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Keith Coble, former Missouri FFA member
Dec 17 2020

Unlocking Ambition

Former FFA member Keith Coble tells you how his time in the blue jacket impacts him still today.

From an agricultural education classroom in Missouri to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the skills learned, and memories made, during his time in FFA have followed Keith Coble throughout every step of his professional career.

 

Coble’s first degree was in agricultural education. After teaching high school ag in Carl Junction, Missouri, he went back to school to obtain a degree in agricultural economics. Coble had the opportunity to work in Washington D.C. at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and on the Senate Agriculture Committee on Capitol Hill before settling into his current role.

 

Today, as the Mississippi State University agricultural economics department head and assistant to the vice president of the division of agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine, Coble works with the college’s teaching, research and extension programs.

 

Though his job titles have changed over time, the skillset he calls upon to succeed has remained the same.

 

“I constantly use leadership skills here at the university, as well as when I was working on Capitol Hill,” Coble says. “There were experiences I gained in FFA around working with people, speaking to people and trying to make progress on something as a team. I learned those skills in high school, and I often think of them when I meet other adults who didn’t learn those lessons along the way.”

 

Coble most enjoyed the competition fostered by Career Development Events and Leadership Development Events in FFA. He participated in several speaking events and participated on teams like livestock judging.

 

Even as an advisor, Coble enjoyed training students for contests. Leaning on his interest in agricultural business and economics, he even trained a national-winning farm management team.

 

In addition to the tangible skills he took away, Coble says his experiences in the organization unlocked something that would ultimately change his trajectory. 

 

“I grew up in southern Missouri in the Ozarks,” he explains. “My father did not graduate from high school, but my uncle was a state FFA officer, a role I got to hold later on. The thing my dad always taught me was that education would give me opportunities he did not have. Though my father did not graduate from high school, he was a strong champion of getting an education.

 

“Then, FFA came around, and I got the chance to go to National FFA Convention,” he says. “I got to go speak at different events as an officer, and I got to go to the Washington program. It opened my eyes to the things I could do and to the things I could be.”

 

FFA unlocked his ambition and belief in himself, he says.

 

“I had no idea at the time that I would become a university professor, that I would work on Capitol Hill, that I would travel and speak at conferences,” Coble continues. “But, FFA gave me the confidence that I could do and be those things.”

 

Though he couldn’t see it at the time, that confidence brought on by his experiences in the organization furthered Coble’s growth by encouraging him to keep showing up.

 

“I really wanted to win the state public speaking contest, I really wanted to be the state president of Missouri FFA, and I kind of got second in both events,” he says. “I was second place in state speaking and the first vice president of the organization. But, if I look back at my life, the difference between being first and second was minimal. It was the fact that I was there. My life has gone on, and I think I’ve gotten to do the most amazing things because of the confidence I gained from those situations.”

by Brandelyn Martin Twellman

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Dec 17 2020

Drive to Feed Kids Donates 1 Million Meals in 2020

Missouri Farmers Care and Missouri agriculture keep children and communities at the forefront during challenging times.

Paris FFA chapter

Like many activities this year, the 2020 Missouri Farmers Care (MFC) Drive to Feed Kids looked a little different. However, the mission – to raise awareness of childhood food insecurity and raise support for food banks across the state – became more critical in the midst of a global pandemic.

 

“Farmers and ranchers work 365 days a year to produce abundance from our farms and ranches,” said Ashley McCarty, Missouri Farmers Care executive director. “The Drive to Feed Kids addresses the disconnect where that abundance doesn’t reach our neighbors’ dinner tables. Adjusting to the challenges of 2020, this yearlong Drive encompassed numerous impactful activities. We are again heartened by the generosity of Missouri agriculture that shines through the Drive to Feed Kids.”

 

In May 2020, the Missouri Pork Association and Missouri Farmers Care united to create the Pork Partnership. The mission of the Partnership was to help bridge the gap between Missourians in need and pork producers who faced a reduction in processing availability due to coronavirus-related slowdowns. All told, Missouri pork producers donated 611 hogs to the effort, providing 69,670 pounds of ground pork — 318,000 servings of much needed, high-quality protein — to Feeding Missouri, the association of Missouri’s six regional food banks.

 

“Protein is a significant need at food pantries, even during normal times,” said Scott Baker, state director of Feeding Missouri. “In 2020, that need was greater than we’ve ever seen. As demand has spiked at food banks and pantries across the state, so too has the help provided by Missouri’s farmers.”

