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Inside MO FFA

Alumni Spotlight: Garrett Hawkins

Meet Garrett Hawkins, former Missouri FFA state vice president, and now Missouri’s Deputy Director of Agriculture.

Past Missouri FFA member Garrett Hawkins is a smalltown Missouri boy who likes to run, hunt and work on the farm. Sound familiar?


One distinction you’ll find is that this farm boy also works to protect Missouri’s nearly 100,000 farms through his position as deputy director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.


As deputy director, Hawkins works with the director of agriculture, Chris Chinn, to oversee daily operations for MDA by protecting and promoting agriculture and serving farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and consumers.


“No two days are alike when you serve in a leadership role in MDA,” Hawkins says. “In any given day we are juggling multiple issues ranging from fuel quality to international trade.”


Although he enjoys his work, Hawkins admits that some parts of the job can be challenging.


Striking a balance between the state’s many needs is one challenge he encounters often. Conflicts arise from differing opinions, even from those within the agriculture industry. He and his team overcome this through listening to all opinions and studying laws and regulations.


“I always like to say that when we make a decision, we have weighed all options and done everything we can to make an informed decision,” Hawkins said.


This ability to work with people and handle challenges began with leadership positions he took on in high school, one of which was becoming chapter president of his local FFA chapter.

“Serving in leadership roles helped me build my character and become more skilled at bringing people together for a common purpose,” Hawkins says. “I owe FFA a lot for showing me leadership and communication and giving me the confidence to pursue leadership opportunities.”


One of the leadership opportunities he was empowered to pursue was becoming a Missouri FFA State Officer in 1998. His role as first vice president allowed him to further develop his public speaking and interpersonal skills, but most  important, it gave him a taste of what he could help others accomplish by stepping up as a leader.


“In my parents’ house in a closet I still have letters I received from FFA members throughout my year of service; being able to encourage them left an imprint on me,” Hawkins says. “I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back; it’s just so neat to see the impact students can have when they step into leadership roles in FFA. You can’t underestimate the impact that one FFA member can have on others when you show them you care. Every FFA member is in a position to lift someone up. You don’t have to have a title by your name.”


His thirst for leadership continued into college where he became a student ambassador and later interned for Missouri Farm Bureau.

That one internship paid off because in the fall of 2002, he was brought on full time with Missouri Farm Bureau.


“Our members will say that they helped raise me because when I joined the team, I was 22 and they saw me grow through the years in my career and personal life,” says Hawkins. “I learned so much in my 14 years on staff and truly honed my passion for agriculture. I loved working on issues that affect farmers, ranchers and rural communities.”


Although Hawkins found his passion while in school, when he began college, his goal was to become a high school ag teacher. However, he soon realized his skill set was better suited elsewhere. In 2002, he graduated from Missouri State University with a degree in agricultural business.


This degree change didn’t stop him from being involved in the organization he loved. Hawkins has been deeply involved with the Missouri HYPE and HYMAX academies through giving workshops to FFA members.


“I love working with high school students and helping them realize the importance of advocacy and understand issues that affect their families and communities,” Hawkins says. “I want to help build their knowledge and confidence, so they can join the conversation.”


This passion for Missouri ag policy was brought even closer to home when Hawkins, his wife Jennifer Hawkins and his children Adelyn, Colton and Tate, moved home to Hawkins’s family farm in Appleton City, Missouri, two years ago.


“Now that we’re actually living and working on the farm, that’s important to me,” Hawkins says. “I like working on the farm when I’m home and spending time with my wife and kids.”


He hopes to instill a love for working on the farm in his children, just as he and his wife had on their individual family farms.


“My passion for ag has been lifelong,” Hawkins says. “All of my extended family farms for a living. That lifelong passion is there because we’ve lived and breathed it every day.”


His ultimate hope is that those in agricultural leadership roles today can continue to pave the way for the next generation.


