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Beyond High School: Explore Your Options

While some go straight into the workforce after high school, others choose to pursue higher education. When deciding on the right program for you and your career goals, you have some options from which to choose. 


Trade School 

Also known as a vocational or tech schools, trade schools typically focus on job-specific areas of study. Many offer certificates or diplomas upon completion of classes teaching hands-on skills. Some trade schools also offer two-year associate degree options. 


Community College

Community colleges are more likely to offer two-year associate degree programs. They provide a broader education in addition to job-specific skill training. Students who graduate from community colleges either enter the workforce with an associate degree or transfer to a four-year university. 



While the sizes of universities vary, they are typically larger than other colleges or schools. Universities offer four-year bachelor’s degrees, and some offer graduate degrees as well. They offer a wider variety of classes and degrees, and they can either be public or private. 


Overall, your choice of higher education is up to you. Size, location and program offerings may determine which type of school best fits your needs, so do your research and consider your options after graduation.

– Brandelyn Twellman

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MO FFA Welcomes New State Officers

2020 Officer Team

The 2020-21 Missouri State FFA Officers were confirmed June 16 during the business survey announcements segment of the 2020 virtual State FFA Convention. 


Justin Eddy, Columbia FFA Chapter, will serve as the State FFA President. First Vice-President is Archie FFA member Mackenzie Porter. And, State FFA Secretary is Jenna Perry, Liberal FFA Chapter. 


Serving Missouri’s nearly 26,000 state FFA members as vice presidents are: Rachel Holt, Chillicothe; Anna Milazzo, Grundy Co.; Erin Heinecke, Paris; Lauryn Robnett, Audrain Co. R-VI; Colin Wilburn, Van Far; Kiersten Helm, Lexington; Kaylee Lower, Weaubleau; Cade Shepherd, Mt. Vernon; Felicity Cantrell, Seymour; Lauren Gilbert, Chadwick; Dakota Pemberton, Richland; Madison Moll, Perryville; and Ricanna Spargo, Naylor.

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Virtually Speaking

First-ever state convention takes center stage

This year might just be remembered as the year of firsts—including the first-ever virtual Missouri State FFA Convention. While state proficiency award winners, star finalists and national chapter activity awards were announced virtually in April, the official Missouri FFA Convention was held through a series of online video sessions June 16-18.  


During the convention, Ms. Diane Olson was recognized with the Distinguished Service Citation. Olson has been involved with the promotion and advocacy of agriculture through the Missouri Farm Bureau and worked with the Missouri FFA for more than 35 years. She began her role with Farm Bureau in 1985 as the director of promotion and education. Her outstanding service has garnered her recognition as a state and national leader in the promotion of agriculture. 


In the National Chapter Activity Awards area, Marshall FFA Chapter was tapped Top Chapter in the state and was named the Premier Chapter in Growing Leaders. These designations were selected from the 35 chapters recognized with a Missouri FFA Gold Emblem, a Top Chapter award. Marshall’s Growing Leaders activities included a program called Bacon SAEs Happen. As part of the activity, freshman FFA members were given the opportunity to create, market and sell an agricultural product for their first supervised agricultural experience program. Students divided into groups to develop individualized marketing plans and cure pork bellies. They then promoted their product through the chapter’s social media.


Also in the National Chapter Activity Awards area, Ashland FFA  was honored as the Premier Chapter in Strengthening Agriculture. Ashland’s chapter activities in the strengthening agriculture category included Educating in the Barn, an interactive barnyard that allowed the community to learn more about FFA and agriculture through hands-on activities.


In the Building Communities awards area of National Chapter Activity Awards, Centralia FFA was honored as Premier Chapter. Centralia’s building communities activities included a program called Floods of Compassion. In the summer of 2019, rising flood waters threatened community members, land and structures. During the flooding, Centralia FFA filled sandbags for placement around the community. Afterward, members collected donations for Missouri and Nebraska Farm Bureau federations, and financially helped Centralia FFA members who lost their supervised agricultural experience programs. 


During the Stars Over Missouri program of convention, Megan Schneider, Herman FFA Chapter, was named State Star in Agribusiness. Schneider’s SAE started with showing pigs. Eventually she started breeding and raising show pigs and feeder pigs. As her business grew, Schneider started selling a variety of pork meat products at local farmer markets and other outlets. Over time, Schneider has expanded her selection to include various beef and poultry products.