 

Agricultural youth organizations were also key partners in this year’s Drive to Feed Kids campaign. Missouri 4-H and FFA initiated major community service activities. This spring, 4-H members from across the state provided 297,132 meals for Feeding Missouri during their four-month 4-H Feeding Missouri campaign.

 

Missouri FFA Association partnered with the Drive to Feed Kids for a fourth year. Even though FFA members were not able to gather for their statewide service day at the Missouri State Fair, a mini-grant program was created. Sixty-three FFA chapters received a $300 mini-grant. Food insecurity projects ranged from local meal and blessing box packing events, raising of broiler chickens for local senior citizens, providing milk for a weekly backpack program and Thanksgiving baskets for families in need. FFA members amplified $20,750 worth of grants for a total $41,500 impact.

 

In addition, Missourians met a 50,000 meal social media challenge by giving individual donations. These contributions, along with $1,145 raised by FCS Financial employees, allowed Missouri agriculture to reach its goal. Missouri Soybean Association matched every dollar contributed to the challenge for a grand total of $10,000. Thus, providing the purchasing power of 50,000 meals to support Feeding Missouri's efforts in communities during this time of need. According to Feeding America, more than 800,000 Missourians faced food insecurity in Missouri before COVID-19. With increased unemployment and the challenges of this year, Feeding America projects that number has increased by 39% to 1.1 million Missourians, including 335,260 children.

 

Sponsorship of Missouri Farmers Care’s Drive to Feed Kids was provided by: Brownfield Ag News, Missouri Farm Bureau, American Family Insurance, FCS Financial, MFA Incorporated, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, National FFA Association, Allen P. & Josephine B. Green Foundation, Forrest and Charlotte Lucas – founders of Protect the Harvest, Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Paseo Biofuels, LLC, Biofuels, LLC, Missouri Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, Missouri Pet Breeders Association, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri State Fair, Missouri FFA Association, Missouri 4-H, benevolent individuals and the contributions of many Missouri farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses.

 

Drive to Feed Kids first launched in 2017 with a goal of building collaborative partnerships among non-profit organizations, farmers and agricultural businesses committed to addressing food insecurity in Missouri. To learn more about Missouri Farmers Care and the Drive to Feed Kids, visit MOFarmersCare.com/drive.

Mexico FFA Chapter
Carthage FFA Chapter
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Nov 16 2020

Missouri FFA Members Receive National Awards

Two tapped with proficiency award honors 

Nationally, students enrolled in agricultural education can compete for awards in nearly 50 proficiency award 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.

 

While seven Missouri FFA members were national proficiency award finalists last month, two were named national winners during the virtual 2020 National FFA Convention.

 

Jacob Dierking, Santa Fe FFA, was named national winner in Diversified Crop Production Entrepreneurship. Read more about Dierking’s winning SAE.

 

Ashland FFA member Amanda Belew was selected national winner in Wildlife Management proficiency. Learn more about Belew’s winning SAE.

 

Find out more Missouri FFA honors from this year’s national convention.

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Leon Busdieker
Nov 16 2020

State Ag Education Leader Honored Nationally

Leon Busdieker named Outstanding State Supervisor

Leon Busdieker

The National Association of Supervisors in Agricultural Education (NASAE) recently named Leon Busdieker as the 2020 Outstanding State Supervisor. Since July 2011 Busdieker has been the director of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and serves as state advisor for the Missouri FFA Association. 

 

NASAE annually recognizes a NASAE member who has made outstanding contributions to agricultural education state supervision. Busdieker was nominated by his peers for the award.

 

During his 42-year tenure in agricultural education, Busdieker has also been a district supervisor for Missouri agricultural education and a vocational agriculture instructor in the Warrenton and St. Charles school districts. He is one of four state supervisors for the National FFA Board of Directors and is a past member of the National FFA Foundation Board of Trustees and the National FFA Alumni and Supporters Advisory Committee. 

 

According to Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven, “Whether it be in the office in Jefferson City, the sheep barn at the state fair or the State Capitol during national FFA week, his integrity, high expectations and strong work ethic shine through all that he does. He has earned the trust of students, colleagues, farmers and other business leaders and state legislators, resulting in increased support for agricultural education throughout our state.”