“We often talk about the challenges in our industry but there is tremendous opportunity ahead,” Hawkins says. “Our neighbors need us. Our communities need us. I’m always optimistic about the future of agriculture and am excited to know we have a great crop of enthusiastic, skilled young people to push this industry forward.”


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Stand Out SAEs

Riley Tade (right), a member of the Ashland FFA Chapter, earned honors as a national finalist in the goat production proficiency award area at the 2018 National FFA Convention. He said he learned the value of record keeping, hard work and setting goals through his Supervised Agricultural Experience project.

For many FFA members, their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) can create a pathway to their future endeavors, as well as lead to nationally recognized success.


Eleven Missouri FFA members were selected as national proficiency finalists and competed at the National FFA Convention in October. How did those members establish and grow their SAE projects to reach top honors? We caught up with some of this year’s national finalists. Read on as they explain how they built and managed their award winning SAE projects.



From the Ashland FFA Chapter, Riley Tade was a national finalist in goat production. Tade’s SAE focuses on raising market wethers to sell to other 4-H and FFA members. His project began with seven does that were purchased to clean up brush and sell for meat.


Tade began exhibiting his goats, which led him to change bloodlines and focus on raising a higher-quality animal. His herd has grown to 15 Boer-cross does and 10 Kiko does. With the change in genetics and direction in his herd, he is able to sell his goats for a profit.


“Once people have seen the goats that I show and sell, it has made it easier to market them,” he said. Tade explained the importance of keeping records to track progress, setting goals and working hard to achieve those goals to build a successful SAE.


In addition, he said it is key to listen and learn from other people who are knowledgeable in their SAE area.


“I would work to find a mentor in the area of your SAE and see if they will help you,” Tade explained. “Adults are very willing to help a kid that they see is committed and willing to work hard.”


A strong support system is also key.


Tade said his FFA advisors and parents helped him reach his goals. He has learned to always strive to improve his SAE through monitoring buying trends and then meeting those with a desirable animal. He encourages other FFA members to have fun with their SAE and meet people that will help them achieve their goals.


“Find an SAE that involves something you have a passion for,” Tade explained. “When you love what you are doing, it does not seem like work, and you will put more effort into it.”



Santa Fe FFA member Jacob Dierking plans to continue growing his Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project in the future as he enters production agriculture as his career. He was a 2018 national finalist in the grain production proficiency award area.

Jacob Dierking, a senior from the Santa Fe FFA Chapter, was a national proficiency finalist in grain production. His SAE began when he was given the opportunity to rent a field from his neighbor. He grew corn on the field and has since expanded his corn crop to 86 acres. The money he earned was used to purchase needed farm machinery including two tractors and other essential farm implements, to help produce the crop.



“I have a passion for farming, and that is what I enjoy spending my time doing,” Dierking said.


In addition, Dierking said his SAE taught him to work hard to achieve his goals, which he believes is the first step to building a successful SAE.


“Whether your goals are big or small, it helps to always have something to look “toward and build upon,” Dierking said.


Dierking said he dedicated a lot of time to his SAE and took advantage of opportunities that helped him expand his project. He encourages new FFA members to try different areas when beginning their SAE, finding a project they enjoy. Doing so will hopefully help them create an SAE that can transform into future plans, which has been the case for Dierking.


“I plan to expand my SAE into my life career of farming after I attend a two-year college,” he explained.



Grace Box, from the Neosho FFA Chapter, raises mums for her SAE project.

Neosho FFA member Grace Box chose to raise mums for her Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) because it was a unique project. With the help of social media, she’s expanded her business to include customers in neighboring states.

A 2018 national finalist in the specialty crop proficiency award, Box grows Belgium hardy mums and markets them through her business called “Gracie’s Mums.” Box began by growing 100 mums in six different color varieties. Her business has now expanded to 400 mums in four different color varieties based on the previous year’s demand.


“I would not be where I am right now without my family, agriculture teachers, friends and my towns support,” BoxBox’s customers have helped her business blossom. A Facebook page helps with advertising needs. She has followers not only from the Neosho area, but also from Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.


