The Indiana FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
Recently I had the privilege to attend the WYXY Classic FFA All-stars banquet. As we spent the night congratulating 18 very deserving individuals of this award, I couldn’t help but notice one thing. As we moved from one member to the next, it got increasingly harder to describe the sheer amount of accomplishments each person had achieved. Gale Cunningham, the host of the evening, used the word exceptional to describe those 18 individuals. And there is no better word suited for not only those members, but also their chapters and the Indiana FFA. How lucky are we to be a part of this exceptional organization? An organization that loves, supports, and honors both agriculture and those in it. We have exceptional teachers that push us along the way and exceptional supporters that make what we do possible. There are exceptional banquets, service projects, and teams. The list goes on and on for things that are “exceptional” in FFA.
So today, I’m going to keep things short and simple. Take a second to truly realize everything this organization has blessed you with. And thank someone. Thank your advisor for pushing you to your limits and then a little farther to see just how much you can achieve. Thank your parents for driving you to events, for being your biggest supporters, and for volunteering for everything. Thank your friends and teammates for giving you a laugh when needed, a shoulder to cry on, and a helping hand at all times. Simply thank someone for being an exceptional all-star in your life.
Inspiration comes from unexpected places. Last December my team went on business and industry visits for about three weeks straight. Each day we would visit and tour an agribusiness or two in the state of Indiana. Our Foundation Director Mrs. Chaudion organized these visits and gave the company the opportunity to put their best foot forward for their business. Some companies were naturally more interesting than others and I believe it was coming near our Christmas break when I discovered this piece of wisdom.
On the drive from one business to the other I glanced out of the window and saw a church Sign that read “change is inevitable, growth is optional.” Of all the things I wrote down that day that phrase is the one that I look back on time after time.
Change is truly inevitable. All around me things are changing; seasons, friendships, and stages of life. Nothing will ever be the same, but that’s the point. If things stayed the same life might get boring. Change is constant. Change is inevitable. Growth, however, is optional. Will you choose to grow or stay where you are? Change is inevitable, growth is optional.
Just over a week ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C with Natalie in order to advocate for agriculture on National Ag Day. On Monday we arrived at the National 4-H Center in order to go through a seven-hour advocacy training program. Throughout this program, there were multiple guest speakers who informed us about the company they represented, what they do for agriculture, and their tips for advocating. Since writing a book about all these tips isn’t possible right not, here are a few key points we learned.
1. Plant a seed and shine a light:
Plant a seed of curiosity in your audience, whether legislature or not, then shine the light on the topic that they now are curious about. By planting a seed and shining a light, you create an environment for that seed to grow.
2. Tell your story:
A story is just like a fingerprint, each of us have them and no two are the same. By telling your story, you relate to your audience, who then becomes curious about what you have to say.
3. Show passion:
What’s the point of advocating for something if you’re not passion about it? By showing your passion, your audience knows your topic is something you love and something they should pay attention to.
4. Take control of the meeting:
Your message will never be relayed if you stand by and let others in the meeting do the talking. Take control, but do so in an effective manner.
5. Be polite and respectful:
This one seems like a given, but if you are advocating about a topic to someone who may not understand or have a different view, it can be easy to come across as a “Know-it-all,” or even let your temper get the best of you. By focusing on this tip, those faults are avoided.
While these are only 5 tips, they could mean everything to your audience while advocating. One final tip we were given at this training is something that we should always keep in mind:
Never stop advocating!
We may have been in D.C in order to advocate for a day, but why should it stop there?
Let’s make everyday National Agriculture Day and starting advocating for the industry we have such a passion for!
Going with the flow is one thing I do NOT do well. I want to know exactly what I’m doing with my day and it needs to be written down in my planner. Some of my teammates, on the other hand, are experts at being spontaneous and they try to get my stubborn self to join their shenanigans. With only 4 months left of state office, it is seemingly impossible to say no to them. Which is how I found myself on Valentine's day at a fancy restaurant with Grant, Natalie, and Wyatt.