Eldon FFA member Destinie Tunis was selected as the State Star in Agriscience winner. Tunis’ supervised agricultural experience program involves the testing of cattle, horses, cats and dogs to determine if nitrates and histatins within the saliva can stop the growth of Escherichia coli k-12 and Staphylococcus epidermidis. This study is titled “The Antimicrobial Effects of Histatins and Nitrates Found in Saliva”. 


The State Star in Agricultural Placement award was presented to Clint Bailey. As part of his supervised agricultural experience program, Bailey worked on this family’s commercial cow-calf operation. He then was hired to work at his cousin’s pumpkin patch. When his cousin went to college, he turned the pumpkin patch over to Bailey. As a sophomore in high school,  Bailey began working at the Bowling Green Veterinary Clinic. After initially caring for dogs and the clinic’s kennel, he was charged with providing veterinary services at the Eastern Missouri Commission Company, a livestock market in Bowling Green. His duties then expanded to making large-animal farm calls.


Missouri FFA’s State Star Farmer was presented to Jacob Dierking, Santa Fe FFA Chapter. Dierking’s supervised agricultural experience program began in 2015 when he rented a 10-acre field from a neighbor to grow field corn. In 2019, his row-crop operation expanded to 306 acres of corn and soybeans. In addition, he does custom field work, lays drainage tile, and grows sweet corn, green beans, and Indian corn. Throughout Dierking’s SAE, to increase productivity, he purchased three tractors and numerous farm implements. 


The 2020 Missouri FFA Convention can be viewed online at

—By Joann Pipkin

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Keeping Up In Ag

Ozarks technical community college
agriculture program is growing, everchanging

Ozarks technical community college agriculture program is growing, everchanging

At a time when the agricultural industry is constantly growing, shifting and innovating, schools offering degrees in agriculture must do the same. The Richwood Valley Campus and Agricultural Training Center are allowing the Ozark Technical Community College’s (OTC) agriculture program to do just that.


“Our program is blessed to have the opportunity to relocate from an urban downtown campus to an 84-acre rural setting in Christian County,” says Rob Flatness, department chair and agriculture instructor. “The Richwood Valley Campus is only a few minutes south of Springfield between Ozark and Nixa on Highway 14. The campus is perfect for a diversified agriculture program in that it has open grassland perfect for pasture and turfgrass activities, several acres of timber for forestry classes, a live spring and a creek bottom with deep rich soil for agronomy stations.”


The campus is a new development in a long line of growth in OTC’s agriculture program.


“For many years, our agriculture department was focused on turf and landscape management, offering a two-year associate degree and a one-year certificate,” Flatness says. “We saw that many of our students were graduating from our program and transferring to a four-year university to obtain a bachelors’ degree in agriculture. It was at that time that we expanded our agriculture course offerings and developed an associate degree in agriculture.”


Further filling the needs of its students, the program began working with university partners to develop “2 + 2” plans allowing OTC agriculture students to complete their two-year program while preparing to transfer and graduate from a university in an additional two years.


More recently, the agriculture program shifted its degree offerings again to accommodate for changing needs of students and the industry.


OTC previously offered an associate degree and certificate in turf and landscape management as well as an associate degree in agriculture. Students pursuing a degree in agriculture could choose from animal science, plant science or general agriculture, but their transcript and diploma would only reference a degree in agriculture.


“Beginning next semester, our students will be able to receive a degree in the specific area of their interest instead of just agriculture,” Flatness says.


In response to industry needs for more trained technicians, the program also added a one-year outdoor power and powersports technician certificate program in the 2019-2020 school year.


As OTC’s agricultural degree and program offerings are evolving, so are its hands-on opportunities for students.


“The new facilities give students a very hands-on, real-life, practical education for a price that they cannot get elsewhere,” says Heather Eberlin, agriculture instructor and farm/lab manager. “It has really stepped up the level at which we can prepare students for their next step, whatever that may be.”


These opportunities include hosting livestock on campus with modern livestock handling facilities, greenhouse experiences, equipment operation, wildlife management activities, topography, forestry and more.


Eberlin runs the greenhouse on campus and says students have already experienced some added benefits of the new facilities.


“The new greenhouse offers students the ability to do plant labs year-round while also producing seasonal crops,” she says. “This past semester, we had a very successful first-ever OTC poinsettia crop. It is currently filled to the brim with annuals, hanging baskets and vegetables.”


Today, students are enjoying the expanded opportunities the new campus provides.


“Our current students are excited to be on the ground floor of development of the new facilities,” Flatness says.


Even students without a background in agriculture can benefit from the development.


“This campus means experience, opportunity and growth for me,” says MacKenzie Lathem, an OTC agriculture student. “I think the campus is unique because it allows us to explore our agricultural interests and it allows students who do not come from agricultural backgrounds to safely experience the industry.”