Box thought raising mums would be a unique SAE since no one else in her chapter had the project. She advises young FFA members to think outside the box and choose a project that helps set him or her apart. Members should then stay committed to their projects because it will be worth it in the end.


“My SAE has taught me how to take care of things and how to grow a successful business,” Box said. “It has helped me with my people skills and how to have salesmanship.”

–by Alison Bos-Lovins

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Tips from Missouri’s Top Chapters

From planning to creating activities that encourage member and community involvement, both Marshall and Paris FFA Chapters know what it takes to be among National FFA’s top chapters.


Both chapters will be recognized for their efforts as Model of Excellence finalists this month at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. Marshall is also a premier chapter in the growing leaders category.


Paris FFA works to create activities that compliment National FFA’s Model of Excellence component of the National Chapter Award program. Activities such as Bacon Math Fun, Old Timer Barnwarming and Paris FFA Aggie Days are some examples of their events. Advisor Josh Bondy said chapters should find a need, create an activity and ask members what they are passionate about.


Plus, community support is key to the chapter’s success. According to advisor Jaelyn Peckman, their community is the backbone of their chapter because of its constant support and guidance.


“We are very thankful for our community support, and we realize this support makes new opportunities possible for our chapter,” she said.


Marshall FFA Advisor Tyler Burgin recommends chapters put a unique spin on activities already planned. He said doing so adds impact and reaches more people. Plus, both he and advisor Emily Reed said including officers and members in the planning and implementation of chapter activities is key to planning successful chapter activities.


“This is a student-led organization, and students take more pride in themselves and the chapter when they have to do something on their own,” Reed said.


—Story by Alison Bos-Lovins

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Dialed In On Dairy

Concordia FFA member Austin Freund remembers when he was a youngster following his dad around their family dairy operation.

“My dad has taught me the management practices needed to start and run my own dairy operation,” Austin says.

Austin began his dairy operation with two cows and two heifers. Growing his Supervised Agricultural Experience program helped him become a national finalist in the Dairy Production Entrepreneurship proficiency award area.

“Today, my wide array of responsibilities include removing manure from lots and spreading it on the fields where crops have been removed, moving cattle, vaccinating my cows, managing free stalls and harvesting hay,” he explains.

Growing his project hasn’t been easy. Austin says limited resources have made it challenging. The family operates a closed herd, choosing to not purchase animals outside the farm. To expand his project, Austin purchased some cows from his father and uncle. He’s also kept 100 percent of his heifer calves.

“From 2014 through 2016, my operating profit margin was higher than in 2017,” Austin explains. “Even though my herd numbers had increased, the milk prices were considerably lower, thus decreasing my profits. The increase required me to rent more acres for the production of feed for the additional cows, thus increasing my expenses while milk prices were already low.”

An exchange of labor plan with his father and uncle helped Austin defray some of his expenses.

Among the greatest accomplishments for his SAE are improving heat detection in both the heifers and cows and implementing a clean environment for his cattle by using fresh sand in the farm’s free stalls. He also implemented an intensive grazing system to help better utilize the farm’s pastures.

“When I first started managing the pastures (with intensive grazing three years ago), I hoped it would prove beneficial for my heifers,” Austin says. “I have noticed using intensive grazing the pastures grew more quickly, and the heifers are able to grow without being fed as much feed.”

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Research Worth Rewards

This year, nine Missouri FFA members will be recognized Oct. 24-27 as finalists in the Agriscience Fair at the National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. The National FFA Agriscience Fair recognizes student researchers studying the application of agricultural scientific principles and emerging technologies in agricultural enterprises.


Here’s an inside look at the projects from two of this year’s finalists.

Daryin Sharp – Bolivar FFA

Daryin Sharp, is a finalist in Animal Systems, Division 5, of the National FFA Agriscience Fair. Studying the effect of growth implants on nursing beef calves, Daryin aimed to determine if the use of growth hormone implants were more profitable in getting calves to a target market weight compared to not using growth implants.