 

by Joann Pipkin
Watch the video congratulating Busdieker on his contributions to Missouri agricultural education.
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Dahmer Tapped as National Officer
Nov 16 2020

Dahmer Tapped as National Officer

Past State President Paxton Dahmer Elected National Central Region Vice President

Dahmer Tapped as National Officer

Sixth-generation agriculturalist and third-generation FFA member Paxton Dahmer never saw himself as a National FFA Officer, but after being elected Central Region Vice President at the 93rd National FFA Convention last month, he hopes to reach more students in a unique way.

“Right now, we have a pretty unique opportunity with virtual interaction to reach additional students that we wouldn’t traditionally reach,” Dahmer says. “Whether that’s Zooming into a classroom or meeting a student face-to-face, we have the opportunity to dedicate a lot of time to doing just that. My hope is to engage with youth in as many ways as possible and try to develop them as FFA members so that ultimately we’re strengthening our industry along the way.”

Growing up, Dahmer was a member of the Nevada FFA Chapter. He raised commercial cattle and showed pigs and sheep across the nation with his family. “I’m pretty proud every time I zip up the jacket to know that I’ve got a lot of FFA history behind me,” he says. 

Dahmer recognizes the traditions of agriculture in 1928 when FFA was founded, but he says the organization has evolved to embrace different facets of the industry. “Now, we’re embracing different types of agriculture, and we’re trying to get as many people involved as we can because we have less than two percent of our population in an industry that feeds 100% of our population.

Interacting with former National FFA Officer Shea Booster was instrumental in helping Dahmer decide to run for the coveted position. “Shea was so good at representing FFA both inside and outside the blue jacket, and I think that’s something that’s very important,” Dahmer says. “It made me realize, ‘Hey, I can be a national officer,’ but also ‘I want to be a national officer, and ‘I want that extra year in the blue-jacket to do just that.’”

Participating in Missouri FFA’s HYMAX (Helping Youth Maximize their Agricultural eXperience) Academy sparked Dahmer’s passion for FFA and gave him the opportunity, “to see beyond the lights and sirens of state convention and see what FFA was all about,” he says. 

But, that was only the beginning of leadership opportunities that provided the framework for Dahmer’s run for national FFA office. 

“Going to the Washington Leadership Conference was something that was life-changing for me,” he says. “It broke me out of my shell. I was put in a community group with people that I had never met before and it gave me the opportunity to branch out of what I had traditionally known and make connections with people from Texas to North Dakota to California and New York all in one week.”                

           

To fulfill his duties as National FFA central region vice president, Dahmer will take a year off from college at the University of Missouri-Columbia where he is a junior studying agricultural education, leadership, and communications. In January, Dahmer will move to Indianapolis where he will convene with the other five national officers. The group will spend time doing member and sponsor engagement activities. Additionally, they will provide keynote addresses and conduct workshops for FFA members and supporters across the country. 

“If there’s a member out there in Missouri that wants to run for national office and doesn’t think it’s attainable, don’t close the door for yourself,” Dahmer says. “If we miss out on one opportunity we start closing doors in our mind.”

by Joann Pipkin
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Oct 19 2020

Fruitful Footsteps

Ashland FFA member Ethan Hilgedick recognized as national proficiency finalist in fruit production

From corn, soybeans and wheat to cotton, rice and watermelon, yes, watermelon, Missouri’s diverse agricultural landscape is bountiful.

 

And for Ashland FFA member Ethan Hilgedick, that diversity provided the perfect opportunity for him to build an award-winning supervised agricultural experience project (SAE). Hilgedick is a national finalist in the fruit production proficiency award area for his watermelon production SAE. The winner will be announced as part of the virtual National FFA Convention, Oct. 27-29.

 

Farming the Missouri River bottoms in Hartsburg, Hilgedick leases land from Riverside Farms. The young entrepreneur is following in the footsteps of his father and uncle and has gleaned much advice from his predecessors on how to grow a successful crop.

 

“In the spring of 2017, I built a grow-room in the basement of my grandfather’s farmhouse to manage the temperature, water and the amount of light for my seedlings,” Hilgedick says.

 

Each spring, Hilgedick germinates more than 5,000 seeded and seedless watermelons in the grow room. At planting time, an attachment on the back of a tractor helps Hilgedick get the seedlings in the ground. Come harvest, though, it’s all hands on deck. A crew of hired FFA members assists in bringing the fruit in from the field.