It started off as a normal day in the office when Natalie turned and said, “hey let’s go out to a nice dinner tonight!” We had two boys and two girls, so it was perfect for getting a Valentines Day special (we like discounts.) With a little hesitation and much debate on where to go, we finally settled on a restaurant called Big Woods. Dressed to the nines, we headed out. We arrived just in time and walked in for our reservation. Upon sitting down, I quickly noticed that there was only one menu for the night. And in tiny print on the top, there was a note reading “three-course meal, $54 per person.” “Wait?! Guys we have made a mistake!” Laughter filled the room as we debated whether we should just walk out or ask for a different menu. When our waitress returned, Natalie asked for a different menu which was in a better price range and we talked the night away. I was challenged to continue going with the flow as we went to Freddy’s afterward to get ice cream. None of the events during the night were planned out, which did freak me out to begin with. However, being spontaneous allowed us to have an abundance of fun with our friends. I can confidently say that I have never had a better Valentines Day than the one shared with Wyatt, Natalie, and Grant, making memories and sharing smiles. Life is too short, and we must be willing to be spontaneous sometimes. While it may be uncomfortable at first, we must realize that these moments are the ones we will remember forever.
All my life I have been given a best friend. Almost as if I was handed my friend on a silver platter. Up until this year, it was my twin brother, and then it was my 6 teammates. I have always had that security of having that best friend by my side and at home for me when I needed him most. It will be a strange experience next year.
I am planning to go to Purdue University next year and live in the dorms with a random roommate. I won’t have that automatic built-in best friend. I can’t help thinking of my brother. He has been there for me and I have been there for him. We did nearly everything together including the drive to and from school, eat, study, and most extracurriculars. We were together so much and then, all at once, I was gone, and he had to find his place in the world. It must be hard for him to adjust to college without his best friend there beside him every step of the way. In these hard times, he has relied on God for guidance and God gave him great friends that can be there for him when I cannot. God has blessed me with 6 people that are there for me when I need them, and I am there for when they need someone too. I am blessed in a different way.
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we cannot be there for our best friends when they need us. We cannot be everywhere at once. I couldn’t be there for my brother on his first day of college and he couldn’t be at all my conference banquets. I can build new friendships and he can build new friendships too. He can find someone that will help him learn more about himself, I can too, and you can too. Life tends to shuffle things up and we must make the best of it. One of our team’s favorite phrases is “bloom where you are planted.” At Ball State Tanner found Awaken and he is blooming. As life changes around you, how will you bloom where you are planted?
As the week begins to round out, our team is in full gear for a bittersweet weekend; OUR LAST CONFERENCE! It seemed like only yesterday we hosted our very first conference, where we were all running around like chickens with our head cut off trying to figure out what needed to be done! Now that we all have an actual list of priorities and to-do’s, things are much more calm here at The Center.
We started off our true conference season, and will end it with, LDW (Leadership Development Workshop). This conference allows chapter officers to expand their leadership together and grow as a team. Our theme for this year is a cooking show and “Recipe for Success.”
Then in October we hosted SOAR (Seeking Opportunities & Achieving Results), where 7th-10th graders can learn about the opportunities that FFA possesses for them. For this conference, our team chose the theme of Jurassic Park and “Uncovering Opportunities within FFA.”
In November we hosted FIRE (Foundations in Reaching Excellence). This conference is mainly for 11th-12th graders, and focuses on excellence. Members this year learned how to be a mentor, how to set goals, and how they can take their leadership to the next level. The theme created for this conference was Camping and “Sparking Excellence.”
As the end is quickly approaching, we are reminded of all the memories created with our team, advisors, and, most importantly, the members. From receiving and delivering happy grams to delivering our reflections to “gettin’ down on the dancefloor,” conference season will greatly be missed.
Thank you to everyone who has truly made this season one to remember. Late nights and early mornings aren’t ideal, but you made it all worthwhile.
“New year, new me,” that’s what we always hear. Right? Regardless if that is the correct saying or not, there still is a message we can take away from this thought. As the calendar has now flipped over to 2018, we definitely have started a new year, but most of us are still in the midst of the same school year, living in the same town, and being involved in the same things. However, we all still have the power to reinvent ourselves and present a new version of who we are.
While I was at home with my family during this past holiday season, I put a lot of thought into this concept and I couldn’t help but be reminded of my six amazing teammates. The last six months we’ve, of course, lived together, worked together, dreamed together and loved experiencing every moment altogether. We have had the pleasure to do so much, but in all of this, I instantly thought about the person I was through each opportunity and wanted to be better. Not just for myself, but for them, and all of those around me. So I began to focus on how I could be a better leader, friend, teammate and person.
Even though we may be 6 (almost 7) months into our year, it is not too late to make a change and truly pay attention to how we can improve. That same mindset goes for all of us. How can we set a goal to improve? How can we truly be better than we were yesterday, last year and reinvent ourselves this year?
There I was, riding in the back of a van at 10:42 on the way back from a bowling alley, and I felt so much peace in not caring what others thought of me.
