FFA: Celebrating growth this spring

Ben Styler

Birds are chirping outside, rye cover crops are poking through the soil, it is (sometimes) sunny outside, and slowly but surely, temperatures will increase. Spring is making its 2022 debut.

Growing up, my favorite season was always spring for a few reasons. First, spring symbolizes an end to winter and the beginning of warmer weather. This allowed me and my siblings to begin working with show heifers and pigs outside and start dairy judging practice.

One of the Career Development Events is Dairy Cattle Evaluation, and these students are eyeing up classes of dairy cattle at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls regional CDE.

Second, spring is a season of growth. Between new animal life and sprouting crops, growth is ubiquitous every spring, and that is inspiring to witness.–Growth in leadership abilities, industry knowledge, and service towards others attribute to the personal growth FFA members experience, and spring provides plentiful opportunities to experience growth of this kind.

Leadership Development Events, also referred to as LDEs, or more informally as speaking contests, allow students to grow their public speaking skills. LDE areas include Creed Speaking, Prepared Public Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Employment Skills, Discussion Meet, Parliamentary Procedure, and Middle School Quiz Bowl. Simply put, there is an area for everyone! Students have been hard at work since the beginning of 2022 preparing, practicing, and more recently, performing these LDEs.

Throughout Wisconsin, 30 district contests occurred throughout January and February, each with dozens of students competing. From there, ten sectional contests were held during March and April. The winner of each contest at every sectional contest advances to our state contest which will take place in conjunction with our 93 Wisconsin FFA Convention in Madison, June 13-16.

Whether one qualified for state or competed at the district level, all students experience growth competing in LDEs. From a nervous first time FFA Creed speaker to a veteran Parliamentary Procedure team still overcoming nerves, simply putting oneself in the eyes of judges and accepting feedback allows for growth.

Similarly, students experience growth of their industry-specific skills through Career Development Events, or CDEs. Anything from Ag Sales to Agronomy and Meat Evaluation Technology to Marketing Plan are areas within Wisconsin’s 23 CDEs. FFA members work in a team of four within their specific area, some of which have both individual and team components. Virtual screeners and in-person regional contents occurred during March and April. CDEs will culminate with the in-person state contest on April 29 at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and winning teams and individuals will be recognized as part of the upcoming State Convention.

Achievements in both LDEs and CDEs, as well as many other areas, will be recognized at local FFA chapter banquets all throughout the state. As a member of the Wisconsin State Officer Team, my teammates and I have the pleasure of attending many banquets each spring. While every banquet is slightly different, each one offers a great celebration of growth over the previous year.

The 2021-2022 Randolph-Cambria-Friesland FFA Officer and three of the Wisconsin State FFA Officers pose after their banquet on April 11. The Randolph-Cambria-Friesland FFA continues to thrive at a chapter and state level, and the banquet was a successful event.

Personally, I’ve been able to visit banquets at the Sauk Prairie, Randolph-Cambria-Friesland, and Slinger FFA chapters and look forward to attending more throughout this spring. One of my favorite parts of every banquet I attend is being able to witness one team retire and the new team be installed. Being part of an officer team is without a doubt one of the most influential ways FFA members can grow as a leader, and a banquet’s display of this leadership is always something special to be a part of.

Recently a couple of my teammates and I had the opportunity to participate in another event that recognized growth: the University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ Ag Day on campus. Fittingly, this year’s theme was “Let the Good Times Grow.” With over 20 booths representing student and community groups, appearances from Alice in Dairyland, the Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs, and Princess Kay of the Milkyway, and time built in for mingling with other attendees, we indeed had a “good time” participating in this event.

From attending this Ag Day on Campus, FFA chapter banquets, and Career and Leadership Development Events, one thing is clear; growth is all around us! Just as crops will soon sprout and grow this spring, FFA members, too, experience great growth that is celebrated.

Now that I am older and have learned to appreciate solid, non-muddy ground, I don’t know that spring is still my favorite season. Nonetheless, FFA members’ effort invested, determination displayed, and accomplishments achieved define spring as a season of growth. There are now under two months left until the gavel drops at the 93 Wisconsin FFA Convention, and the time is now for growth!

Ben Styer

Ben Styer is president of the Wisconsin FFA State Officer Team