Daryin’s experiment compared the use of Ralgro and Elanco implants. His results showed calves implanted with Ralgro will reach a target weight in a more timely manner. Results were shared with area producers and veterinarians.


“Producers and the industry will benefit from weaning calves that come out of the cow-calf operations at a higher weight and will have fewer days on feed in the feedlots by reaching a slaughter weight more rapidly,” he explained in his experiment conclusion. “This information will allow the U.S. to continue to be the world’s largest producer of beef because we are implementing practices the allow beef producers to remain profitable.”


Isaiah Massey – Troy

Finding more ways to effectively and efficiently grow food and meet the needs of the growing population is a challenge. In preparing for his experiment on biochar emissions, Isaiah Massey first pondered the most effective soil remedy that could minimize the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.


During his experiment, he took four different types of plants: tomato, bell pepper, marigold and dusty miller. Using his FFA chapter’s greenhouse, Isaiah filled four, four-inch pots with different soil types consisting of biochar, garden soil and promix.


In the end, Isaiah discovered that the plants potted in biochar soil released 400 to 600 parts per million less carbon emissions compared to the prolix and the garden soil that emitted a substantial amount of carbon dioxide.


“Farmers and garden growers can become enlightened about the benefits of biochar as a carbon capture,” Isaiah explained in his conclusion. “Through the use of biochar, farmers can be able to not only reduce their carbon footprint, but they can increase their yields because of the amount of carbon the soil captures beneath the ground which then is used by the crops to concentrate their growth rates and can increase their yields.”



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Foraging For First

From precision farming techniques to fertility management, producing high quality hay is what drives Hannah Strain’s supervised agricultural experience (SAE) to success. She’s one of four finalists in the forage production proficiency award area at the National FFA Convention next month in Indianapolis.


A member of the Rolla FFA chapter, Hannah’s SAE includes working for Elk Prairie Farms LLC, a beef cattle operation that focuses on forage production.


“High quality production is vital to the entire farm,” she explains. “We use precision farming techniques and apply our fertility in different than normal application windows to favor superior species in our grazing and hay production management.”


Hannah says her SAE has provided her a learning experience to see and practice the techniques for producing a quality product while still maintaining quantity.


“I have been tasked with jobs like forage assessment, evaluating seasonal growth of warm and cool season grasses, soil assessment, all aspects of hay production, and the marketing of our forage product,” she explains.


Hannah works with customers across the state and takes pride in producing a quality product. She also maintains a positive working relationship with landowners who they lease ground from as well as  local ag businesses who help carry out the farm’s operations.


“Customer service and sales is vital to my future in the agriculture industry,” Hannah says. “Focusing on a career in agricultural advocacy and promotion, I have taken every opportunity to visit with agriculture businesses, customers, local farmers and others to further my communication skills. Learning these valuable skills will help with my future career of communicating with people all across the agriculture industry.”



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Pork Profits

Pierce City FFA member Brenden Kleiboeker has been involved with swine production his entire life. Yet, it was FFA that helped the young ag producer get paid for his responsibilities on his family’s Mineral Valley Farms, a diversified crop and livestock farm in southwest Missouri. Each year, the farm raises approximately 1,000 all natural, antibiotic free market hogs. His responsibilities include checking pigs daily, balancing rations, grinding and mixing feed, and treating health problems. He’s also involved in repairs and preventive maintenance of all swine equipment and buildings on the farm.


Brenden’s involvement in the operation has paid off; he’s one of four finalists up for the swine production proficiency placement award at the National FFA Convention next month in Indianapolis, Indiana. Agricultural Proficiency Awards honor FFA members who, through supervised agricultural experiences, have developed specialized skills that they can apply toward their future careers.


Nationally, students can compete for awards in nearly 50 areas ranging from agricultural communications to wildlife management. Proficiency awards are also recognized at local and state levels and provide recognition to members that are exploring and becoming established in agricultural career pathways.


In life, Brenden says he views every challenge as a chance to learn, and the same has held true for his Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE).