The OTC ag program plans to continue its diversification and innovative growth to provide for future students as well as the future of the agricultural industry.


“Just this semester we applied for and won a $10,000 grant through the college to start a Farm to Table Beef Program,” Eberlin says. “Students will be able to evaluate, purchase and care for livestock while evaluating daily gain and eventually carcass information.”


Innovative offerings like the Farm to Table Beef Program are allowing students to learn about agriculture in a way like never before.


“This campus means opportunity for incoming and future students,” Lathem says. “It is a great campus to experience new things for the first time.”


“Incoming students will have the advantage of facilities and labs that are fully developed and continue to expand,” Flatness adds. “We will continue to work with our advisory committee and community to offer a curriculum that is relevant to community needs.”

—By Brandelyn Martin Twellman

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Four Years Too Fast

Janet Adkison, RFD-TV anchor and past MO FFA Member

Following in the footsteps of her dad and older brother, Janet Adkison hit the ground running the moment she put on her first blue corduroy jacket. Having grown up on a beef cattle farm in Houston, Missouri, Adkison had a deeply rooted passion for agriculture she was ready to expand upon in FFA.


“I tried to be involved in as much as I could in FFA,” she said. “I have to attribute that to my family because they encouraged me and also helped me to do so.”


Her involvement led to many leadership roles, including serving as an officer on both the chapter and state levels. But before she could take off in the organization, Adkison was first tasked with memorizing what most greenhand members do: the FFA Creed. Those five paragraphs taught Adkison more than she could have ever anticipated.


“There were two of us in my chapter who wanted to compete in the Creed,” she says. “After they brought in three judges to decide between us, nobody could decide. So, they decided to flip a coin, and I ended up losing that coin toss. That day I learned not to depend on luck for something you really want to do.”


In addition to this lesson learned, the experience also opened many doors that would lead to Adkison’s future involvement in FFA and, eventually, her professional career.


“Having the Creed under my belt led me to feel comfortable and opened the door for me to participate in public speaking,” she explains. “Freshman year, I participated in the Farm Bureau public speaking contest and ended up getting third at state. That really warmed me up to public speaking, and I used those skills in judging contests like livestock and dairy judging. I still call on those skills in my career now.”


In addition to her speaking ability, Adkison also learned a great deal of agricultural content she calls upon today.


“The agricultural lessons serve me well day in and day out in my career path,” she says.


Starting her college career as an animal science major at Missouri State University, Adkison says it wasn’t long before she realized that path wasn’t for her.


“I had organic chemistry, and organic chemistry and I were not made to be together,” she says with a laugh. “So, that was a quick lesson that animal science and pre-vet were not for me. The agricultural communications program at MSU was still pretty new. It was still building up at that time, but I jumped on board and ended up graduating with my degree in ag communications.”


Today, Adkison is a news anchor and reporter for RFD-TV in Nashville, Tennessee. She says her time in FFA helped guide her toward this career.


“FFA led me to my career path,” Adkison says. “From participating in agricultural activities to public speaking to people I interacted with, it opened my eyes to the opportunities that were available.”


She works behind the anchor desk and in the field reporting on anything relating to agriculture or rural areas, which allows her to call upon the ag knowledge she gained in FFA.


“Those outside of agriculture think it’s a pretty narrow window,” she says. “But, when you talk about rural and you talk about agriculture, the window is actually wide open. Lessons on agriculture gained from participating in livestock and dairy judging allow me to better understand those industries.”


In addition to skills and agricultural content, Adkison says FFA also gave her connections in the industry.


“Honestly, a lot of people I met in FFA I still know to this day,” she says. “I got my foot in the door of my first two jobs through Missouri FFA connections.”


Thinking back on her years in FFA as a high schooler, Adkison remembers how fast the time went by.


“Our tendencies are to test the waters slowly, but you only get four years to test the waters in high school,” she says. It’s amazing how fast that four years goes by.”


Her advice is to jump in feet first to take advantage of every opportunity possible.


“There are so many avenues you can test along the way,” Adkison says. “Don’t be afraid to test them all. It’s even so much more now than when I was in high school. FFA is so broad now that you can truly try your hand at so many different careers along the way. I’m a little jealous of the members coming through it now.”


Principles learned in FFA can also be of benefit in the future.


“Take the work ethic you learn when you’re in FFA, whether it’s in serving the community or working on your own SAE project, and apply it in the future,” Adkison says. “And remember you may not always be the smartest person in the room or the most eloquent speaker, but you can certainly outwork a lot of people. Don’t be afraid to do so.”