 

“At the farm, I package the watermelons on pallets and deliver them to stores,” Hilgedick says. “In the spring of 2018, I increased the number of acres of watermelon. My additional supply was sold by expanding my marketing efforts to grocery stores such as Moser’s, HyVee, Schulte’s and Lucky’s Supermarkets. Expanding my marketing increased my operation’s profits.”

 

Hilgedick says his business has given him management experience. “Being an owner and operator of a business was always an interest of mine,” he says. “As a young crop producer and entrepreneur, I have learned that it is critical to pay attention to every aspect of producing the product.”

 

For Hilgedick, success can be found in the details. From walking the fields to checking for insect damage, sampling the soil for moisture content, checking the product for ripeness or observing pallets for broken boards, it all matters to his bottom line.

 

“Developing high standards early-on in my business has helped my product gain popularity among produce managers and customers,” Hilgedick says. “Paying attention to every detail has allowed me to gain numerous experiences and run a successful business.”

by Joann Pipkin
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Oct 19 2020

Beyond Cows and Plows

Zip up your blue corduroy and dive in to FFA!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — FFA jacket season! Though zipping up the blue corduroy is often a student’s first experience as an FFA member, it takes strategy at the chapter level to get them hooked on ag education and FFA.

 

Sullivan FFA Advisor Travis Kramme says timing is the key to retention.

 

“This is my 18th year teaching agriculture education, and one thing has been true year after year,” he explains. “The students in my Ag Science I classes who get involved in FFA activities are the same students who are in our program until graduation and become four-year active members in FFA. The Ag Science I students who don’t make it to any FFA activities during that first semester usually don’t come back as sophomores and find other programs and electives to be involved with.”

 

An important first step in capturing students’ interest is to debunk the myth that ag education is all about “cows and plows,” says Nathan Isakson, Ash Grove FFA Advisor.

 

Karson Calvin, a sophomore at Troy Buchanan High School and member of the Troy FFA Chapter, agrees that chapters should promote FFA as a multi-faceted organization.

 

“It’s not just production agriculture, and there’s a diverse range of activities that can fit everyone,” Calvin says.

 

Recognizing the importance of relationships and tradition also helps capture students’ interest and sense of belonging.

 

“In a normal year, we have a back-to-school meeting and ag department open house,” says Cord Jenkins, Rolla FFA Advisor. “This is a big event that our officers spend a great deal of time planning. We invite all of our first-year members and their parents to this meeting. It is structured so we have social time on the front and back end of the meeting.”

 

Jenkins says this helps make new members feel included as an integral part of the program. Calvin agrees that building relationships was one piece he remembered most from his first year in FFA.

 

“My favorite chapter activities last year were the LDEs and our Friendsgiving,” he says. “I was on our Conduct of Chapter Meetings team, and my favorite part about it was growing closer with my teammates. While training in the spring, we had some funny moments that stick out as I look back at last year. My other favorite activity was our Friendsgiving. It was a fun time as we were playing games, enjoying some good food and becoming closer as a chapter.”

 

Kramme, Isakson and Jenkins all say they call upon older students and FFA members to help build a sense of community through using student teacher aids, officer mentors or a buddy system.

 

Calvin adds that honing in on tradition and the advice of other students helps inspire members to get involved.

 

“My dad, brother and sister were really involved in FFA, and if there’s one thing they’ve taught me, it’s that you get out of FFA what you put into it,” he says. “I know people who were involved in FFA and received much in return. I hope to do the same.”
by Brandelyn Martin Twellman
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Sep 23 2020

Calling All Innovators!

GROWMARK announces 2021 Essay Contest Theme

The theme for the 2021 GROWMARK Essay Contest is: “If you could invent a new technology to improve agriculture, what would it be?” The contest is open to all high school FFA members in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

 

This is the 28thyear for the program, sponsored by the GROWMARK System and FS member cooperatives, in conjunction with state FFA leaders, to help young people develop their writing skills, learn about current issues affecting agriculture, and understand the unique role of cooperatives.

 

Students will describe a problem within the agricultural industry, and a creative way to provide a solution. Students are encouraged to be creative with their ideas, whether or not the solution they propose is currently possible.

 

Essays will be submitted online at www.bit.ly/GMKEssay2021. The deadline for all submissions is midnight Central time on November 6, 2020. Additional program details have been sent to agriculture teachers and are online at www.growmark.com.