“As a placement SAE, I feel that I have an even greater responsibility in solving these problems as I am responsible for another’s business and profits,” Brenden explains.


As a market hog finishing operation for Niman Ranch, Mineral Valley Farms is charged with following the company’s protocols for ensuring meat quality.


“Meat quality is important for every swine farmer, but perhaps more important for Mineral Valley Farms as meat quality is the basis of our pay,” he says.


Brenden determines which hogs had the best yield grade and marbling based off of a kill sheet provided at market time. He’s also discovered through on-farm scales how to more accurately feed their hogs for proper weight and days of age. The end result has increased the back fat on the hogs and ultimately led to higher premiums for Mineral Valley Farms.


“Working with others is a vital skill for any career,” Brenden says. “Through discussions with our field representative, I have utilized many lifelong skills when sharing my ideas and listening to theirs.”



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Digging Deep

Republic FFA begins land restoration project

by Jera Pipkin


Just as crops are growing in the field, Republic FFA members are inside the classroom learning what it takes to run a sustainable row crop operation.


An opportunity cropped up when school administrators reached out to the FFA chapter for help.


“Our administrators were looking for a better way to take care of the land in front of our new high school,” said David Mareth, agriculture instructor and FFA advisor at Republic High School. “They came to us for help.”


For years, the FFA chapter had taken hay off of the extra land, Mareth said. However, administrators within the district were looking for more. Yet, if the FFA chapter was going to spend time restoring the land, they wanted it to be self-sustainable and profitable.

With 45 acres of open ground, Republic FFA began by no-tilling wheat into the soil to enhance the landscape surrounding the high school. Mareth explained how the students are working to manage the project and will eventually reap the benefits of what they sow.


Intertwining with the curriculum for Agricultural Science II, instructor and FFA advisor Ciara DeClue has enjoyed interacting with the students and encouraging their growth during the process. The project has sparked interest, and students are eager to learn.


“The kids are really excited,” DeClue said. “I am excited to see what it will grow into and how we will sell our product to farmers.”


DeClue explained how students will learn the process of restoring the land from poor to rich soil. The soil is in undesirable condition because of extensive excavation of the ground from when the high school was built.


From figuring out what to plant and when to plant it, to crop rotations, soil samples, Environmental Protection Agency studies, and waterway research, students are receiving the full experience, Mareth said. With the capability for hands-on learning, the project will continually give back to students in the chapter.


Additionally, they have created a two-year plan, budget, and profit margin analysis for their enterprise. This will give the students the confidence and knowledge to run an enterprise of their own one day, Mareth explained.


Currently, a local alumnus is assisting the chapter in spraying, cultivating, planting and harvesting the crop, Mareth said. The alumnus is donating his machinery and time to the project. Yet, the students’ work still comes in to play, providing the local alumnus with amounts for pesticide and seeds per acre and calculating potential harvest. Relying on producers in the area has allowed them to use resources to get their feet on the ground, he said.


“Having someone running it like it is their own will allow us to continue to plan while meeting the needs of the administration,” Mareth explained. “Any profit we make will go back into the next crop, making this a completely self-sustainable process.”


Looking to the future, the chapter plans to institute a wheat-soybean crop rotation. DeClue said once the soil is restored completely, they will then plant warm season grasses to harvest for a hay crop to sell to local farmers.


“I hope that students will experience a full rotation of crop,” DeClue added. “This will allow students to see the process all the way through.”


On a larger scale, Mareth said, the chapter will eventually purchase equipment. Once established, the chapter will be able to harvest for profit, giving the students a visual of how hard work truly pays off.


Additionally, other areas surrounding the high school will go into supporting the land restoration project and agriculture department. Mareth described future plans for starting a school herd of livestock. Students would then be able to conduct trials on the livestock using hay harvested on the school ground, while also using the manure to fertilize. Plans to establish a rotational grazing program are also on the horizon. That would allow students to see the process full circle and use their knowledge in other areas of crop and grassland management.


“This is only the first step in expanding the presence of our agriculture program on campus,” Mareth said. “Our administrators are excited about what we are doing.”