—By Brandelyn Martin Twellman

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Brush Up On Your Resume

Whether you’re interested in policy, mechanics, communications or sales, you’ll have to present a resumé to land your dream internship or job in the future. Here are some tips to help you get started:



Present your name in an eye-catching way at the top of your resumé. Choose a font that’s legible but still stands out, and don’t forget to include important contact information below your name.



Separating your resumé into chunks using section headers allows the reviewer to easily skim. Bullet points also help keep the resumé brief and readable. Sometimes, they’re looking for only one section of content, so directing them to the desired information gives you an advantage.



It might be tempting to stop after listing relevant experience on a resumé, but how did you grow? The skills gained along the way tell a much better story than a list of titles and positions you’ve held. Be sure to explain what you gained after each experience.



It’s easy to include only experiences from one job or activities from one organization on your resumé, but be sure to think outside the box. What else could you showcase to present yourself as a well-rounded candidate for the job?

—By Brandelynn Martin Twellman

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Finding Real Solutions to Real Problems

Finding real solutions to real problems in the agricultural industry—that’s the purpose of agriscience projects in agricultural education and FFA.


“Agriscience projects give students real-world, hands-on experiences in agricultural enterprises,” says Lora Rapp, Rich Hill agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor. “Students use scientific principles and new technologies to solve problems related to agriculture and food.”


Rich Hill FFA member Katelynn Tourtillott set out to find a solution to one of those real-world problems last fall.


She started by noticing there was an issue.


“I come from a family of semi-truck drivers,” Tourtillott says. “My dad, grandfather, uncle and several of my cousins are truck drivers. Most of them suffer from lower back pain. I began to do research on this topic and noticed that many older farmers also suffer from back pain.”


Further research turned up a proposed answer. “It has been concluded that the vibrations from the machinery cause pain,” she explains.


Tourtillott decided to conduct an agriscience experiment to search for a solution that would help farmers and truck drivers like those in her family.


“I began to communicate with farmers around my area and decided to conduct an experiment on using shock-absorbing gloves,” she says. “I wanted to see if the gloves could lessen the lower back pain in farmers. I asked several different production agriculture farmers to wear the gloves while they were working. They wore them every day for two weeks, then went for two weeks without them. They logged their pain each morning and night on a pain chart.”


Her agriscience project took planning and preparation. Tourtillott says that after researching several different types of gloves, she moved forward with a pair that wouldn’t limit mobility so the farmers could wear them consistently.


Tourtillott was pleased when she analyzed her results.


“My favorite part of the project was hearing that the farmers actually got relief from the gloves,” she says. “One of the participants had back surgery a few years ago to try and help manage his pain. When he told me the gloves helped decrease the constant pain, it showed that my hard work paid off.”


In addition to finding a proposed solution to help with farmers’ back pain, Tourtillott experienced personal growth along the way.


“I improved my time management and planning skills during this project,” she explains. I prioritized what needed to be done first to ensure my project was accurate and simple for the farmers to participate in.”


Rapp explains that she promotes agriscience as well as the process behind the projects to her students because of the personal growth that can occur.


“It teaches students scientific methods and makes them think on a deeper level,” she says. I challenge my students to think outside the box or think of something that could benefit agriculture or their SAE.”


An added benefit of these projects is the effect they can have on local agriculture.


“Not all people will have the same results as the individuals used in Katelynn’s research,” Rapp says. “The farmers chosen have been experiencing back pain for a long time. Each individual has different tolerance levels for pain. But these results can give farmers an additional tool to use to help manage back pain.”


Tourtillott is hoping her results impact farmers in a way that benefits their individual operations as well as the industry as a whole.


“If they can use the gloves to help minimize and control their pain, they can maximize their productivity and efficiency in the fields,” she says. “I believe my results can help farmers find and use a tool to help them with their back pain. Farmers are essential to the world’s economy and food supply, so I want to help farmers do their job to their fullest potential.”

—By Brandelynn Martin Twellman

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Driving Home National FFA Week

More than 200 Missouri FFA members representing 34 chapters converged on Jefferson City Feb. 28 as Gov. Mike Parson proclaimed Feb. 22-29, 2020, National FFA Week. The proclamation was a joint effort with the governor’s office, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Missouri FFA. On hand to address attendees were Gov. Parson; Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn and National FFA Vice President Yomar Roman.