 

Each state’s winner earns a $500 award and the winner’s FFA chapter receives a $300 award. Four runners-up per state each win $125 awards.

 

The program is offered annually and many agriculture teachers use it as part of their class curriculum. Past topics have included sustainability, careers in agriculture, and the cooperative principles.

 

GROWMARK is a regional cooperative providing agronomy, energy, facility planning, and logistics products and services, as well as grain marketing and risk management services, across North America. GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, which is used by affiliated member cooperatives. More information is available at www.growmark.com.

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Sep 23 2020

Rolling Over Roadblocks

Santa Fe FFA member Jacob Dierking wins State Star Farmer after tackling the challenges of a beginning farmer.

Breaking into the industry as a young farmer comes with its challenges. Missouri FFA’s State

Star Farmer is all too familiar with the hurdles and roadblocks that must be overcome. Jacob

Dierking of the Santa Fe FFA Chapter started this journey through his Supervised Agricultural

Experience (SAE).

 

“In 2015, I was given an opportunity by two neighboring landowners to start farming, first with a 10-acre field and then another 19 acres on which I grew corn,” he says. “In 2016, I was able to rent 35 acres to grow corn. I also began a vegetable business growing 9 acres of sweet corn with my parents and brother.”

 

With his sights set on growth, Dierking had to choose between focusing on the row crop or vegetable production side of his business throughout the years that followed.

 

“In 2017, we expanded to growing 80 acres of sweet corn and 34 acres of green beans,” he says. “In 2018, a neighbor retired, and I was able to rent his farm to grow 83 acres of corn and 39 acres of soybeans. Since I was able to rent more land, I decided to scale back the vegetable production so I could properly manage my row crops. In 2019, another farmer retired, and I decided to sell the green bean equipment so I would have the money to invest in crop inputs.”

 

By 2019, Dierking was farming a total of 195 acres of corn, 111 acres of soybeans and 25 acres of sweet corn.

 

While his progress is evident, it wasn’t always easy. Dierking had to overcome many challenges, including one of the most prevalent among beginning farmers.

 

“One major challenge in my SAE was financially being able to purchase enough equipment to farm efficiently,” he says. “When I began my SAE, I was able to exchange my labor with my grandpa for the use of his machinery. Since then, I have been able to purchase many needed pieces of equipment.”

 

Overcoming roadblocks has empowered Dierking to pursue a career in production agriculture. After graduating from State Fair Community College, he plans to expand his row crop operation by obtaining more land to rent in the future.

 

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Sep 23 2020

Goals for Growth

Measurable goals help Hermann FFA’s Megan Schneider earn Missouri FFA State Star in Agribusiness.

Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time oriented. While agricultural education students learn these components of SMART Goals in the classroom each year, Missouri FFA’s State Star in Agribusinesshas seen their effectiveness firsthand. Megan Schneiderof the Hermann FFA Chapterstarted her Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) with the decision to keep back her best show gilt and start a breeding operation to produce higher quality show pigs for the county fair.

 

“One gilt has now turned into roughly 35 sows, 45 laying hens and some beef cattle,” Schneider says. “We started out farrowing sows and selling some of the pigs to local kids to show at county fairs. However, there started to be excess pigs around the farm, so we decided to start selling whole and half pigs for people to butcher themselves.”

 

Schneider’s operation continued to grow, exposing the need for expansion and diversification.

 

“As my production increased, it started to exceed local demand, and I needed to expand my markets,” she says. “With the help of my family, the decision was made to start selling at farmers markets and other retail outlets. At the markets, I engage with customers and answer any questions they might have about my products.”

 

As her SAE evolved, so did Schneider’s goals.

 

“There have been many goals set for this SAE,” she says. “The first goal was to raise lean and high-quality pork to sell to our customers. Also, to ensure our pigs have high cutability, but, at the same time, they are able to have a high success rate in the show ring.”

 

With each goal she reached, Schneider set new, higher goals to encourage additional growth. Other goals set included expanding her number of sows to keep up with product demand and creating new flavors and products to retain current customers and attract new ones.

 

Schneider’s SAE growth has inspired her to pursue a career in the industry. She plans to attend East Central College in Union, Missouri before transferring to the University of Missouri with the goal of earning a masters degree in biochemistry. In addition to beginning a career in agriculture, Schneider hopes to continue the family farm to provide a premium protein product for families to enjoy.

 

by  Brandelyn Martin Twellman
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