Mareth said administrators are raving about the results from the land restoration project results thus far. They enjoy that it is relevant, practical and real-world.


“The school is getting everything they wanted done, plus it is providing pride and education back into our agricultural program,” Mareth said.


While both Mareth and DeClue agree that the project hasn’t sunk in with students yet, they know chapter members are learning and growing alongside the crops they have planted. Once the students are able to see something in the field, Mareth and DeClue believe they will really see the process come to life.


“I think this can build excitement for the program because they can see what we are doing for the school and that they have an impact here,” DeClue said.



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Skills to Last a Lifetime

Alumni Spotlight: Catching up with Doug Kueker

By Alison Bos-Lovins

Doug Kueker, Missouri FFA Alumnus

What has FFA taught you?


For alumnus Doug Kueker, his time in the National FFA Organization provided him with life lessons, skills and opportunities he uses every day in his career.


“My experience in the classroom, laboratory and through FFA helped me develop the skills and character traits everyone needs to be successful – communication, being a team player, positively influencing others, time management, responsibility and more,” Kueker said.


Kueker grew up on a small cow-calf and row crop farm in Sweet Springs, Missouri. He was very active in his FFA chapter, served as Missouri FFA President and was later selected as a National FFA Officer.


Serving as a state and national officer taught Kueker to respect the value of diversity and to seek to understand differences before jumping to conclusions. He was beyond honored to be selected by his peers to represent other FFA members at the state and national levels.


“Both of these humbling experiences broadened my perspective about the diversity of the agriculture, food, and natural resource industry in Missouri, as well as across the U.S.,” he explained.


Kueker’s journey as a state and national officer led him to experiences that he will never forget. His favorite experience as a state officer was traveling the state to Greenhand leadership conferences with his fellow state officers. He enjoyed working with young FFA members and helping them set goals for their career and leadership development. Kueker recalls hearing progress from students he worked with a few years later, which he said was a very rewarding feeling.


His experience as a national officer was also an inspiring venture for Kueker. He was humbled to represent members on a national level and see the passion members had for FFA.


“Traveling to different chapters across the state of South Dakota during FFA Week was one of my favorite experiences as a national officer,” Kueker explained. “Experiencing the enthusiasm FFA members have for the organization and for the future of agriculture firsthand was inspiring.”


Kueker admits that being a state and national officer was hard work. It required passion and drive. He explained that to earn the right to represent other FFA members in this capacity, one should be prepared to spend time investing in building the knowledge and skills it takes to lead effectively.


“Take time to reflect on what you have gained from FFA and why you feel it is important to encourage other FFA members to pursue their own development through the organization,” he said.


In addition to his FFA honors, Kueker received his agricultural education degree from the University of Missouri. After graduation, he worked for the National FFA Organization, where he created curriculum for national student conferences such as the Washington Leadership Conference. Additionally, he generated curriculum for professional development experiences for agricultural teachers. Kueker obtained a master’s degree in education from Purdue University and recently completed his PhD in Information Science and Learning Technologies from the University of Missouri.


Through his accomplishments, Kueker credits the FFA organization for shaping his future. Plus, he said FFA taught him that hard work and perseverance pay off.


“FFA helped me set goals and explore and discover my passions and talents,” Kueker said.


He has a passion for learning new things and developing others. An entrepreneur, Kueker took his passion and turned it into a successful business. His company, Vivayic, designs effective learning programs and educational materials that equip individuals with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to be successful. It offers services such as learning strategy and analysis; curriculum and program design; education program evaluation; and e-learning and content delivery.


“Simply put, my company Vivayic helps build others’ capacity to do good in the world,” Kueker said. “A majority of our work is with organizations who are striving to ensure a safe and sustainable food supply to feed the world, as well as groups and organizations who are working to make the K-16 education system more relevant and effective.”