Following the proclamation, the group broke into six pathways where speakers discussed the role those play in the ag industry. Speakers included Christopher Daubert, dean, University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, food science pathway; Kurt Boeckmann, natural resources pathway; Jeremy Schneider, John Deere, ag mechanics pathway; Amanda Cooper and Jessica Kueffer, MFA, Inc., ag business pathway; Dr. Bernd Eichenmueller, Boehringer-Ingelheim, animal system pathway;and Connie Davis, plant science pathway.

Photo Gallery from the National FFA Week Proclamation Event

Click the photos below to view larger.

FFA Week Proclamation Candid
FFA Week Proclamation Candid
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Ripple Effect

Former FFA members Kellie Bray and Kristie Bray-Larson tell you how FFA continues to impact their lives.


Whether in Washington, D.C., or Kansas City, Missouri, the ripple effects of Kellie Bray and Kristie Bray-Larson’s time in the blue jackets are still making an impact today. Bray and Larson, twin sisters from Cameron, Missouri, said their years in FFA have greatly influenced their professional careers.


Growing up on a row crop and beef cattle farm, Bray and Larson have always had a passion for agriculture. FFA allowed them to pair that passion with personal skills gained through countless experiences and opportunities throughout the organization.


Larson served in leadership roles and on committees in their chapter. She also served as chapter secretary when they were seniors. Bray was the chapter president their senior year and decided to continue her leadership roles at the state and national levels. She served as Missouri State FFA Secretary and worked for the National FFA Organization as a member of the Washington Leadership Conference staff in college.


While the pair moved throughout their FFA careers side-by-side, they say their best experiences came from paving their own paths and focusing on self-discovery.


“Official Dress doesn’t help you distinguish yourself when you have an identical twin,” Bray says. “We already looked alike and then we had to dress alike too when we went to chapter events or competitions. That sometimes made it hard for people to learn the differences between us, but it also gave us an opportunity to really think about how we were alike and also how we were different in what skills, abilities or interests we brought. I don’t envy the people who tried to tell us apart those days. It was tough.”


Learning how to embrace the title of cheerleader was another favorite experience, Larson says.


“We looked at all of the high school sports and organizations we were involved in, and we decided to focus on what best fit each of our individual interests,” she explains. “Instead of competing against each other for offices or leadership roles, I took on leadership in our high school class and she led our FFA chapter and eventually ran for state office. It was much more fun to cheer for her than to compete against her all the time.”


Looking back, Larson and Bray both realize their time in FFA greatly impacted their choices of study and current careers.


“We would not have studied agricultural education at Mizzou had it not been for our time in FFA and the encouragement from our advisors,” Bray says. “All of the connections we made during FFA have carried on through our personal lives and professional careers.”


Larson is the director of education for the American Royal Association in Kansas City, Missouri. She oversees the American Royal’s agricultural education programs—both onsite and in the classroom—as well as managing the scholarship program and being the museum curator. FFA knowledge has served her well as the director of education.


“Learning about the history and traditions of FFA, many of which coincide with the American Royal, have impacted me in this role,” she says.


Across the country, Bray is the chief of staff for CropLife America in Washington, D.C., the national trade association that represents makers, manufacturers and distributors of pesticide products for all types of agriculture. She has carried relationships made through FFA into this career.


“I interact daily with people in Washington, D.C., and around the country who are former FFA members, many of whom I knew when I was an active member,” she explains. “It creates an immediate connection with another person, and it’s fun to recount ‘old’ stories.”


Bray is also a member of the group that chartered the Washington, D.C., FFA Alumni Chapter.


“It’s been a lot of fun to connect with people of all ages who are FFA alumni now in Washington, D.C.,” she says.


The tangible skills gained through FFA have also continually impacted them. From public speaking and organizational leadership to parliamentary procedure and proper self-presentation learned through Official Dress, the two agree they still use these skills and lessons learned daily.


Reflecting on their time in blue jackets, both Larson and Bray agree on the pride they have in the organization and everything it instilled in them.


“Through the classroom work, especially in the shop, I learned I could do things I never thought I could, like welding or woodworking,” Bray says. “I remember those experiences now when I wonder whether or not I can accomplish something new or different. And it makes for interesting conversation when someone learns I can weld.”


“Tradition, history, ritual and community are all words that come to mind,” Larson adds. “I have so much respect for what the blue corduroy jacket stands for. I valued being part of a national organization that is dedicated to the future of agriculture. I also truly appreciate how Supervised Agricultural Experience projects teach members about the value of hard work and responsibility. All of those characteristics will help them be successful members of society, regardless of their future career.”


—By Brandelyn Martin for Missouri FFA Today

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