’t get to experience that growth. So follow the wise direction of Mr. George Finney and don’t be afraid to grow. 

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Lynn Dyer
Nov 01 2023

Changing Leaves

Autumn nearly upon us means pumpkin spice lattes, Halloween, listening to Red (Taylor’s Version) on repeat, and changing leaves. 

Much like the leaves all around us, as my senior year started, I felt like everything was changing. Our school day was extended by 15 minutes, changing the entire bell schedule. We got a new high school principal and a new ag teacher. Class without the previous year’s seniors was not the same. On top of these changes, it was time to start making important decisions like where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to do with my life. It all felt a little overwhelming.

As the school year began, I was reluctant to accept these changes. I missed the old schedule, and more importantly, my ag teacher, Ms. Taylor, who was now hours away. Things were different, and I did not want them to change.

Change can be tough. It is so easy to stick to what we know and are comfortable with, to never try anything new. Scary as it might be, without change, we would never grow. New experiences are often for the better. In just a few short weeks, my new ag teacher, Mrs. Chaney, has taught me a lot and brought countless new ideas to my school’s ag program that we otherwise would have missed out on. The new bell schedule I initially disliked has made it easier to get to class on time, and being without the past seniors has helped me branch out and make new friends.

To learn and grow, we have to be willing to adapt and keep an open mind to new people, ideas, and opportunities — all which might impact us for the better. Rather than fearing change, we should embrace it with the same enthusiasm as a child jumping into a pile of freshly raked leaves.

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Oct 11 2023

Keep Climbing Your Courage Ladder

Owen Neely

When I was eight years old, my family took a trip to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. After hours of uneventful driving over the Plains of western Kansas, we were thrilled to finally see the majestic peaks of the Rockies upon arriving at our first stop: Rocky Mountain National Park. As soon as we parked our little camper and took a stroll around the campsite, it felt as if we were enveloped in miles of green forest and striking views, something starkly different than the Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri. Abundant wildlife was everywhere in sight, from coyotes and elk to falcons and sheep. 

After we spent a few days exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, my family loaded everything up into our camper and traveled eight hours to Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado. Although Mesa Verde was very different from the first national park we visited on our trip, it was still an extraordinary place to behold. In the winding rock valleys of Mesa Verde National Park, thousands of adobe houses were built into the sides of the canyons. Hundreds of years before the National Park was established, the Native Americans used earthen bricks and mud to construct these square-shaped houses, which are still standing today.

As the summer heat descended on the plateau where the national park stood, my family decided to take a tour of an adobe settlement to cool off and explore the history of the adobe buildings. During the tour, we were all amazed to see the intricate designs within the houses, as well as how many of them were constructed in the canyon. When it was time to head back to our campsite, the tour guide instructed us that we would be taking a different route. Instead of taking the stairs like we had before, our only way back to the top was a ladder dangling precariously from the canyon.

When I saw the ladder with my eyes, I was immediately filled with fear. Only a weak mesh net stood behind the rungs, meaning that one tiny misstep could lead to disastrous consequences. I was absolutely terrified of heights at that age, and I begged my mom and dad to head back up the stairs we had gone down before. They told me to be brave, and climb up the ladder, even though I’m sure they were a little bit afraid themselves.

Getting on the first rung of the ladder was terrifying beyond belief. What if I stopped mid-climb and couldn’t bear to go any further? What if someone above me halted the entire line of people? What if the ladder snapped in half with the weight of everyone climbing up it? These questions clouded my mind and made it so hard to take the first step. However, with the encouragement of my mom and dad, I kept climbing the ladder that led to the top. There was only one way to get out of the canyon, so I would just have to keep climbing. The sways and creaks of the ladders were hard to ignore, but I tried focusing on taking it one step at a time. Every gradual move had to be an achievement; otherwise, I would not be encouraged to continue climbing.

FFA members, we encounter many of challenges in everyday life, and some of them are more daunting than others. It is my hope that none of us face challenges that rock us to our core, but life is unpredictable in many ways. Regardless of how big our challenges are, the only choice we have is to attack these challenges without fear. Step-by-step, breath-by-breath, and never looking back, we can reach the top of any ladder we are forced to climb.

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Colin McIntyre
Sep 20 2023

Find your Chocolate Ice Cream

I LOVE chocolate ice cream, so much so that when I go to the store, there is only one brand I eat. If they do not have that brand, I convince myself I did not want or need the ice cream in the first place. The last time this happened, I was sitting in Walmart telling myself I did not want the Blue Bell chocolate ice cream. I knew I wanted the ice cream, and I wanted it bad. But I told myself I didn’t. I talked myself out of it because, conveniently, it was not available. To me, the other options were simply not good enough. Although it might not be chocolate ice cream, I see this happening in my day-to-day life. I tell myself I do not want to do something even though I want to so badly. 

 

This comes to life for each of us in FFA. As young members, we tell  ourselves, “Oh, I do not want to get involved.” Using phrases like, “I don’t need it,”or, “It won’t have a use in my life,” or my personal favorite, “Well, I don’t want to be a farmer.” We tell ourselves these negative thoughts so that maybe, just maybe, we will convince ourselves into doing something we don’t want to do. I have done it a thousand times at the grocery store, telling myself, “I don’t even want chocolate ice cream.” Whether we are just starting out in the organization or continuing our FFA careers, we are fortunate enough to have the opportunities laid out in front of us. All the ice cream flavors of opportunity and all of the brands are at our fingertips, we just have to put them in our shopping carts. So next time you find yourself looking for the same brand and flavor of ice cream, challenge yourself to try something new. Who knows? You might discover your new favorite flavor.

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