Kueker continues to support the FFA organization today. He volunteers to help Missouri FFA organize and conduct national officer candidate interviews each year. He also works with FFA members at HYMAX academy and with area officers at the Area Officer Institute at Camp Rising Sun each summer. Plus, he and his wife, Emily, enjoy working with members of local chapters to help them prepare for contests and other FFA events.


Kueker advises FFA members to step outside their comfort zones. He encourages members to do that contest they do not think they can do. Additionally, he said FFA members should sign up to be on a committee to organize a chapter FFA event. He also charges members to interact with others at conventions or camps and bring back new ideas to their chapter.


“You’ll never know how much you are capable of until you step out of your comfort zone,” Kueker said.

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They Make a Difference

Ag Teachers share passion for the industry — and their students

By Alison Bos-Lovins

Looking for a career in agriculture where you can make a difference in the lives of others? As the industry faces a national shortage of agricultural educators, those in the field share why they teach ag and why they want to see students succeed.


Agricultural education teachers share a common passion — to teach students about the importance of agriculture and see their students succeed.


Even though some instructors have years of experience and others are just starting their careers, agricultural educators understand their importance. They embrace the reality of a nationwide shortage of agricultural educators and know that more people need to consider agricultural education as a career.


Jarred Sayre, agricultural education instructor at Milan High School, has been teaching for 22 years. Sayre wants to instill hard work, dedication, and a passion for agriculture in his students.


“Agriculture education is so important because as a society we are growing further away from the farm,” Sayre said. “We live in a society that does not understand where our food comes from, the steps it takes to get it to the store, and the hard work put in by all facets of agriculture.”


Seeing his students succeed is one of the most rewarding aspects of Sayre’s job.


Another veteran teacher, Jason Dieckhoff, has been teaching at the Cass Career Center in Harrisonville for 15 years. He also hopes to instill the importance of agriculture in his students and teach skills needed in today’s workforce. Dieckhoff helps develop youth into productive and active participants in the future of the industry by implementing a well-balanced program for students to receive the full agricultural education experience.


“We need agriculture education so the future in our industry not only has the necessary set of skills and knowledge but also has the same set of core beliefs — a faith in the future of agriculture born not of words but of deeds,” he said.


Despite the pleasure both Sayre and Dieckhoff find in working with students, being an agricultural education instructor often is challenging. According to Sayre, one the biggest hurdles of his job is working with students who are not as motivated by success. Dieckhoff has found that the most challenging part of his job is adapting his teaching methods to fit interests of students today.


“Young teachers can relate better to high school students and are used to the technology and social media current students are using, “Dieckhoff said.


Emily Reed, an agriculture education instructor at Saline County Career Center, and Rylyn Small, who teaches agriculture at East Prairie High School, are early in their agricultural education careers. Their advisors and their FFA experiences helped aid in their decision to become agriculture teachers.


“My goal as a teacher is to allow all students to feel and find their place in the agriculture classroom,” Small said. “I have a passion for student success.”


Reed and Small know agriculture education is important and needed. They hope to instill a passion for agriculture and teach students how to be informed.


“With the world population continuing to climb, it is very important to have people who are ready to educate those who may not understand agricultural topics,” Reed explained.


Despite the importance of agricultural education, the nationwide shortage has teachers concerned. Dieckhoff, Sayre, Small, and Reed know the extensive hours, demands, stress, and salary compared to other agricultural jobs are factors that likely affect the shortage.


“We put in several hours above and beyond what is required of us,” Sayre stated.


Dieckhoff said, “To teach today, you truly have to possess a passion for youth. If you do not, you will not last long or be very happy.”


According to Reed, she knows how some teachers can suffer from burnout. Plus, there are more teachers retiring than young professionals graduating with degrees to fill positions.


Small encourages FFA members to consider a career in the field as he said it is one of the most rewarding jobs to have. Plus, he knows agricultural education is a necessity.


“We need FFA members that have a passion for the industry, FFA and students,” Small explained. “Be prepared to stress, have late nights and early mornings and sometimes no sleep. But also be prepared to impact students and watch students grow into strong leaders in the agriculture industry.”


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