I got connected with a small group this September at church that consisted of the youth pastor and other adult leaders. They meet on Monday evenings for a bible study and genuine fellowship. I attended once with a few of my teammates and the group seemed to be welcoming. I intended on making it to more meetings, but I wasn’t able to come back for about 2 months. When I came back they, again were welcoming and I got to know them a little bit better. I had a solid Youth group at my home church that I attended almost every Sunday and, so I needed to have deep conversations like I had through my youth group.
Monday, Natalie and I attended their Christmas party and quickly connected with the group. We had supper, played Catchphrase, and then it was time to go bowling. As people packed up their things, I asked the youth pastor, Tanner, if he had open seats in his car. He said he had room and off we went.
I realized the most fun wasn’t getting a strike. The most fun came from the car ride home. We sang to Taylor Swift and Luke Combs songs in the back of the vans with people we barely knew. It was the most fun I have had in weeks; It was such a pure good time.
As we move into the Christmas season, I think back on the past 6 months that I have been able to serve. Our team has been granted amazing opportunities to attend FFA functions, meet great FFA members, and grow closer together as a team. The best times come from the commitment to just be with someone and enjoy their company. When my team sat down to exchange gifts, we enjoyed the thoughtfulness of each other and the stories keeping those gifts a secret. When you can enjoy simply being with friends, then you can make the most out of any experience.
This past Monday, my team and I finished watching one of our favorite TV shows (before it was sadly taken off of Netflix). At the conclusion of the final episode, each of the beloved main characters shared a big group hug as one of them said,
Sharing a big group hug after the passing of slate at State Convention, 2017.
"This, right here, this is why we can't fall out of each other's lives. We have to be here for the big moments. Just promise me, no matter what, we will always be there for the big moments.” After that line, I began to think about my team and I immediately applied the message.
The big moments are what make for the best memories, and this year our team has had many. Whether it was the first night we ever spent together as a team after our installation, the first time trying on our “Association” jackets, or the first time we got to interact with students during setup of the FFA Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, they have all definitely fallen into the category of “big moments” that we’ve been so grateful for. Today, those experiences (among many others) are a few of our favorite memories, not just because they were some of our “firsts”, but because we were all there to experience it. All seven of us together for each of those moments. That's what has caused our favorite memories to be so significant. We often think that a big moment is something monumental that happens to us in our lives, but really big moments are created when we are surrounded by those we love even if it is to experience and celebrate the smallest of things.
Following the statement of that line during the season finale, I began to appreciate my teammates even more. Not just because of who they are and the happy memories we've shared, but because we still have time left together to create more. Our year of service has been flying by and we have now been together for five months. Although that is sad to think about, it's now crucial more than ever that we are intentional about our time and never waste it so we can continue to be there for one another through each of our big moments, but more importantly, all of the moments.
Loving the all of the moments,
2017-2018 State President
Our first team picture after the announcement of slate at State Convention, 2017.
It feels like it was just yesterday, when my teammates and I were elected to state office in June. Time has flown by since then and we have been going non stop on this Indiana FFA roller coaster of awesomeness. In all of the craziness of State Fair, the Farm Progress Show auction, Chapter visits, and conferences, I have been going full speed and have not taken much time to slow down and enjoy all the little things.
During the month of October, Cole, Mrs. Chaudion, Mr. Park, and I payed a visit to Mrs. Doris Hackman. Mrs. Hackman is the loveliest woman who lives in a farm house all by herself at the age of ninety-two years old. She is a long time supporter of the FFA, a wonderful cook (she makes delicious halloween cookies), and has she has wonderful stories to share. While sitting in her living room, Mrs. Hackman shared stories about how she met her husband, tips on freezing fruit, and, of course, her love for farming, FFA and agriculture. For once, a million thoughts weren’t running through my mind. In that moment I was able to sit in Mrs. Doris Hackman’s living room and enjoy these little moments. As I think back to that visit, I can’t help but be reminded of this I poem by Christy Martine that goes like this;
When your world moves too fast
and you lose yourself in the chaos,
to each color of the sunset.
Reacquaint yourself with the earth
beneath your feet.
Thank the air that surrounds you
with every breath you take.
Find yourself in the appreciation of life.
Now as I’m sitting here writing this blog I’m taking it slow and soaking up the little things, like the warm soup in my orange speckled Halloween mug, the crisp orange leaves falling into my hammock, and the little minnow I just watched chase down a water bug. I can’t help but be so grateful for Mrs. Doris Hackman for teaching me how important it is to appreciate all of the little things in life.
Thankful and loving life,
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