Styer leads 2021-2022 Wisconsin FFA state officer team

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
The majority of officers on this year's Wisconsin FFA State Officer team are young women, something unheard of until the organization voted to allow women into its membership in 1969.

Girl power is certainly a message to FFA members as the organization elected a majority of females to its state officer team. Benjamin Styer, of the Menomonie FFA will lead this team as the 2021-2022 president. His presidency was announced at the end of the final session on Thursday.

It wasn't until 1969 that women were officially allowed to join FFA. The organization originally called Future Farmers of America was founded in 1928 as a national program for boys.

According to the National FFA website, a small loophole in the membership rule from 1949 to 1969 allowed a female to qualify for a coveted jacket by becoming a chapter's "Sweetheart" or social ambassador.

With this honor they could then sport an FFA corduroy jacket. However, these young women wore a white corduroy jacket instead of the standard blue.

But the FFA held fast to tradition and voted against extending membership to young women in 1967 and 1968. Finally in 1969, the national organization came of age and admitted women as full-fledged members.

After a year of virtual visits and lack of travel, FFA state officers are ready to get back into the swing of things as the new officer team is getting ready to step up to the plate to replace the 2020-21 team. This year's team, all of whom went through a difficult application and interview process, was revealed in person at the 92nd FFA Convention in Madison.

Styer was elected by members of Section 2 and served on the 2020-2021 state officer team as vice president. His parents are David and Karen Styer.

Benjamin Styer of the Menomonee FFA was elected as the president of the 2021-2022 Wisconsin State Officer Team at the closing of the 92nd Wisconsin FFA Convention in Madison.

Here's what you need to know about the 2021-22 team:

Section One: Katie Zimmer, Flambeau, 

Zimmer is currently a student at University of Wisconsin-River Falls studying agricultural business, Spanish and horticulture. She said she wants to open a business offering year-round agricultural production and agritourism. Zimmer has completed projects in Swine Production, Food Service and Plant Production and has also served as the Flambeau chapter reporter and president. Additionally, Zimmer also competed in the World Dairy Expo Forage Cup.

"It is my goal to encourage each and every member to reach their potential, achieve their goals and find their meaning in FFA," Zimmer said.

Zimmer's parents are Chris and Linda Zimmer.

Section Two: Casey Denk, Mondovi

Denk is currently a student at UW-River Falls studying agricultural business and animal sciences. She said she wants to use her degree to remain active on the family farm, which inspired her during her agricultural projects. She's completed projects in Beef Production and Sheep Production and has taught exhibitors how to shear sheep. Denk served as a Mondovi chapter officer for three years and remains involved while in college.

"Throughout my time in FFA, I learned to be comfortable and confident and not to fear new situations," Denk said.

Denk's parents are Mark and Tammy Denk.

Section Three: Amara Livingston, Cochrane-Fountain City

Livingston will attend University of Minnesota-Twin Cities to study agricultural education, plant science and Spanish studies. She has expressed passion for floral design and is the owner of 2nd Street Daylilies. One of her long-term goals is to serve in the Peace Corps and use her Spanish knowledge to develop strong communication and community. Livingston served as a Fountain City chapter officer for three years and was also a National FFA Convention delegate and was committee chair for the Wisconsin State FFA Convention.

Livingston's parents are Larry and Marie Livingston.

Section Four: Mia Hillebrand, River Valley

Hillebrand is currently a student at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College studying agriculture business and technology as well as animal science. She plans to pursue a bachelor's degree at UW-Platteville in agricultural education after receiving her associate's degree. Hillebrand said she hopes to become an agriculture educator in the future to positively advocate for the industry. Additionally, she served as the River Valley chapter reporter, secretary and vice president, and created an Ag in the Classroom program that brings agriculture activities to second- and third-graders.

"It is my goal, with great drive and passion, to inspire my peers who are the future of agriculture to become involved in the great opportunity that Wisconsin FFA has to offer," Hillebrand said.

Hillebrand's parents are Jonathan and Kari Hillebrand.

The new team celebrates as they get closer to taking the reigns from the retiring team.

Section Five: Aubrey Schlimgen, Marshall, 

Schlimgen will study agricultural business and dairy science in the pursuit of a career that supports dairy farmers and advocates for a positive consumer relationship. Growing up on a family dairy farm herself, she has completed a project in Dairy Production, and also has projects in Agricultural Sales. Schlimgen served as a Marshall chapter officer for three years and is a member of the State FFA Honors Chorus. She's also served as a mentor in the Partners in Active Learning Support program as well as presenter for the Marshall chapter Food for America activity.

"(I hope to) use my talents to give back to this organization that has given me so much," Schlimgen said.

Schlimgen's parents are Tony and Jackie Schlimgen.

Section Six: Emily Dahlke, Adams-Friendship,

Passionate about working with animals, Dahlke has raised dairy and beef cattle as well as swine and sheep. She has also shadowed her veterinarian, which gave her the passion to give back to her rural community. Dahlke has taught other FFA members about raising livestock, such as ewes in their chapter ag shop, and she's also worked for Meals on Wheels and the county board. She is said to be a dedicated role model having spent countless hours working on her chapter's success.

"Every time I zip up my FFA jacket, I am overwhelmed by the stories and life lessons it holds between the ridges," Dahlke said.

Dahlke's parents are Pam and Rich Dahlke.

Section Eight: Lydia Rasmussen, Pulaski, 

Rasmussen will attend UW-River Falls to study pre-veterinary sciences and agricultural business this year. She said she hopes to work as a large animal veterinarian in the future, especially on a dairy farm. Rasmussen has completed a project on Cattle Production for dairy shows, an effort that began in 2015 and since then has blossomed into an entrepreneurship project. She served as a Pulaski chapter officer for three years at the high school level and two years at the middle school level. She's also been an active member of the Wisconsin Ayrshire Junior Association.

"I want to help others," Rasmussen said, crediting inspiration taken from her advisor Mr. Erdmann who taught her agriculture class in the sixth grade.

Rasmussen's parents are Jeannine and Eric Rasmmussen.

Section Nine: Lashawna Vogel, Denmark, 

Vogel will attend UW-River Falls to study agricultural business this fall, hoping to eventually work on public relations and marketing for an ag-based company in the Green Bay area. She was responsible for managing the After-School Ag Program and created educational videos that were posted on social media. Vogel previously served the Denmark chapter as parliamentarian, vice president and president. She was heavily involved in leadership workshops and hopes to be a positive influence that makes a difference.

"I have learned how to work well with others, how to manage my time, how to delegate duties to chapter members, how to communicate with stakeholders and much more," Vogel said.

Vogel's parents are Steve and Patti Vogel.

Outgoing WI FFA president Joe Schlies receives the envelope from Cheryl Zimmerman, WI FFA executive director.

Section Ten: Sydney Bender, Big Foot

Bender is a student at UW-Platteville studying agricultural education and animal science. Her FFA projects focused on Agriscience Research, Swine Production and Agricultural Sales, the last for which she placed first in Wisconsin. Bender served as a Big Foot chapter officer for two years. She said she first got involved with FFA after being invited to participate in an agriscience fair, and since then she's taken second place in the National Agriscience Fair. Bender said she finds diversity an important part of FFA.

"Our members come from such diverse backgrounds, and I want to help everyone find their place in our organization," Bender said.

Bender's parents are Barb Bordmeyer and Rich Bender.

Colleen Kottke of the Wisconsin State Farmer contributed to this article.